Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the proximity to New York, its stuffy image and being the home state of WWE, Connecticut is one of the few American states that still bans mixed martial arts events including UFC from being held in their jurisdiction. However, as Connecticut political journalist Daniela Altimari reports and James Caldwell publicised in the professional wrestling media, this may soon change thanks to Democratic State Representative Matthew Lesser introducing a bill to legalise and regulate MMA in Connecticut. Proving that fan lobbying of politicians can really work, Lesser's bill was introduced thanks to a local MMA fan who brought the issue to his attention and convinced him of how illogical and financially counterproductive the current MMA ban is:
Lesser said he was spurred to raise the bill by a constituent who is an MMA fan.
"It doesn't seem to make sense to tell fans from Connecticut that they have to leave the state to watch it,'' he said during a brief interview Friday afternoon. MMA matches have been held at the state's casinos, but cannot be legally held elsewhere in Connecticut.
Lesser says MMA could also boost the state's bottom line. Average ticket sales for an Ultimate Fight Championship match topped $2.8 million in 2007. UFC, the company that promotes most of the top-ranked MMA matches, is also a major player in the pay-per-view market. Taxes on MMA gate receipts could provide "a pretty significant economic boom,'' he said.
Massachusetts and Maine both recently legalized MMA, but New York is one of four states that has not. That provides an opportunity for Connecticut, given its proximity to the Empire State, Lesser said.
Later in the article, Lesser accused WWE of lobbying against his bill, while WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman denied it claiming that WWE is not opposed to "this or anything else the state wants to do with regards to sports or entertainment".
So who should we believe, Lesser or Zimmerman? Given WWE's track record, it is virtually impossible to believe Zimmerman's story. Vince McMahon has already sought to get UFC banned in key European countries like Germany, so it would be hardly surprising that he would lobby to keep them banned in his company's home state. It's not like the company is averse to spending dollars lobbying against legislation, as OpenSecrets.org revealed that WWE spent $1 million lobbying against federal legislation from 1999-2009, after Linda McMahon had "misspoke" about lobbying to Tea Party activists last October. Poor Robert Zimmerman has also been put in a position to lie far too many times by WWE already from claiming that The Undertaker's severe burns from a pyrotechnic mishap "basically amounted to a sunburn", to saying that Martha Hart's recent lawsuit was "nothing more than pure political orchestration", to his easily disproved proclamation that WWE never terminates anyone while injured, etc. Connecticut MMA fans should be thankful that Linda McMahon failed to be elected last November, because as a United States Senator she could have used her power to impede, maybe even block Lesser's bill.