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New York's Leading MMA Critic Bob Reilly Won't Run for Re-Election

Bob Reilly, the New York Assemblyman who was MMA's most vocal opponent in the state, will not seek re-election in 2012.

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Getty Images
Getty Images

Bob Reilly, the New York Assemblyman who gained infamy in the mixed martial arts world as the state's main detractor of sanctioning, will not run for a fifth term, the Troy Record reported on Monday.

Reilly first won election to represent his 109th district in 2004, and was re-elected to the same post three more times. His seat will be up for a vote again this November.

The 72-year-old Democrat has largely been seen as one of the main forces keeping MMA out of the Empire State due to his vocal opposition dating back to 2008, when he first gained notoriety on the subject after an interview with ESPN. Since then, he's been one of its most outspoken foes.

According to many government insiders, however, the bigger hurdle is Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, who remains entrenched in his position.

In 2010, longtime New York political analyst Dr. Douglas Muzzio told MMA Fighting that when it came to Silver's power in the Assembly, "if he wanted it, it would happen."

Still, Reilly served a valuable role for Silver as MMA's public hitman, even when it was proven that there was a movement towards supporting a vote on the sport. In 2011, MMA bill co-sponsor Dean Murray hastily produced a letter of support signed by 60 members of the Assembly. At the time, there were 146 members, so an MMA bill would have required 74 votes.

Silver, however, said there did not appear to be "widespread support" for the legislation, and never brought it forth for a full vote.

Because Silver does much of his work behind the scenes, Reilly earned the wrath of many for his public distaste for the sport. His position was cemented in 2009, when he released a study entitled "The Case Against Ultimate Fighting in New York State."

In that report, he claimed among other things that "ultimate fighting" has a "negative impact on children, adults and our society as a whole," and that the sport would "have a negative effect on the economics of New York state and local municipalities."

In the time since, many states have embraced sanctioning, with New York one of the last remaining holdouts. However misguided many felt Reilly was, his effort seemed sincere, as he donated his entire Assembly salary to charitable causes each year, a total of over $335,000.

Reilly once told ESPN that if New York were to accept MMA, they would have to realize that they were "getting in bed with" Dana White, and that he mirrored the violence that happens with "Ultimate Fighting," as he was fond of calling the sport. If he would have bothered to speak to other governments and other commissions around the world, maybe he would have thought differently, but by the time he retires, he might be able to say he won his fight while he waged it.

The UFC is again lobbying to get the sport passed, major sports properties like Madison Square Garden have publicly voiced a hope of hosting major events, and a bill is slowly snaking its way through the committee process. And despite those best efforts, yet again, the bid is expected to be denied.

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