The Internet has been flooded with recent reports about the UFC's efforts to get mixed martial arts sanctioned in New York State, and this is the year it might finally happen. The UFC brass is so resolved to break into New York City that they have been circulating hopeful plans to hold an event at Madison Square Garden in addition to hiring lobbying firms to pick apart the opponents of regulation in the Empire State.
New Jersey already regulates MMA and was actually the only state to sanction the sport when the Fertittas and Dana White purchased the UFC in 2001. I attended UFC 78 myself, which was held in Newark, New Jersey. The house was packed, and the atmosphere was charged, but I imagine I was not the only one who had to turn to New York City for lodging. So, whether New York regulates the sport or not, it most definitely profits from it every time an event is held in New Jersey.
UFC 128 is scheduled for March 19, 2011 in New Jersey, and it's a pretty safe bet that New York City will benefit. The question is how much more could the state and New York City benefit from an event held at a place like Madison Square Garden instead of the Prudential Center?
All the lobbying and the extra pressure on New York politicians seems to be making a difference. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo even got a booster shot of sorts in the way of a campaign contribution of $75,000 from UFC parent company Zuffa, LLC. New York State Assemblyman Bob Reilly has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of MMA regulation in the state. His main argument seems to be "...violence begets violence." Still, Governor Cuomo seems to be moving toward making the argument to approve the sport in order to positively impact the state budget, which is suffering from a serious shortfall.
A 2008 study commissioned by the UFC concluded that a typical event could generate as much as $11.5 million in economic activity in NYC and around $5.2 million in Buffalo, New York. UFC brass have made overtures about holding 2-3 events in New York each year if they get the state to pass regulation. Still, though the economic impact of UFC events may help businesses across the state, it is only projected to generate around $1.3 million annually in state revenues. That doesn't make much of a dent at all in a reported $9 billion budget gap.
Legislators aren't the only ones that need prodding to warm up to the idea of sanctioning the sport. Around 68 percent of polled voters don't approve of the ban on MMA being lifted in the state, including 74 percent of New York City voters who participated in the poll. This reality is leading the UFC to mobilize the fan base through the Internet and with press conferences like one recently held at Madison Square Garden. The push is on to educate the public and convince people that MMA is not a barbaric sport. One man is actually taking the fight to City Hall on February 8th, 2011. There is a Web-site associated with the February 8th rally at http://nymmanow.blogspot.com/. That site represents a group called The Coalition To Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York.
Whether the general public or the legislature in the state want the sport to be condoned and sanctioned within New York's borders or not, the UFC is not taking no for an answer. The tide will eventually turn. The UFC already spent nearly $2 million on lobbying alone, and as the old saying goes, "Money Talks..." And this year there's a good chance that New York's MMA opponents will be walking.