MMA is Legal in New York and NY Fans Can Rejoice

March 22, 2016 will be remembered as a watershed moment in MMA history. But for New York based mixed martial artists , trainers and fans, it will be looked at as a day where the chains of legality were removed on a 19-year ban on the sport. Because on six different occasions, the bill to legalize MMA passed in the State Senate. Yet every time it reached the State Assembly floor, it was always snuffed out quickly and quietly. It left New York, a state that often lead the way in forward thinking politics, as the lone state in the nation to not have legalized MMA. The process toward government approval was often complicated and frustrating.

There has always been speculation on why it took so long. Corruption at the highest levels of the states government was often inferred as the biggest deterrent to sanctioning of the industry. I have even covered the topic myself in the past. So it wasn’t a surprise, when former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested on charges of corruption, that the wins of change started blowing.

I have been a die-hard fan of the sport since 2007. So still not being able to watch professional fights in New York was similar to watching a Tito Ortiz press conference after a loss. Excuses mixed with nonsense. How could a place that has “The World’s Most Famous Arena”, Madison Square Garden, not be able to open its door to aficionados of the sport, and let the world’s finest fighters ply their trade on its hallowed ground? If boxing and bull-riding could be promoted in the arena, MMA continually being outlawed was bewildering.

Yet here we were, in the year 2016, and a local fan had to go to Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to see the fastest growing sport in the world up-close. Instead being able to hop on a train or bus, brimming with excitement, to go see pro-fighters at their home arenas. It was all the more confusing since legalization would not only benefit fans and fighters, but it would benefit residences of that state that could care less about the industry.

In 2012, the UFC had HR&A Advisors put together a study on the economic benefits of legalizing MMA in New York. From this study it was found that allowing MMA promotions into the state would bring in $68 million in revenue annually. For a state that has a debt of $387 billion, as of January of 2014 (Ballotopedia.org), that new revenue source will be a major help. Two events per year by the UFC would account for $16 million in annual revenue alone. Not to mention this influx of business would lead to over 500 new jobs. Extremely useful for a place that currently has a 4.9% unemployment rate.

I love MMA but traveling out of state, paying hefty tolls just to get back into New York City, along with the price of a ticket, is hard sell. But now I am able to ponder taking a drive over to Barclay’s Center to catch a Bellator MMA show. Or maybe ride the Metro North up to the Westchester County Center and see some World Series of Fighting action. Not to mention the die-hards in Albany and Rochester, both with major arenas, who can finally stay close to home to enjoy the sport they love live. Legacy Fighting Championships and Resurrection Fighting Alliance will now have the opportunity to step up to the big time and showcase their shows in the biggest media market in the world. How ground breaking would it be to finally see an all-female card if Invicta FC put on a show in the Theater at Madison Square Garden?

Finally, native New Yorkers and the biggest names in the industry can go fight inside “The Mecca”, the Garden, just like their boxing contemporaries Miguel Cotto, Gennady Golovkin, and Wladimir Klitschko. There is just something special about a big fight in New York City. No longer can only boxing have that honor. The sport we love is now finally stepping on to the grandest stage of them all.

My wallet may get lighter in the years to come. But the memories I make as I view the sport I love, in the state where I live, are worth it all. It was a long and winding road for promoters, trainers, fighters, analysts and fans. But finally…FINALLY…MMA is legalized in New York. It’s time to celebrate.

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