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
Local

MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…

Local

NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…

Local

Bushwick community space offers activists a place to…

A new Bushwick community space offers community activists to meet, create, learn and throw back a few cold ones. MayDay, located 214 Starr Street in Bushwick,…

Local

Activists gearing up for Sunday's "historic" People's Climate…

If all goes according to plan, more than 100,000 people will gather near Central Park West on Sunday morning and march through midtown to raise…

Movies

Kevin Smith makes peace with the Internet

I was thinking about Ain't It Cool News and Harry Knowles last night, wondering if anyone from Ain't It Cool had reviewed my new movie…

Movies

Art imitates life in 'Swim Little Fish Swim'

There's a certain comfort to be taken in finding that young artists are still moving to New York and trying to make it — and…

Movies

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and a being called Emily get…

Esperanza Spalding is about to spiral off in a brand new direction that may or may include an alter ego named Emily.

NFL

Oday Aboushi ready for increased role, and to…

Oday Aboushi might feel comfortable enough to engage in some trash talk the next time he is on the field.

NFL

Giants vs. Texans: 3 things to watch

The Giants host the surprising Texans (2-0) in what may already be a must-win game for Big Blue.

NFL

Eric Decker misses practice again, could miss Monday

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker missed practice Thursday as he continues to rehab a hamstring injury suffered last Sunday.

MLB

Derek Jeter still focused on baseball as final…

Derek Jeter has effectively hid his emotions for 20 years in the Bronx.

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.

Style

3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…

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.