Pro­fes­sional MMA off to fast start in New York

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By David Klepper

Pro­fes­sional mixed mar­tial arts are off to a rol­lick­ing start in New York state, two months after law­mak­ers ended its sta­tus as the only state to ban the pop­u­lar sport.

AL­BANY Pro­fes­sional mixed mar­tial arts are off to a rol­lick­ing start in New York state, two months after law­mak­ers ended its sta­tus as the only state to ban the pop­u­lar sport.

While there have been a hand­ful of bouts in the state since the change took ef­fect, an up­com­ing UFC event at Madi­son Square Gar­den is ex­pected to be the true com­ing-out party. Pro­mot­ers say it’s likely just the start of a long re­la­tion­ship be­tween New York City and mixed mar­tial arts.

“It should have been le­gal in New York 15 years ago,” said Scott Coker, pres­i­dent of pro­moter Bel­la­tor MMA, which is hop­ing to hold an event next year at the Gar­den or at Bar­clays Cen­ter. “We’re go­ing to bring a big, big show, prob­a­bly the big­gest card in the his­tory of Bel­la­tor.”

The home­com­ing is par­tic­u­larly sweet for fighters from New York state who have had to travel else­where to fight pro­fes­sion­ally.

“This is a dream come true,” mid­dleweight Chris Wei­d­man said in Septem­ber. A na­tive New Yorker, he who will be one of sev­eral fighters in Satur­day’s pay-per-view UFC event.

With its prom­i­nent place in box­ing his­tory, Madi­son Square Gar­den is a nat­u­ral for mixed mar­tial arts. Joel Fisher, an ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent at the Gar­den, said “it’s only fit­ting that the first UFC fight in New York state is tak­ing place at ‘The World’s Most Fa­mous Arena,’” one of its nick­names

State law­mak­ers and Demo­cratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed in April to end the two-decade old ban fol­low­ing years of failed ef­forts by MMA sup­port­ers. The law au­tho­riz­ing the sport took ef­fect in Septem­ber. Cuomo con­cluded the move would boost the econ­omy by lur­ing bouts to the na­tion’s largest city as well as up­state venues, with one es­ti­mate that MMA could gen­er­ate $137 mil­lion in an­nual eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity.

In re­sponse to crit­ics con­cerned about the sport’s vi­o­lence, law­mak­ers added pro­vi­sions that raise the in­sur­ance re­quired to $50,000 for fighter in­juries, a $50,000 death ben­e­fit and $1 mil­lion for life-threat­en­ing brain in­juries.

The law was also in­tended to reg­u­late ex­ist­ing am­a­teur mixed mar­tial arts events. KTFO Fights, a Long Is­land-based pro­moter, held the first MMA event un­der the new law, ac­cord­ing to KTFO Pres­i­dent Nic Canob­bio. He said that while UFC and other big pro­mot­ers might be able to ab­sorb the higher in­sur­ance re­quire­ments, many smaller pro­mot­ers can­not.

“It’s a huge ex­pense for pro­mot­ers like us, and that pre­vents guys just start­ing their ca­reer from be­ing able to fight in New York,” he said. He would like law­mak­ers to con­sider tweak­ing the law to re­duce costs on smaller op­er­a­tors.

Still, he said, end­ing the state’s long ban on pro­fes­sional MMA has been a great win for the sport.

“New York has some of the best fighters, the best gyms in the coun­try or maybe even the world,” he said. “These guys who had to go to Jersey or Penn­syl­va­nia to fight they can now fight in their back­yard.”

JULIE JA­COB­SON — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE

FILE- In this file photo, UFC mid­dleweight fighters Chris Wei­d­man, left, and Yoel Romero pose for pho­tos dur­ing a news con­fer­ence for UFC 205 in New York.

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