In 2005, two brothers won New York State Division I wrestling titles for Union Endicott High School.
One, Arthur, was the heavyweight champion, and later played defensive line at Syracuse, eventually being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2010, where he has played for the last two seasons. Next season, Arthur may have the chance to be a free agent and could come home to play for the Buffalo Bills in his home state.
Then there is his brother, Jonathan, who was the champion at 189-lbs. He also went on to professional sports, but, thanks to the short-sightedness of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, still does not have the chance to do what he does best —force other men to submit — in his home state.
You see, Jonathan is now know as Jon “Bones” Jones, aka the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight Champion.
Bones is not just a champion, but a freakin’ machine in the ring. In his rise to the belt, he has beat UFC legends Stephan Bonnar, Ryan “Darth” Bader, Lyoto Machida, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Rashad Evans (who, by the way, finished fourth in New York State for Niagara-Wheatfield in 1998, when there was only one division). He is 16-1 overall, with his only loss being a controversial disqualification over Matt Hamill for “illegal” downward elbows.
This is a guy who, on his way to what would be his championship-winning fight against Rua, saw an elderly couple who had just been robbed, ran after the robber, took him to the ground and put him in a leg-lock until the police showed up.
Jones is no longer considered just the future of the sport; he is now seen as perhaps one of the greatest to step into the octagon.
But he still can’t fight in his home town or home state.
Last week, Speaker Silver held a backdoor meeting where, despite several reports that said the bill to legalize MMA events in the state (you can practice here, you just can’t fight) had more support than ever, he threw it out and said the bill would not make it to the floor of the Assembly for a vote.
It was a back-handed move that deserves a similar one from Jones. Just because he may personally feel that MMA should not be legalized or he has buckled to union lobbyists who fight against the UFC and its parent company, Zuffa, because they are not unionized, doesn’t give Silver the right to keep a bill that can pass the Assembly and has already passed the Senate off the floor.
Silver (through a spokesman, mind you) said he felt there was not enough support for the bill. According to sources in the meeting, the bill had 2-to-1 support from those involved.
Sheldon, take a lesson from Jones. Be a man and let this go to the floor for a vote. You are depriving the fans of MMA in New York the chance to see an event in their state.
You are also depriving the taxpayers of New York of the revenue that would be generated by these fights, along with the sales tax, occupancy tax and other tax revenue that would come into the state.
Bringing the UFC in would revitalize a now-dead fighting culture in New York.
No one fights at Madison Square Garden anymore, but the UFC would use the facility annually for pay-per-view events.
They would probably also host smaller televised events at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, HSBC Arena in Buffalo, Rochester and, dare we dream, at the Times Union Center.
So, enough with the petty games, Mr. Silver. Let this bill go to the floor of the Assembly for a vote. If it dies, then it dies until 2013. If it passes, then be prepared for a UFC fight card at MSG that would feature all of the best fighters in the promotion, and may include a superfight between the light heavyweight champ and native son Jones against middleweight champ Anderson “The Spider” Silva, who is currently regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the game.
When’s the last time you saw the best boxers in any division fight in New York State — I’d say Bernard Hopkins v. Felix Trinidad in 2001 (and many of you are saying, “Who?”).
It is indeed time for the UFC in New York.
Keith Lobdell is the editor of the Valley News. He can be reached at email@example.com.