UFC’s Chael Sonnen blasts New York for anti-MMA legislation

Chael Sonnen didn't back down when asked about the ban on MMA in New York. Credit: Getty Images
Chael Sonnen didn’t back down when asked about the ban on MMA in New York.
Credit: Getty Images

Chael Sonnen offered a challenge to New York State legislators: Be honest about why Mixed Martial Arts is banned in New York.

“Just come clean,” Sonnen said during his media availability Thursday morning at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden to promote Saturday night’s UFC 159 pay-per-view card at the Prudential Center. Sonnen will challenge UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones for the title in the main event.

Sonnen was joined by Jones and semi-main event fighters Alan Belcher, Michael Bisping, Cheick Kongo, Roy Nelson and UFC President Dana White at the two-and-a-half hour media session.

“[The legislators should admit], ‘Listen, we don’t have the courage to stand up to the unions. They gave us a bunch of money and they put us in office. We’re not skilled enough to go into the private sector and do anything. We really need these jobs we have, so we’re going to go ahead and keep you out,’” Sonnen said.

New York and Alaska are the only states in which professional MMA is illegal. The sport has been banned in New York since 1997 when Gov. George Pataki signed a bill to prohibit professional, sanctioned fights.

Strangely, Muay Thai, kickboxing and amateur MMA is legal in New York.

“I think they can legalize any laws that they want. They have somehow banned 32-ounce cups of Coca-Cola in New York City. So as long as they follow the democratic process I’m all for it. The problem that I have is representation has not been restored in New York. You will not find a New Yorker that doesn’t want this. But their legislature doesn’t have the courage to go and represent the people that put them in office,” Sonnen said. “To find courage within a state legislature is extremely rare.”

At the time, the sport was labeled “human cockfighting” by Sen. John McCain, a label the UFC continues to struggle against. White said yesterday he and the UFC’s owners, Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, have spent 13 years trying to “educate” lawmakers and journalists about the sport.

Bills legalizing MMA have passed the state Senate each of the last four years, only to be stalled in the Assembly. Earlier this month, the state Senate passed a bill that would legalize the sport.

But White is pessimistic that the bill will pass the Assembly due to the efforts of the Culinary Union. The union has waged a long and costly battle with the Fertittas over their Las Vegas casinos’ employment of non-union employees.

Had the bill passed, the UFC was going to have its 20th anniversary show at Madison Square Garden and it is believed that the main event would have been a superfight between Jones and UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.

“We don’t need New York but New York could damn sure use us. We have evidence that we could bring in $10 million in a 24-hour period to this city. We have evidence that if we bring Expo — which Dana White has very clearly said he would do — we could bring in $40 million in the course of a week. The actual number was $60 million but I’m just rounding it down to 40 so no one argues with me,” Sonnen said.

“If New York doesn’t want it, we’ll go right across the bridge to New Jersey and sell out like we’re doing Saturday. We’ll go to Connecticut, which just legalized it. We’ll go to any of the other 47 states in the country that want it. New York needs us. We don’t need them. That’s my stance.

“This isn’t just a sport anymore; it’s an industry. If they don’t want industry in New York and that’s the choice of the New Yorkers, then I completely respect that. My pushback is that is not what the people are saying. My pushback is that here we are in New York in a packed Madison Square Garden media room and the competition is going to take place 12 miles away. It’s going to go over the bridge which means the taxes and the gross receipts are all going to go to Gov. [Chris] Christie’s state. That’s on New York. If they don’t want business, we can’t force it upon them.”

Follow MMA writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Every dog has his day in court, in…

(Reuters) - Call him juror K-9.A computer glitch is likely to blame for a summons that called a German Shepherd to report for jury duty,…

Breaking: Local

Judge rules Tsarnaev can view victim autopsy photos

Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev can view the autopsy photographs of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Local

Police warn of attempted assault on woman near…

Police in Cambridge issued an alert after a woman said she was the victim of an attempted sexual assault after leaving Porter Square early Wednesday.…

Local

Kevin Kayvon Edson: Finish line hoax suspect sent…

The man who allegedly left a backpack near the finish line on the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings was due in court on Wednesday.

Television

Jim Rash talks 'The Writer's Room' and amazing…

For Jim Rash, as the fifth season of "Community" comes to a close, the second season of "The Writer's Room" begins.

Television

'Dexter' star Jennifer Carpenter moves into producing role

The actress who played the title character's sister in "Dexter" is teaming up with producer George Stelzner to adapt Erika Hayasaki's book "The Death Class:…

The Word

Wahlburgers announce North America domination

Tuesday was a huge day for Donnie Wahlberg.

Entertainment

Here's what to do in Boston this weekend

THEATER The Wholehearted Thursday through April 27 Paramount Center 559 Washington St., Boston $25-$49, 617-824-8400 www.artsemerson.org This conceptually rich show from Stein | Holum Projects,…

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version

NHL

Bruins 2014 playoffs preview: Vegas odds say Stanley…

Bruins 2014 playoffs preview: Vegas odds say Stanley Cup will return to Boston

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's are baseball's best, Brewers…

MLB Power Rankings: A's are baseball's best, Brewers and Braves right behind

MLB

Injury bug tearing holes in Red Sox

Red Sox fans will recall that last year the bullpen was decimated by injuries. From Franklin Morales to Andrew Miller, from Craig Breslow to Andrew…

Wellbeing

Oh baby: Scientists find protein that lets egg…

By Will DunhamWASHINGTON (Reuters) - You can forget about the birds and the bees. If you really want to learn how babies are made, you…

Tech

5 surprising facts about Google Glass

Your sex life could get more interesting.

Wellbeing

Cognitive skills begin to drop at age 24

But the news isn't all that bad.

Career

How to get a job at a startup:…

We talked to Tarek Pertew, one of the co-founders behind Uncubed, about how to get your dream job at a startup.

Comments

1

  1. Correction: MMA is also banned in Connecticut. MMA events are held at casinos like Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun but those are Sovereign Indian Lands and exempt from state law.