The tea leaves suggest the climate is right for passage of the bill. MMA became more mainstream in 2008 with CBS broadcasting two EliteXC cards on prime-time television and the UFC attracting unprecedented media attention while compiling record pay-per-view numbers. From London to Las Vegas, the UFC has enjoyed a consistent streak of sellout or near-sellout crowds in a troubled economy.
Meanwhile, Gov. Paterson is cutting programs and paychecks to address a $15 billion deficit in the state budget, and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered $1.4 billion in budget cuts last month. Ignoring the income MMA and the UFC could bring to the state and city would seem fiscally irresponsible.
"At a time when the New York economy is in crisis, it would be a mistake for the state to miss out on the considerable revenue that our events would generate," said Marc Ratner, a UFC vice president for Government and Regulatory Affairs. "We are eager to bring both the excitement of our new sport as well as its major tax and tourist revenue to New York State."
Gov. Paterson appointed Melvina Lathan as the chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission last July, replacing Ron Scott Stevens. Lathan, a professional boxing judge for 18 years, is a proponent of MMA and supports it legalization in New York, but she would like to see her staff increased to handle the additional responsibility of regulating the sport."I'd like to encourage more conversation about MMA," she said. "Unless it's regulated there's no way to insure the health, safety and protocol issues are all in place. I love boxing, but there's room for both.
Getting MMA legalized in New York state is the last major hurdle to nation-wide acceptance in the U.S. A major show at Madison Square Garden covered on network television would be the ultimate signifier that MMA has arrived in the mainstream.
This major lobbying effort is another example of Zuffa investing in the future of the sport as a whole.