Harry Reid is a sweet old man from the Nevada desert who has some really interesting ties to the world of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
On Tuesday, Techdirt published a rumor that Reid was planning to attach part of the failed 2012 Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) to a NSA reform bill—because, according to the publication, it would be a “'favor’ to his friends at the UFC” who support broadening copyright criminalization. Reid and the UFC, Techdirt went on, “go back for years.”
Reid’s camp was quick to shoot down the report, of course, and fittingly they did so by posting a comment on the blog post, dismissing it as nothing more than “spin from Republicans who want to tank the USA Freedom Act legislation.” Adam Jentleson, Reid’s spokesman, told me that the senator has no plans, covert or otherwise, to attach any part of SOPA to NSA reform.
Jentleson did not, however, respond to my serious inquiry about how often Reid frequents UFC fights, so I am going to assume it is very often, because Reid has long been in the pocket of the tight shorts of the UFC.
It may be difficult to picture it while listening to Reid politely whisper on the Senate floor, but the man was once himself a middleweight boxer. In his autobiography, The Good Fight: Hard Lessons from Searchlight to Washington, he wrote:
“A manager named Spike Bybe found me, and over the next two years, I had fifteen or twenty fights, mostly in Utah—Hurricane, Kanab, Beaver, Price, Cedar City, maybe St. George—but I also fought in Las Vegas. I’d go anywhere and fight anybody. I had boxing shoes. I was a full-fledged fighter…The black eyes and soreness to me were badges of honor to wear the next day, and I’d fight every chance I got.”
In 2010, when Reid was running for reelection against Tea Party candidate and gift to the media Sharron Angle, it was difficult to find a UFC fighter not openly supporting the senator.
Two-time heavyweight Frank Mir—6'3” and 240 lbs of goateed, tattooed muscle, cut a radio spot for the slight, bespectacled lawmaker.
“I’m known as a tough guy. But for the past 23 years, the true fighter for the state of Nevada has been our senator Harry Reid,” he said. “Our future generation needs a leader with power in Washington—and I know a little bit about power. On November 2nd, it’s up to us to keep Harry in the ring to keep doing what he does best: fighting for Nevada.” Mir then added, “I’m not being paid for this ad, I’m doing this because I care about Nevada’s future and the future of our children.”
Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, a 6'2”, 205 lb member of the UFC Hall of Fame who sports a mohawk attended a rally in support of Reid.
Randy Couture, a.k.a The Natural, Captain America, The Handy, issued a statement in support of Reid: “After 13 years competing in the UFC, I know what it takes to be a fighter. And I know no one is more dedicated or capable of fighting for Nevada families than Senator Harry Reid.”
The UFC support got to be so difficult to ignore that Angle finally released a campaign commercial acknowledging it, which claimed that while people in Nevada were suffering, Reid was partying with supermodels and sitting ringside at fights.
The UFC’s strict position on copyright ended up benefiting Reid. Angle’s ad was quickly removed from the Internet because she had improperly used their video. Though, had SOPA been law, she could have faced jail time.