A group of Jewish leaders wrote a letter addressed to “friends of the Jewish community.” The letter will be sent to New York State lawmakers and will be published as an ad in Jewish publications. The letter notes that the government of Abu Dhabi owns a 10% of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the premier promotion in mixed martial arts today. Abu Dhabi is anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, the letter claims, and argues that because of that, mixed martial arts should not be legalized in New York State.
The Daily news exclusively reports:
The fight against mixed martial arts has escalated, with a group of prominent New York Jewish leaders saying that legalizing the controversial sport could benefit a major anti-Israel force.
The group has penned a letter to “friends of the Jewish community” that will go to state lawmakers and run in Jewish publications highlighting the fact that the Abu Dhabi government owns a 10% stake in the sport’s biggest league — the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Abu Dhabi is part of the United Arab Emirates, which the Anti-Defamation League ranked as one of the most anti-Semitic countries in the world, the letter says.
“This is a country that refuses to recognize Israel as a nation, refuses to allow Israeli citizens to travel in their country, and has banned the teaching of the Holocaust in their schools,” the letter says.
Until now, the fight against legalizing MMA, which has been banned in New York since 1997, has focused mainly on criticism that the sport is barbaric, anti-woman and anti-gay — claims league officials vehemently deny.
This is the first time Jewish leaders as a group have weighed in.
“At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise, we cannot stand by while Albany cuts a deal with a company whose profits will go directly into the hands of an enemy of Israel,” the letter says. “It is our hope that New York will continue its proud tradition as a staunch friend to the Jewish community by rejecting the legalization of mixed martial arts and saying no to a company and country that is clearly no friend of Israel.”…
Among the 17 leaders who signed the letter are Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis; Yoel Schonfeld, a rabbi for the Orthodox Union and Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills synagogue in Queens; Rabbi David Keehn of the Queens Jewish Community Council, and Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a principal with Bernstein Global Wealth Management and the son of two Holocaust survivors.
Ultimate Fighting Championship officials fought back Sunday by saying that Abu Dhabi is not only considered an ally of the United States, but also has dealings with major New York City developers like Sam Zell and Stephen Ross and ownership stakes in “iconic” New York City real estate like the Chrysler Building and the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle.
“This desperate, misinformed, last-minute attack borders on racial and ethnic stereotypes that have no place in public discourse,” said Ultimate Fighting Championship spokesman Steven Greenberg.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Queens), an Orthodox Jew who is a co-sponsor of the mixed martial arts legalization bill, said, “It offends me that there are those who will use any excuse to play politics with our economy. This is just another tactic by the opposition to cloud the real issue.”
The state Senate has passed an MMA legalization bill the past five years, only to see it die in the Assembly.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) used to be a co-sponsor on the legalization bill, giving hope to supporters that it may pass before the end of the legislative session in June.
It's hard to say the UFC is anti-woman when it has two women's divisions, and other MMA promotions also have women's divisions.
But the UFC and the others do use bikini-clad ring card girls, just like boxing has done for close to a century. The difference here, though, is that some of these UFC ring girls are stars in their right who make decent or better than decent money and who represent the UFC at public events.
The real problems with MMA are head and limb injuries.
Head injuries are common to all contact sports, and based on what we now know about concussions, repeated blows to the head, mild traumatic brain injuries and their link to dementia and early death, all of these sports, be they MMA, boxing, kick boxing, football, hockey, etc., really should be banned.
Head injuries in MMA could be reduced by instituting a knockdown rule similar to what boxing has, banning head kicks (or finding ways to pad fighters' shins and feet), body slams and suplexes, and through faster referee fight stoppages due to strikes to the head. (Doing something to change MMA gloves to help prevent accidental eye pokes is also important, as is stopping fights earlier when a fighter has been cut.)
Limb injuries will happen when fighters are allowed to use arm bars, knee locks, heel hooks and other similar submissions. The fighters on the receiving end of these submissions often wait too long to submit, and the fighters applying the submission sometimes don't release them quickly enough after the submission has been made. (We're talking about an extra fraction of second, sometimes a bit longer, but that's all it takes to break and arm or destroy a knee.) Perhaps a way to handle this problem would be for certain submission attempts to be considered automatic fight enders, meaning if fighter A gets fighter B in a heel hook or arm bar, the fight is over immediately if the referee sees the submission is solid.
Likely no reforms will be made, though (except perhaps glove modifications to prevent accidental eye pokes).
MMA is great for former amateur wrestlers who otherwise have little they can do professionally after their college careers have ended, unless they make the US team and compete internationally. Many top amateur wrestlers from colleges across the country are now MMA fighters in the UFC – including former Olympians.
Not only that, but the USA's women's judo team star Ronda Rousey, who earned a bronze medal at the Olympics, is one of the UFC's two women's champions. She hits harder than most men and is at this writing undefeated. (And she's also an actress and a model, to boot.)
Should MMA be legalized in New York State?
Part of me says yes and part of me says no. But the part that says no doesn't say it because Abu Dhabi, which has been big on combat sports for a long time, owns 10% of the UFC. And the more I think about the stupidity of the letter Potasnik and his buddies signed, the more I want MMA to legalized. And maybe it really should be.