New York

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New York MMA Opponents Tap Out, Clear the Way for Professional Bouts

6 Apr, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Sport Has Potential to Bring Big Crowds, Economic Impact

By any standards, it was quite a week for sports in New York. The state said yes, at long last, to professional MMA bouts.

That’s right: the city with the tough-guy reputation previously disallowed MMA (one reason: it was too violent).

If you need a minute to let that sink in, go ahead and take it.

On March 22, the State Assembly passed a bill lifting the ban on professional mixed martial arts competitions that had been in place since 1997. The bill passed by a vote of 113-25. (It required 76 votes to pass.)

It meant the end of a long battle by the sport's leading promotion, UFC, to legalize MMA in New York. The state Senate had passed a similar bill in each of the past seven years, but this was the first time it made it to the Assembly floor.

"This has been a long time coming," UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said in a statement.

According to ESPN, the UFC has repeatedly stated it intends to host multiple events per year in several locations in New York and could land in Madison Square Garden before the end of the year.

The bill still requires the signature of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo; however, since Cuomo already included professional MMA revenue in his proposed budget, that’s not worrying UFC officials.

The addition of professional MMA will be yet another economic engine for the state. According to an article in Sports Illustrated, since 2002, the UFC has surged from a modest $2 million operation into a league worth as much as $3.5 billion today. With a growing fan base across the globe, the UFC should only continue to enlarge its economic value and social impact.

The sport won’t be without rules. MMA fighting will be regulated by the New York State Athletic Commission, which will adopt regulations that set forth rules for MMA promotion and that restrict participants, outs and exhibitions. MMA organizers will need to obtain a license from the Commission in order to host an event.

The SI article also noted the following:

“MMA will also be taxed in New York and at a rate higher than boxing or wrestling. According to the language of the bill, number S05949, the state will impose an 8.5% tax on receipts on ticket sales to MMA fights, whereas gate receipts for boxing and wrestling matches are only taxed at 3%. S05949 also imposes a 3% tax on the combined gross receipts from broadcasting and Internet streaming rights (with a cap of $50,000 in tax payments). For boxing and wrestling matches, in contrast, the 3% tax on broadcasting rights does not extend to receipts from Internet streaming.

These taxes on MMA fights could generate substantial revenue for the state, particularly if the major New York arenas host MMA fights. Madison Square Garden, for instance, seats a maximum of 20,000 while First Niagara Center seats up to 19,468 and Barclays Center seats up to 19,000. If you’re wondering if an MMA fight would fill so many seats, consider that 56,214 showed up to watch Holly Holm knockout Ronda Rousey in UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia last November.

The legalization of MMA fighting in New York will also create opportunities for industries that can profit by organized fights. One such industry is the insurance industry, which, assuming Cuomo permits S05949 to become law, would see its members compete to insure MMA events hosted in New York.”

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