Hey Bob Reilly, Give MMA a Break

Is anyone else tired of hearing about the reasons New York won’t legalize MMA? It all starts to feel like a study in futility. The sport is not going to change and apparently Bob Reilly does not plan on changing his opinion about mixed martial arts anytime soon. With the MMA legalization bill being reintroduced, Reilly decided to once again criticize mixed martial arts as the time approaches.

Last Monday, April 9, 2012, MMATorch reported that Republican State Senator Joe Griffo said in an interview, published in the Albany Times-Union, that he hopes this year will be the year the sport of mixed martial arts finally gets through the Assembly and can hold events in the state of New York.

Reilly is trying his best to prevent the sport from gaining acceptance in the state. In March, Reilly sent a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo seeking his assistance in keeping the sport banned citing concussions as his main complaint.

Part of his letter is sampled below:

“That is, powerful knockout blows, repeated head trauma and concussions have serious consequences on the long term health of athletes. A recent study by National Geographic documents the severity of the hits by MMA fighters which exceed all other sports. Additionally, as MMA is a relatively new phenomenon, there have been no real long term studies such as those conducted by the NFL to indicate the impact to the health of aging or retired fighters.”

I would like to point out the ridiculous nature of his statements. I don’t think, for one, that a person can even say that MMA hits in the UFC and other organizations are any less or more severe than the NFL. A much more intensive, intricate study of the hardest-hitting players of the NFL and fighters of the UFC might enlighten the situation, but at this time there simply isn’t enough data to go off of. And the long term effects cannot be estimated until studies are done.

In the last sentence from the excerpt above, his justification for not allowing mixed martial arts is there have been no long term studies as those conducted by the NFL on the health impacts of the sport. This argument holds no water because although he points out the injuries sustained by players in the NFL, Reilly seems to have no objection or reason to ban football, yet MMA seems to get the exact opposite treatment. The reasoning cannot go both ways. Either they should all be allowed, or they should all be banned. Each high contact sport has health risks and costs associated with it. That is no reason to simply single out MMA and ban it and allow the others. The hypocrisy that is going on in New York is astounding to me.

Another part of Reilly’s letter is sampled below:

“What does this mean for New York State? I believe in addition to the fact that the economic significance to the State of the legalization of MMA has been grossly overstated and that the violent nature of the sport is antithetical to the anti-violence message we are trying to deliver to children and adults, MMA would put New York State in a very precarious position. As fighters begin to retire and the impact of sustained head injuries comes to bear, I believe lawsuits similar to those now exploding in the NFL by retired players, are a very real possibility the State would have to address.”

Reilly states here that “the violent nature of the sport is antithetical to the anti-violence message we are trying to deliver to children and adults.” Apparently, boxing and football are acceptable forms of violence, yet MMA is not. The fact that each sport features concussions and comparable violence makes his objections even more puzzling. I don’t hear him rallying against the NFL for sending players back on the field only a week or two after a strong concussive blow to the head, yet the UFC gets no notice for requiring its fighters to sit as long as 60-90 days with no contact at all before sparring is even resumed.

Luckily for MMA, there are intelligent spokesmen who make just as good of an argument as the detractors do. The Albany Times-Union also ask UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones about his reaction to the reaction Reilly comments. Jones stated, “With all due respect to the guy, he’s making excuses. There are concussions in every sport. Boxing is legal in New York State. A guy can get a concussion, take a 10 count, then get back up and get another one. In UFC, we get knocked down, it’s over.”

Even with all of the hoopla and attention surrounding this issue, we are no further along than we were in 2010. The back and forth continues and the MMA world waits to see if the bill will actually be voted on in the Assembly. Jamie Penick, MMATorch editor-in-chief, pointed out in his article that New York still allows amateur mixed martial arts to continue unregulated amidst all of the controversy. So, essentially they are telling us that they will turn a blind eye to that, but the highly regulated and sanctioned UFC cannot hold events there. Until something changes, the head scratching will continue. At this point I feel like saying, “Hey Bob Reilly! Give MMA a break!”

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