Friday, April 27, 2012

UFC VP says Strikeforce champ Ronda Rousey helped bolster MMA?s hopes in New York

If, as it should be, mixed martial arts is ever legalized in New York, don't forget to give Strikeforce bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey her share of credit.

On April 18 in Albany, N.Y., the New York state Senate voted 43-14 to approve a bill that would legalize and regulate MMA in the state. It still needs to pass the Assembly and then be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in order to become law.

The bill has passed the state Senate before, but this time around, said Marc Ratner, the UFC's vice president for governmental and regulatory affairs, the job was made much easier with Rousey's testimony.

"She got up there and she really made a great presentation and I think she had a significant impact," Ratner said. "We [as executives] can talk all we want to them about the positives of MMA, but to hear it from someone like her, a fighter, someone who is very articulate [and] who made her points very passionately, it definitely made a huge impact."

Rousey, who defeated Miesha Tate by, what else, an arm bar submission to win the title on March 3 in Columbus, was particularly effective when she spoke about what MMA has done for her. She won a bronze medal in judo in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, but said she would be struggling financially had she remained in that sport. She said she'd be losing money if she were a professional judoka.

Several senators approached her, she said, and told her her presentation changed their minds and caused them to vote in favor of the bill.

"MMA has a bad rap among some people," Rousey told Cagewriter. "It's marketed sometimes in a way that is not what the sport is. You hear the marketing, 'Two men enter. One man leaves,' but that's ridiculous. It's not what this sport is. They just do it to sound dramatic. It's like a movie preview. The whole movie isn't just running around and screaming and explosions, but they make it seem like that [in the trailer] so people go to the movie. There's a lot of quiet time and dialogue and there is a plot. What they're doing is like they're comparing a commercial for 'The Bourne Identity' to actually sitting there and watching it for two hours."

She spent time explaining the nuances of her specialty, the arm bar. She pointed out that she'd been arm barred "more times than I can count," and pointed out that she wasn't out snapping bones. She said she doesn't think she's ever broken an opponent's arm.

That, too, worked.

"I explained everything behind it and after I did, they were like, 'OK, that's no problem, it's not barbaric,'" Rousey said.

Her best point, though, may have been when she told the senators that there was actually already MMA going on in the state. She made them aware that there is a robust amateur scene there, but it isn't as safe for the fighters and the fighters aren't able to make a living, like they do when they're professionals and compete where the sport is regulated.

That point struck home with many of the lawmakers.

"In New York, you could fight and have people do MMA," she said. "But they have to do it without the proper medical checks. They have to do it without getting paid. They have to do it without any kind of regulation or oversight. [Amateur MMA in New York] is unsafe the way it is now, because they're missing all the things we have in pro MMA.

"We're not asking them to bring in a bunch of people and tell them to kill each other. That's not what's going on. That's how it was being presented. I wanted to point out that amateur MMA is here already, but we want to get it regulated so it's safe and there is regulation and it is safe and everyone gets paid for what they do. I want to be able to work in any state in my own country. Can you imagine, we're in 2012 and I still legally can't do my job anywhere I want in my country?"

The tens of millions of dollars poured into the legalization effort by UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and president Dana White will be primarily responsible for MMA's passage in New York, if and when it occurs.

But Rousey's day on the hill shouldn't be forgotten. On that day, the lady was a champ when it came to wooing the legislators.

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