A big fight for an increasingly popular sport is underway.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) could become legal in New York later this year, but there are still a few jabs advocates have to block.
Nine Queens assemblymembers sponsored a bill that would make the sport legal. The bill, sponsored by two legislators from Queens, passed 47-15 in the Senate.
The Assembly must pass the bill for it to become law, though the body voted not to remove the MMA ban last May. That left New York as one of a few states where professional MMA is illegal, though amateurs are allowed to fight here.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president Dana White has repeatedly blamed the Culinary Workers Union based in Nevada for blocking mixed martial arts in New York. His partners, Lorenzo and Frank Feritta, own Station Casinos in Las Vegas. Culinary workers have lobbied against the non-union establishment.
In an April 25 interview with ESPN, White said he wanted to see mixed martial arts in New York, but was resigned to waiting for the vote.
White said a UFC presence in the city would lead to about $600,000 in ticket taxes and an overall economic impact of $60-100 million. He is hopeful a fight will come at Madison Square Garden in the future.
“We’re doing fights all over the world,” he said. “Do I want to be here? Yes.”
Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder met with representatives from the UFC last week. He said legalizing pro MMA would tap into a revenue source nearly every other state has. Goldfeder added that no one opposing the legalization has reached out to him.
“There’s a huge upside with no downside. We currently have the access to MMA” through cable television, he said. “Now we can take advantage of some of the benefits as well.”
Goldfeder said he is confident the assembly will pass the bill before the current legislative session ends in June.
He added that Resorts World Casino New York City could potentially host UFC fights. While it is not as big as Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, it has hosted professional boxing matches on the third floor.
Requests for comment from Unite Here, the nationwide wing of the culinary union, were not answered by press time.
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