Thursday, March 17, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
NEW YORK — A political rally preceded the UFC 128 press conference Wednesday afternoon at Radio City Music Hall.
In an ongoing effort to have mixed martial arts regulated in the state of New York, UFC President Dana White welcomed New York City Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera.
Rivera gave an impassioned speech to the media and fans assembled about legalizing MMA.
“I grew up watching boxing on TV,” Rivera said. “I grew up watching wrestling, WWF and WWE, on TV. It motivated me to get in the gym. It motivated me to join martial arts. This is the impact MMA and UFC have on the next generation. That’s why I think it’s important to bring it here to our great city and Madison Square Garden.”
New York is one of only three states in America where MMA is not legal. White has continued his crusade to change that for the better part of a decade.
He spent Tuesday in Albany, N.Y., alongside UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta speaking to lawmakers.
“We’ll see what happens,” White said. “Everyone in this room knows how safe this sport is. It is a real sport. It’s just a few key people in the state of New York that we need to turn.”
White has already promised Madison Square Garden two events within the first year MMA is legalized in the state. He said he was finished offering predictions for when it would get done but hoped for the best.
The prevailing thought is that regulation is imminent, but no one can pinpoint when UFC events will head across the river from Newark, N.J., and into the country’s biggest city.
“It’s about time,” Rivera said. “I will be the first in line at Ticketmaster or Madison Square Garden to buy a ticket.”
Jones enjoying homecoming
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua called New York City Jon Jones’ “hometown” Wednesday.
While that’s not exactly true — he grew up three hours north in Endicott, N.Y. — Jones does know he’ll be fighting on his own turf.
“I absolutely expect a home crowd advantage,” Jones said.
Jones has been more open before his light heavyweight championship bout than he has before previous fights and said it was because he wanted to share himself with the people of New York.
He’s made the New York media rounds and appeared on the Fox morning show “Good Day New York” on Thursday with an interesting prediction. Jones said he would beat Shogun via submission (rear naked choke) and then demonstrated it on the anchor.
But not all the locals are believers. One fan asked Jones to stand up and then posed the question, “do you really think you can beat Shogun?”
“Come on, son,” Jones responded. “Absolutely.”
”The Ultimate Fighter” coaching spot on the line in co-main event?
Newark will play host to “The Ultimate Fighter” season 14 tryouts the Monday after UFC 128 concludes as bantamweights and featherweights are invited to give it a shot.
That’s led many to believe this weekend’s co-main event between bantamweights Urijah Faber and Eddie Wineland is a competition to land the next coaching slot on the show. White wouldn’t comment on the situation Wednesday and called it a rumor.
Faber, a near 4-to-1 favorite, shares a rivalry with current bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. It’s conceivable that with a win over Wineland, Faber could get a title shot and perhaps a season coaching against Cruz leading up to it.
If that were true, Wineland would like to spoil the idea and grab the coaching job himself.
“What we both want is that belt,” Wineland said. “If a TUF 14 coach position arises in the midst of it, then so be it. I’d be happy to do it.”