MMA Legalization Faces Long Road In Empire State

By Alex Wolf

Earlier this month, a pro-MMA rally was held in front of City Hall in Manhattan in support of legalizing sanctioned fights in the state of New York. It is true — one of the biggest sports markets in the country is unable to host MMA bouts within state borders because of opposition from the state legislature.

Support for legalizing MMA in the Empire State has gained momentum during the past few years, with various proponents within New York’s legislative body and from some major promoters, including UFC president Dana White.

In January, the UFC held a press conference in Madison Square Garden as part of an effort to embolden the push for legalization of MMA fights in New York. As a power player within the world of mixed martial arts, the UFC hopes to use its own financial success and notoriety to directly reach New York’s assemblymen and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

During that press conference, UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta cited an economic report giving estimates about potential revenue from sanctioned UFC events at Madison Square Garden. He said he thought the state could generate millions of dollars for any UFC event held in New York City. For a state drowning in debt and joblessness concerns, it seemed reasonable for the UFC to bring financial incentives to the table.

“I honestly think it’s happening.” White said at the press conference. “Look who’s represented today. All the people we talk to, from politicians to Madison Square Garden and the list goes on and on. Was New York tougher than every other place? Absolutely. But I feel like we’re right there. We’ve done a great job. Ten years of nothing but success and safety and continuing to grow the sport. I think we’re right there in New York. We’re ready to grow the sport and make it happen.”

Much to the dismay of the UFC, other MMA promoters, grassroots supporters in New York, fans, fighters and potential beneficiaries of sanctioned fights, Gov. Cuomo left out any language addressing mixed martial arts from the 2011-12 state budget proposal.


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