MMA in NY: What Does it Mean and What’s the Economic Impact?

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After several years of coming up short, mixed martial arts (MMA) is now legal in the state of New York. 

The New York State Assembly voted 113-25 yesterday (Tues., March 22, 2016) in favor of lifting a nearly 20-year ban on the sport. Now all that’s left to do is have Gov. Andrew Cuomo sign the legislation into effect, which he’s expected to do.

Then the fun begins. 

The leading MMA organization, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), is prepared to hold up to four events per calendar year in New York. The promotion’s CEO, Lorenzo Fertitta, anticipates UFC bringing two shows to the “Empire State” by the end of 2016.

“We’re hopeful that we will be holding one possibly two events by the end of the year here in 2016,” Fertitta told reporters (via MMA Fighting) on a conference call, as he continued to discuss his plans. “We’re gonna put together the best available matches that we can. You’ll have the biggest names that we can possibly put on, the biggest names that are available at the time. Believe me, we want to knock it out of the park and we want to deliver for New York in a big way.” 

Former UFC champions Jon Jones and Chris Weidman call New York home and are already giddy at the prospect of being a part of the first card to kick off the promotion’s run in the state.

“I’ve waited a long time for today and couldn’t be more excited to have MMA legal in my hometown of New York!!”  Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) https://twitter.com/ChrisWeidmanUFC/status/712412667563155461

“All-American” not only has the opportunity to compete in front of a hometown crowd, but so will countless other New York natives like his teammate Aljamain Sterling, Dennis Bermudez, Uriah Hall, Rashad Evans and more.

But there’s another name, capable of pulling in box office smashes on the pay-per-view (PPV) side of things, who Fertitta and UFC president Dana White may opt to have headline the first New York event. Ronda Rousey, the former women’s bantamweight champion, is set to return later this year and recently headlined a historic UFC 190 PPV last August against Bethe Correia, which totaled 1.1 million buys and an all-time gate record of $6,800,000.

“I haven’t had any conversation with Ronda about it. But like I said before, when we go to New York, we want to come with a big event. And obviously any time Ronda Rousey fights that is clearly a big event. That’s to be seen,” Fertitta said.

UFC is expected to hold their first event in New York at Madison Square Garden (MSG), which will undoubtedly be a PPV card. It was only recently that company executives had an April 23 date pegged in MSG to host its inaugural event there. 

However, MMA was not yet legalized and the promotion proceeded onward. Fertitta left the door open for the first event being a possible Fight Night event, which would be broadcast on FOX Sports 1 and Fight Pass.

The impact that MMA can have, at least economically, in New York cannot be understated. According to a recent article published in The Wall Street Journal, the state can be expected to accrue $68 million annually. 

Furthermore, in an article published on UFC.com in 2013, that number is believed to balloon upwards over $100 million annually.

“We hear elected officials across New York advocating for economic development and jobs.  Well, we’re ready to provide some of that economic development and tourism that leads to jobs in New York,” said COO of UFC Lawrence Epstein in Nov. 2013. 

Written by Brad Popkin

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