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Chris Weidman responds to 'ridiculous' statements made by New York State Assembly members

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The New York State Assembly members who were against lifting the ban on mixed martial arts had plenty to say about the sport Tuesday in their conference -- some of it borderline offensive.

One Assemblyman said MMA was like "gay porn." Another compared it to fights between slaves on the plantation. Multiple members of the legislative body pegged fighters as criminals and domestic abusers.

Former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, speaking on a conference call Tuesday after the MMA bill passed by a vote of 113-25, said he was pretty stunned by the comments.

"Some of the things they were saying were so ridiculous that I was actually happy and embarrassed for them for even bringing it up," Weidman said. "It's things I've heard people behind closed doors might be saying, but to hear them say it live and to the public, I actually thought it was pretty interesting -- and probably good for us. I just thought it was embarrassing on their part."

Weidman, 31, hails from Long Island, N.Y., and has been arguably the most active fighter in lobbying for mixed martial arts to get legalized in his home state. He said on the call that there were times when he was discouraged and thought it would never get done. The New York State Senate had passed the bill seven years in a row, but the Assembly never even brought it to a vote until this year.

Politics, lobbying and the influence of former speaker Sheldon Silver, who was convicted of federal fraud charges last year, kept MMA in limbo. The bill met a ton of opposition from the Culinary Union in Las Vegas, which has a long-standing feud with the Fertitta brothers, who own the UFC.

Hon. Daniel J. O'Donnell of Manhattan commented on lobbying aspect of this process Tuesday during the legislative conference. He claimed that Assembly members had been offered thousands of dollars to change their votes in favor of the MMA bill. Lorenzo Fertitta, speaking on the conference call, denied those accusations.

"First of all, that comment by O'Donnell was absolutely ridiculous," Fertitta said. "And no, that is absolutely -- we have no knowledge of anything like that. We invested in the sport, no different than we have done in the last 15, 16 years. It's unfortunately part of the process."

O'Donnell, the brother of entertainer and MMA fan Rosie O'Donnell, also said mixed martial arts was like "gay porn with a different ending." O'Donnell was the first openly gay man to serve in the state's Assembly and regarded as a pioneer of LGBT rights, but was firmly opposed to mixed martial arts, which he also said had ties to illegal gambling.

"You have two nearly naked, hot men, rolling around on top of one another trying to dominate each other," O'Donnell. "And in case you didn't know, that's gay porn with a different ending."

Meanwhile, Hon. Charles Barron of Manhattan made references to slavery when discussing the MMA bill.

"Firstly, as an African American, we've been in cages on the plantation and other places and people let us bite off each other's ears and other things until they regulated that and made it something different," Barron said.

Other Assembly members like Hon. Deborah Glick and Hon. Catherine Nolan called into question the alleged high rate of domestic violence in MMA, attempting to paint fighters as thugs and criminals. Glick made reference to a quote from a parody Twitter account to help prove her point. Hon. Angela Wozniak made meandering points about MMA coaches using their positions to take advantage of children sexually.

"Many of the things that you heard today in the public forum were actually told to us in their offices or in meetings," Fertitta said. "In fact, I was actually kind of surprised that some of the things were actually said publicly today. It's kind of shocking the way that the opponents really tried to point not only the sport, but our athletes -- I was actually surprised that a lot of the opponents that spoke actually said some of those things."

Added Weidman: "There's bad apples in every type of job, whether it's sports or normal day-to-day jobs."

Glick and others also rightly brought up fighters being susceptible to concussions in the sport. Hon. Patricia Fahy levied some thoughtful points about fighters' health and state finances.

Hon. Matthew Titone, who is also openly homosexual, added a gay joke of his own. And he was a supporter of the MMA bill.

"Quite frankly, if I wanted to see half naked men in a cage fighting over a belt where the winner gets a purse, I'd go to Fire Island," Titone said.

Weidman believes the controversial comments ended up making those Assembly members look worse and might have even helped MMA's cause.

"For to be actually saying it on a public forum was very surprising and I was actually embarrassed for them," Weidman said. "I think it just kind of made them look ignorant with their comments and they were reaching as far as they possibly can to stop it from happening for whatever reasons. And they were willing to make themselves look bad while they were doing it."