On Tuesday at 7:30pm ET, MMA fans received the news they have been waiting for years to hear.
MMA is coming to the Empire State.
Sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle and 72 other Assembly sponsors, bill A.2604-C, which legalizes and regulates professional mixed martial arts, was passed by both houses in Albany and will be waiting for Governor Andrew Cuomo's signature to make it official.
UFC® Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo Fertitta was as elated as the fans he will be seeing in arenas across the state of New York.
“This has been a long time coming and on behalf of our New York UFC athletes and fans, I want to offer heartfelt thanks to Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Morelle and all the Members of the Assembly – Democrats and Republicans – who voted for this bill.
“Joe Morelle has worked tirelessly to educate his colleagues and build support for legalizing professional MMA and regulating both professional and amateur MMA. He has worked closely with Senator Joe Griffo, who has shepherded this effort in the Senate, where the bill has passed with strong bipartisan support for the last seven years, and MMA fans owe both a huge debt of gratitude,” Fertitta said.
In a press released issued by the UFC, Fertitta noted all the support the bill has garnered over the last several years.
New York’s amazing arenas – upstate and downstate – have worked with us to advocate passage of this bill. So, too, have restaurants, hotels, businesses and others who recognize the economic value professional MMA can bring to New York,” Fertitta said. “Our athletes have been extraordinary. More than 20 have been to Albany to help educate legislators about the fastest growing sport in the world. And our fans have been phenomenal. Through letters and phone calls, rallies and social media, New York’s MMA and UFC fans have lent their voices of support. It took a while, but their voices have been heard.
UFC has committed to holding at least four events per year in New York for the first three years after professional MMA is legalized and regulated in New York. Fertitta renewed that commitment.
“Whle there are still additional steps that have to occur before professional MMA becomes a reality in New York, I want to assure our fans that if Governor Cuomo signs the bill into law and the State Athletic Commission puts in place the appropriate regulations, we look forward to hosting our first New York event in the world’s most famous arena – Madison Square Garden, home to so many epic sporting events throughout the decades,” Fertitta said. “We also look forward to scheduling events in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Albany, and Brooklyn. We are excited.”
But MMA is more than the UFC, and the team at Bellator was just as excited at the anticipated opportunity to enter the Empire State. Said Bellator MMA President Scott Coker:
The New York Assembly’s vote to legalize MMA is a watershed moment for this incredible sport. As someone who has been promoting combat sports for more than 30 years, this is a very exciting time for mixed martial arts. We at Bellator MMA are very much looking forward to hosting an event in the 'Crown Jewel of America,' New York. Two Bellator champions, Liam McGeary and Marcos Galvao call New York home and I know it means a great deal to the both of them, as it does for the entire promotion. We’ve already been in contact with the great people at the Barclays Center and several other incredible venues, and we can’t wait bring our world-class athletes and action-packed shows to an arena in the Empire State soon.
There are still a few more hurdles to clear, but for fans of New York, who for decades had to travel to New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania to watch MMA fights, today's news was a boost to the passion they already had for the sport, and more proof that the sport has "entered the realm of the elite sports leagues."
With the Knicks and Nets floundering year after year, could you imagine MSG becoming the Mecca of MMA or the Barclays being named as the site of Rousey vs. Holm II?
“New York is the biggest market in the United States for us already, from a pay-per-view standpoint,” Fertitta said. “We’re looking to literally break the gate records at each arena we go to, and that includes Madison Square Garden when we eventually get there, hopefully by the fourth quarter this year.”
Jay-Z said "Homie, I play hard." so why not? That's what we do in New York. We make memories and legends.
So MMA,welcome to New York City.