New York passes bill to legalize MMA



„The first thing
that has to happen is that Governor (Andrew) Cuomo has to sign the
bill, and he’s indicated that he is going to do that and hopefully he
does that as soon as possible, because according to the legislation, a
law does not go into effect until 120 days after the passage,” Epstein
said. „The reason for that is the state needs the time to draft
regulations to govern the sport, properly staff and train the athletic
commission, which will now have jurisdiction over these events. So
that’s going to be the next phase of this process.”

Luckily, the
work the UFC has done in helping get the sport sanctioned and regulated
throughout the United States and around the world will make this process
a seamless one in terms of getting New York up to speed on regulating

„The good news for New York is that they’ve got hundreds of
models out there to look at, so the process should be hopefully pretty
straightforward for them.”

Once all the nuts and bolts are in
place, the next step will be the one fans and fighters have been waiting
years for – having an event in New York. And while the aesthetics of
having a UFC event in the state are obvious, it’s even more important
when it comes to the growth of mixed martial arts, a goal the promotion
has always placed at the forefront.

„We are not just trying to
grow the UFC,” Epstein said. „We’re trying to build and grow the sport
of mixed martial arts. One of our goals as a company has always been the
concept of making the sport of mixed martial arts a permanent part of
the sports landscape in the United States and around the world. And when
you’ve got a state law that arguably prevents it from taking place in a
particular state that’s as big and as important as New York, that’s an
important thing to take care of if you’re truly trying to build a sport
for the long haul, and we are.”

As for the aforementioned
aesthetics, what would be better than seeing a UFC event in the same
Madison Square Garden that recently celebrated the 45th anniversary of
the first Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali bout?

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York is a great market for us,” Epstein said. „We know that because we
know the number of Pay-Per-Views that we do in the state. We know the
television ratings that we garner from fans in the state, and New York
has two distinct markets that are both really important to the UFC. One
of course is New York City, which has Madison Square Garden and the
Barclays Center. It’s an international city, the most important media
market globally, obviously a trend setter globally, and that’s important
for us because we’re going to be able to do big and important events in
New York City.”

There’s more to the state than the Big Apple
though, and the UFC is well aware that all New Yorkers are ready to see
the Octagon come through their city.

„In western and upstate New
York, cities like Buffalo and Rochester have really strong fan bases
that live in those communities,” he said. „And second, they’re very,
very close to Canada, so our Canadian fans can very easily come across
the border and attend events in those cities also. So we’re really
excited about that opportunity.”

As for the UFC as a business,
the legalization of MMA in New York removes any remaining stigma around a
sport that has been waging those wars in the media for years and opens
the doors for the promotion – and the sport – to get even bigger in the
coming years.

„We’ve been very, very successful in selling global
and big national sponsors on the UFC brand,” Epstein said. „But having
the sport that’s associated with our brand being illegal in an important
market like the state of New York is not good for selling sponsorship.
So obviously removing that stigma and removing that negative inference
that comes with being banned in a state will open up and enhance both
existing and new sponsorship opportunities for the UFC. Plus, from a
regulatory standpoint globally, people do ask us when we’re in places
like France or Asia, ‘what’s going on with New York? Why is the sport
banned in New York?’ It hasn’t prevented other jurisdictions from
actively regulating the sport, but the question is asked, and we want to
have an answer to that question, which is it’s no longer banned in the

It’s the news Epstein has waited over eight long years to
tell the world. And even in the dark days, he knew he would get his

„Absolutely. We’ve had this debate in every state in the
United States, provinces throughout Canada and other jurisdictions, and
with federations around the world. We’ve never ever lost a debate,
because the facts are on our side. So I always thought this day would
come. I thought it would come a few years earlier, but I’m still very
excited that it has happened finally.”