New York is on the brink of finally legalizing UFC fights

The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s long-sought attempt to stage fights in New York is effectively a governor’s signature away from being realized.

The New York State Assembly on Tuesday passed legislation to legalize and regulate professional mixed martial arts, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is now poised to approve the bill.

“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 ... all the members of the Assembly -- Democrats and Republicans -- who voted for this bill,” UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta said in the company’s prepared statement on the matter.

A culinary union in Las Vegas, which opposed the non-union policy of Fertitta’s at his Station Casino properties in Nevada, lobbied New York politicians for years to keep MMA banned in the state even as UFC officials Marc Ratner and Lawrence Epstein worked diligently to have New York join the union in allowing a sport that in December drew a $10.1-million live gate to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

That deprived UFC of mega-events at Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center and other venues despite the state’s participation of former light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones and ex-middleweight champion Chris Weidman.

In its statement, the company said: “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.”

The UFC tried to stage an April 23 card at Madison Square Garden before a judge’s ruling altered the company’s attempt to make that happen through an injunction.

Company officials will speak more on the issue later Tuesday.

Assembly Majority Leader "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 Sen. 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. 

“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.”

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