WASHINGTON, April 1 — Speaking before a packed news conference at the Mayflower Hotel, Republican Senator John McCain, who has virtually clinched his party’s presidential nomination, addressed an issue which had not yet been raised by either party in this extended campaign: mixed martial arts.
"I guess a lot of you remember that back in the 1990’s, I characterized that sport as ‘human cockfighting,’" said McCain with a smile. "Well, nowadays they have lots of rules and have been approved by most state athletic commissions. Although I am not a fan, I must say that all this goes to prove that I was right all along about what needed to be done."
Then, a rather rumpled reporter pulled out a yellowed paper with the CNN logo on it, and waved it to get McCain’s attention. "I have in my hand the transcript from the Larry King show of December 6, 1995, where the discussion was about the sport now known as mixed martial arts," he said. "You are quoted as saying: ’36 states have already outlawed it and it won’t be long before all 50 do.’ Please comment."
McCain cleared his throat, gritted his teeth, and replied, "I don’t recall saying that, but if I did, I think I was right then because more states did ban it after that program. That it has changed now is due to my pressure. For example, I just saw Governor Spitzer in the hotel lobby, as he was leaving with his daughter, and he said that he now approves of no-holds-barred."
"Nonetheless," he continued, "if elected president, I will seek a ban on the largest of these organizations, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. As you know, I authored the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, which was passed in 2000. These so-called mixed martial arts promoters say they want the same regulation as our boxing promoters, but why then do they not follow the same types of practices regarding options on fighters and contracts as their boxing counterparts do?"
McCain continued, "In UFC, there are no separate sanctioning bodies, as there are in boxing, even though there are far too many of those. That means that the promoter also is the matchmaker, sanctioning body, and broadcaster. It also means that they make fighters who are champions sign secretive contracts which may never expire. Thus, many of their top athletes have already left UFC, or are planning to do so."
He concluded, "Thus, I am writing to the governors of all 50 states and also Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Canal Zone, that while I can live with the sport of mixed martial arts being sanctioned by their athletic commissions, I cannot sit idly by while the spirit of the Ali Act is so flagrantly violated. Since they show no intention of living up to the Ali Act, I am advising them to ban it in their jurisdictions. Further, when elected, I will introduce to the Congress the ‘Mixed Martial Arts Fair Competition Act’, which will ban any such organization which does not live up to the Ali Act."
Another reporter queried McCain, "Why now? Why say all this today?"
"Because," he answered, "it’s April Fool’s Day, you fools! I hope you read to the end of this piece to find out that this is all a joke concocted, once again on April 1, by my old nemesis, Eddie Goldman!"
But it would indeed be foolish to believe that the question of the failure of many mixed martial arts promoters to live up to the spirit of the Ali Act is a joke. That is a problem which remains to be resolved, on April 1 and every other day.