To date, my biggest criticism of the UFC's push to get mixed martial arts legalized and sanctioned by the state of New York has been the utter failure to make the effort about New York's interest. The economic impact study they've created and updated is necessary, but hardly sufficient. The effort has to be about New Yorkers, for New Yorkers.
The economic impact is partly the right way to address the situation. Law makers and other key influencers above all respect hard data. And the UFC's numbers are clear, concise and contributory to local and state economies. But in the din of debate about much more substantive issues such as the state cutting health care costs or how infrastructure will be repaired in a state with a $10 billion shortfall, a measly $23 million influx in direct and indirect from UFC events makes catching key legislators attention very difficult.
The UFC cannot and should not abandon the economic argument. Again, it's not bad, but it should be one part of a broader campaign. And the campaign should be tweaked to demonstrate New Yorkers' collective wants and interests.
It's a small first step, but MMAfacts.com is now letting New Yorkers send their state representatives a note expressing their interest in having MMA sanctioned. This is partly just an effort by public relations firm Global Strategies Group to collect emails for future media needs such as responding to negative press. But with a database of concerned New Yorkers, the UFC and GSG can leverage this individuals en masse to capture legislators' attention. Again, neither this effort nor the impact study by itself is enough, but working in tandem along with numerous other steps, the UFC can push this effort in the right direction.
I've yet to understand why the UFC hasn't held an expo at Madison Square Garden and turn it into a political rally in support of legalization. UFC brass, New York-based fighters and sympathetic lawmakers on stage in front of thousands of UFC fans all whipping up interest, grassroots enthusiasm and media attention for a defendable cause? Does that sound bad to anyone? Still, small victories matter. And given that this one is part of a key strategic turn the legalization effort must make in order to succeed, it has my full support.