Part 2 – The Apple has Fallen: New York Votes to Finally Legalize MMA

This is picking up from part one of this article.

The recent impact of Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor on the sport of mixed martial arts can not be understated in this decision. Which leads me to my next point…

  • We Should All Thank Ronda and Conor for this.Here’s an update on the whiteboard in the Zuffa war room.

    Phase 1: Legitimize the sport
    Phase 2: Create a marketable brand
    Phase 3: Create marketable athletes
    Phase 4: Take over New York, and so the World.

    Rousey and McGregor are to MMA what Tyson and Ali were to the sport of boxing in it’s glory days. The only difference being that, unlike Ali and Tyson, Rousey and McGregor dominated completely different segments of the sport simultaneously. Also, in 2 years, they were able to take the sport further than it had gone in the 20 years leading up to their arrival.

     

    Prior to the Holly Holm loss, Ronda Rousey looked literally (and I do mean that literally) unbeatable. She was tearing off limbs and taking them as trophies so often that seeing her sink an arm bar to finish a fight became expected.  It was her version of “the sharpshooter” at the end of a Brett Hart match; you know it’s coming, you just don’t know when.

    Ronda not only won the bantamweight title, but she defended it emphatically, and evolved her game along the way. Once her trophy case became filled with dismembered arms, it was on to the feet where she showed off her newly acquired striking skills. Trophy arms gave way to skulls and jaws as, seemingly, Ronda was poised to assume her final form, if not as the next Mike Tyson then perhaps some Super Sayian Goddess.

    In addition to her accolades in the ring, Ronda was able to do what no other athlete in the UFC had been able to do up to that point; Become relevant in popular culture. Her celebrity seemed to explode over night and she started popping up everywhere from SNL to Ellen, and Sports Center to Sports Illustrated. Ronda had undoubtedly become the face of the UFC and acted as its ambassador.  The UFC finally had ahold of the American public, but it wasn’t until Conor McGregor burst onto the scene that they would be able to lock it up once and for good.

    Just as the shine had begun to fade from Ronda Rousey, even ever so slightly with a loss to Holly Holm, there was Conor McGregor.  Connor played a role, and he played it beautifully. He was the Irish Ali; an egotistical, trash-talking, smooth-walking, badass mother fucker who backed it up in the ring. His popularity first began to take off at his fight in Boston with Max Holloway. It hit a fever pitch when he defeated Diego Brandao on his home turf in Ireland where he dropped the post-fight quote, “We aren’t here to take part. We’re here to take over.” Fighters and commentators alike took notice of the atmosphere McGregor and his rabid fan base brought to the arena even on nights when he did not have a spot in the main event.

    Conor doubled down on himself and went after a title shot early in his career which he technically won twice.  Once by beating Chad Mendez for the interim belt, and again by defeating the reigning champion Jose Aldo mere seconds into the first round. After unifying the featherweight title he decided he wanted to be the first fighter to hold a belt in 2 weight classes at once and announced he would be moving up to take on the lightweight champion in his next fight.  In the months leading up to the event Conor did what he does so well; he talked… and he talked… and he talked some more.  The fact that this fight would not come to take place on account of an injury to his opponent had little impact on anything. The wheels were already set in motion.  America was obsessed, one way or another, with Conor McGregor. And the UFC was finally able to move on to Phase 4 of their plan.

  • New York was Left with No ChoicePhase 1: Legitimize the sport
    Phase 2: Create a marketable brand
    Phase 3: Create marketable athletes
    Phase 4: Take over New York, and so the World.

    With 49 states on their side, and everyone in America talking about their product, the UFC had finally backed New York into a corner. The state could no longer offer a good reason to keep the sport out. The state had fallen behind the times. They were now the archaic backwards outcasts that they themselves once viewed the UFC as being. And much like the UFC before, New York knew that they would have to adapt if they wanted to keep up.In fact to not do so would have actually been dumb for them.  Looking at the numbers, New York as a state purchases more UFC events on PPV than almost any other state in the country. Match that with Madison Square Garden, perhaps the most famous venue in that country, and the ability to tax the shit out everything and anything. Suddenly we are talking about, in my opinion, the new unofficial headquarters of the UFC for years to come.

    However, even if New York turns out to be just another stop throughout the year for the UFC, those stops will reach a larger audience than any other. New York is the media capital of the planet.  It is one of the greatest cities on the planet. And the Atlantic Ocean is much smaller than the Pacific Ocean making New York an easier destination for outsiders compared to Las Vegas.  At this point if we could map the spreading of UFC’s popularity on a globe it would look like the outbreak of a disease and New York would be the the home of patient zero.

  • The UFC Won 

    The bottom line to all this, no matter how you look at it, is that the UFC has finally won.  They did it.  The underdog organization that started in dark auditoriums with as many fans as there were fighters is now about to break through on Broadway. More importantly, it wasn’t easy.  The company showed some fight of its own, through hard work, taking risks, never staying down, and never losing sight of its goal. This a rare case in sports where the company can honestly say it embodies what it hopes to see in its athletes, and for me, it is part of what makes the UFC so special.

So there it is, just a quick run through of my initial thoughts on this vote and how it came about.  There is plenty more I could talk about and probably will at some point, but for now that will have to do.  What do you think?  Is there anything I missed? Agree? Disagree? Just leave it in the comments.

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