Had it occurred in the octagon, the chain-linked fenced arena in which the Ultimate Fighting Championships holds its bouts, Eliot Spitzer’s swift and sudden fall would have been just as stunning. Rarely does a fighter with the kind of skills, savvy and passion long displayed by the now-disgraced New York governor fall as far and fast. But Spitzer was felled by a punch of his own doing, and now, like the entirety of New York, the UFC is left to wonder what’s next.
Spitzer’s scandalous demise came at an inopportune time for the most powerful organization in the fast-growing world of mixed martial arts – almost to the day the UFC embarked upon its campaign to have the sport legalized in the state of New York, where it has been banned for 11 years. Some UFC stars, like Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes and Forrest Griffin, are some of the most popular athletes in any sport, particularly among young men. Fights are drawing sold-out crowds to arenas in the 32 states where the sport is sanctioned. And pay-per-view events are creeping towards the realm of boxing’s most popular recent bouts.
On Monday, Zuffa, the UFC’s parent company, launched a website – www.mmafacts.com – created to state its case for allowing the sport to take place in New York. More important, UFC officials had already held discussions with Spitzer and were confident they were on the right track. Zuffa had even hired a political consulting firm once used by Spitzer, the Global Strategy Group, to liaison with the media.
Now, the organization must start anew – wooing soon-to-be governor David Paterson.
Spitzer’s office had not commented on the effort, in part, because no legislation had yet been introduced. Earlier this week, Marc Ratner, Zuffa’s vice president for regulatory and government affairs, told The New York Times: “We’re working on [a bill] as we speak, and that should hopefully be forthcoming, but it’s not quite ready yet.”
He went on to say confidently: “We’ll have people on both sides of the aisle. We’re very bullish on coming to New York.”
Only now, there’s a new bull to chase.