Remember this day, folks, ’cause it’s a historical one. At 11:59pm last night, Sheldon Silver tendered his resignation as Speaker of the New York State Assembly due to some pesky corruption charges, and at 11:00 am this morning his replacement – Assemblyman Carl Heastie – was voted in. Silver, you see, has been credited as the man who’s single-handedly kept MMA out of New York by refusing allow a bill that would repeal the state’s 1997 ban on the sport to go to the floor for a vote. And Heastie is a big, ol’ MMA supporter.
How much of a supporter? Here’s the Gotham Gazette:
One issue worth watching should Heastie assume the speaker mantle is the legalization of mixed martial arts or “ultimate fighting” in the state. Silver was thought to be the one impediment to regulating the sport, which is banned, thanks to his ties to certain labor interests. Heastie has indicated he would be open to considering allowing the sport that some call “barbaric.” Zuffa LLC, the company that owns The Ultimate Fighting Championship, has donated a total of $4,000 to Heastie and $5,000 to the Bronx Democratic Committee since 2012.
That may not seem like a lot of money, but that just scratches the surface of what’s on public record. Lobbying influence usually runs much, much deeper.
So how soon until we see a UFC at Madison Square Garden? Well, it may come as a shock to some, but MMA isn’t the most pressing issue in New York – the legislature is going to attack the budget first. But what is encouraging is how much the topic of MMA has come up in all the mainstream media’s talk of how Heastie differs from Silver on issues. Considering that it would’ve been extremely bad if the sport never came up at all, this means that there’s traction to be had. And you can bet Zuffa’s lobbyists – who have for years now been waiting for this Sheldon Silver wall of ice to thaw – are going to take advantage of the opportunity.
For a bill to become law in New York, a version must be approved by the Senate and a version must be approved by the Assembly, and the two bills will be consolidated and signed by the governor. Last year, the Senate approved their version of the MMA bill on May 13. I predict it’s going to happen in both houses much sooner…
…And before the summer, the UFC will be announcing a Chris Weidman- or Jon Jones-headlined event in New York.
It’s a sure thing now.