The UFC has wanted to run in New York for a long time now, but the state does not view mixed martial arts as a legal sport. Today, some good news was delivered in the form of a New York State Senate bill that has passed for the fifth straight year. The hurdle remains the State Assembly now.
Senate Bill S6502 passed on Tuesday in Albany by a 44-16 vote, down slightly from last year's 47-17 tally. This bill faces the same problem that its predecessors have - the Assembly has stalled them, and not brought them to a vote.
One of the problems is that Assembly leader Sheldon Silver is someone who opposes the sport of MMA, and he has been the one refusing to bring it to a vote. Many in the State Senate believe there are enough votes in Assembly to get this bill passed, but the clock is ticking. The New York Legislative session closes on June 19. UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta is hoping that now is the time for this bill to finally get passed before session closes.
Fertitta was quoted in a press release as saying the following:
"We once again thank the State Senate - Democrats and Republicans - for giving overwhelming approval to legislation to legalize and regulate MMA in New York State, the last place in North America where professional MMA remains illegal. The attention turns yet again to the Assembly. Hopefully the Assembly will finally recognize that enacting this law is the right thing to do for the millions of fans, the right thing to do for ensuring the safety of amateur and professional MMA athletes, the right thing for tourism and economic development, the right thing for the arenas and the union jobs they provide. I have no choice but to be cautiously optimistic. Mr. Speaker, make 2014 the year this gets done."
The UFC has fought a five year battle with this bill, and at least right now with a leader so opposed to the sport it's hard to see this outcome being any different. There is a lot of good that can come from this across the board for fans and the economic impact the sport will have where events are hosted. There are a lot of MMA fighters that are billed from New York state, and it surely would be special and important for them to be able to fight in their home state as well.
I think it would be amazing to see UFC run an event in Madison Square Garden. Maybe next month we'll see that become a reality.