Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the House, NY State Assembly.
The UFC has been pushing for MMA regulation in New York for several years now. This year it's passed the State Senate, but that hurdle has been cleared before. It's now trying to work its way through the New York State Assembly. Today it passed the Codes Committee by a 17-1 vote. Now it has to get through the Ways & Means and Rules Committee. Unfortunately, that committee is controlled by Speaker Sheldon Silver, an avowed opponent of MMA.
UFC president Dana White put an op-ed in the New York Daily News today pushing things along. Here are some highlights:
MMA is completely different from the spectacle New York legislators banned back in the 1990s.
When MMA first came to the United States, it was modeled after a Brazilian sport known as vale tudo - "anything goes." Its early days were marked by a distinct lack of strong regulation - no weight classes, no time limits and no rules.
In 2001, MMA reinvented itself. The Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts were written and adopted by the leading regulatory bodies working closely with promoters, including the UFC. The rules include provisions for weight classes, rounds and time limits. Dangerous maneuvers are totally outlawed. In the UFC, we have multiple ringside doctors at every fight, mandatory pre- and post-fight MRIs, comprehensive drug testing and a competitive atmosphere.
If a fighter gets a concussion, he is forced to sit out of matches and training for a mandatory period determined by the regulatory body overseeing the event. No other professional sport has such strict concussion rules.
All of those changes have produced two incredibly positive results: First, no athlete has suffered a serious injury in the history of UFC - nothing beyond a broken bone. Second, the sport has gained worldwide popularity and firmly established itself as the fastest-growing sport in the country.
At this point, it's very odd that New York would allow and even celebrate a sport like football, in which people have experienced serious and lasting physical injuries, and cling to the fiction that MMA is legalized assault.
How successful would the sport be here? We got a taste a few weeks ago. A fight at the Rogers Centre in Toronto brought in ticket sales at the gate of more than $12 million - the largest for any event ever held at the arena. The sellout crowd of more than 55,000 - bigger than when an NFL game was held there - poured in to the city early and stayed late, purchasing arena concessions, staying in hotel rooms, dining at restaurants and taking taxis.
I am positive that an event in New York would have the same kind of success. While Madison Square Garden is obviously a pinnacle for any sport, we have a large fan base in cities like Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and Albany, all of which could use the economic lift.
We commissioned an economic impact study to demonstrate how much revenue one of our events would generate for the State of New York. The study, by HR & A, found that sanctioning MMA in New York City would generate more than $23 million in net new economic activity. In Buffalo, an event would generate $5.2 million in economic activity.
Those figures assume only two UFC events, and we estimate we could do as many as three per year in New York State.
Little wonder momentum is growing to overturn the ban. The state Senate recently voted overwhelmingly to sanction mixed martial arts and the Assembly's tourism committee followed suit; now it's time to allow a full Assembly vote.
The sports capital of the world deserves access to one of the world's fastest-growing sports, one that will bring money and jobs to state and local businesses.
We'll see if White's PR and lobbying effort works very soon.