For the first time in 7 years, a bill to end the controversial ban on MMA in the state of New York made it to the assembly floor. The bill passed with a 113 to 25 vote making New York the last state to legalize MMA.
Yesterday, the legislation, which passed through four committees before making it to the assembly floor, is now waiting on a signature from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Should the governor veto the bill, the bill would automatically go into effect. This is highly unlikely, considering he has already accounted for MMA revenue in his 2016-2017 budget.
“New York is the biggest market in the United States for us already, from a pay-per-view standpoint,” UFC chairman Lorenzo 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.”
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The UFC isn't the only organization excited about the new opportunity, Bellator MMA President Scott Coker expressed his excitement in a statement:
“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,” said Coker. “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.”
Before any events start taking place, there are steps that still have to be taken. The New York State Athletic Commission has 120 days to draft regulations and guidelines.
In the sport's infancy, when the UFC's slogan boasted "There are no rules", safety was a legitimate concern. The sport was originally banned in 1997 by then Governor George Pataki before it adopted safety regulations and had governing bodies.
MMA/UFC fans know that the sport today is nothing like it was in the beginning. Since then, the UFC has come a long way in terms of safety. Implementing weight classes, protective gear and other unified rules, has helped the sport gain respect.