City/State-Wide

MMA Fans and Fighters Rejoice as Sport Gains the Go-Ahead in Empire State

Why The Road to Legalization as Filled With More Than One Kind of Kickback

By Marcus Del Valle

New York was the last state to legalize Mixed Martial Arts in February. Source: Wikimedia Commons/Riley Johnson

New York was the last state to legalize Mixed Martial Arts in February. Source: Wikimedia Commons/Riley Johnson

New York State Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, will be facing a lifetime in prison, after forty years in his position as speaker, for convictions on over six accounts of money laundering, extortion and service fraud.

Reminiscent of a daytime mob drama UFC owners and Las Vegas casino owners, and brothers, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta will soon be able to benefit off the literal blood, sweat, and tears of their contracted fighters due to the conviction of Silver. Them and UFC President Dana White have fought against countless false accusations of maltreatment in order to bring the sport to NYC.

On March 22 MMA was voted into legality for New York, the last state to legalize in America, with a vote of one hundred and thirteen in support and a measly twenty-five oppose. This kind of vote however, is not different from the previous year’s votes.

Silver, responsible for ending the bill before it ever made it to the Governor or State Senate, has been found guilty on charges that include unaccountable profits through kickbacks and pork barreling. For nearly a decade Silver has put a stop to the bill in the name of Union Worker’s rights.

Though after his convictions late last year it has been found that there is much more to the story than a genuine care for union workers.

Silver earned nearly $4 million in exchange for his political backing to a realty management organization named Glenwood Management & Witkoff who supported his legislation with tax payer’s dollars laundered through a law firm by the name of Goldberg & Iryami, PC., who in turn paid Silver for his political contributions. A process known as a political kickback.

“Unite Here,” a parent organization of the Las Vegas Culinary Union and the Hotel Trades Council made accusations towards the UFC for mistreatment of their fighters. Some of these accusations include holding fighters under extreme contracts that stripped them of all rights to their own image and forced them to fight only for the UFC. This translates to fighters only making money from actual fights and not any merchandising, including video game, DVD, and other merchandise sales.

Though these have yet to be confirmed The Culinary Union was refusing to provide services to UFC fights unless their event workers are unionized; offering them an open card check into the union and threatening those workers who wished not to unionize with a loss of their job.

Silver, openly supported these protests, as a union supporting Democrat, which basically is him saying that New York legalization of MMA is contingent on unionized work in Nevada’s casinos owned by the Fertitta brothers, whom also own portions of the UFC.

The Fertitta brothers did not fold to the Culinary Union however, and allowed their workers to choose for themselves. When the workers decided to stay with the Fertitta brothers the Unite Here coalition made their aforementioned accusations.

Silver came under investigations when large sums of money were seen to be unreported on the former Assembly Speakers annual financial disclosure forms. Following the money, it was found that payments were made by Goldberg and Iryami to Silver for his work with Glenwood Management to reduce taxes on commercial and residential properties in New York City.

Upon Silver’s conviction, he was asked why he backed Unite Here on their war against UFC’s monopoly on games workers and to no surprise he had nothing to say. Perhaps Silver was in the process of gaining property ownership and union worker benefits, to his own pockets, for MMA fights in NYC before he allowed its legalization.

His prison sentence quiets such thoughts as we have no way of knowing until someone steps forward with the right information.

“Honestly we were all getting tired of traveling to Jersey and fighting under the WKA (World Kickboxing League) because the rules aren’t the same,” said Brooklyn MMA worker and brown belt fighter Aldo. “I’ve seen my brothers lose fights off the mistakes of referees because they don’t know MMA rules.” Pro and amateur fighters will not be able to go toe to toe in their hometowns.

While the road to MMA legalization was filled with drama and conspiracy we can be sure of one thing: NYC fighters and fans will soon be able to enjoy their favorite sport right in the heart of Brooklyn and Manhattan stadiums and not have to rely on full living room pay-per-view watch parties and nacho cheese dip any longer.

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