Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, the firm running the new Nassau Coliseum, is in negotiations with the Ultimate Fighting Championship to bring mixed martial arts to the renovated arena, officials confirmed Tuesday.
The company has been talking with the UFC for several months about hosting an MMA fight at the Coliseum after the arena reopens in March although an agreement has not yet been reached, said Brooklyn Sports spokesman Barry Baum.
“We are in discussion with the UFC to bring MMA to the Coliseum and want it to be a regular occurrence,” he said.
UFC spokesman Dave Sholler said the organization is “excited by the potential to host a UFC event” in Nassau.
The downsized Coliseum would seat about 14,000 fans for MMA fights, which combines boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, jiujitsu and other martial arts forms, Baum said. Brooklyn Sports also plans to host up to eight boxing matches at the renovated Uniondale arena.
State lawmakers passed legislation in March legalizing MMA fights in New York, ending a ban instituted by Gov. George Pataki in 1997 amid concerns the sport is too violent. New York was the only state in the nation to prohibit MMA fights.
The State Senate passed legislation legalizing the sport in each of the past seven years, including twice in 2015, but the bills stalled in the Democrat-led Assembly. Democrats relented this year amid a push by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who cited estimates of almost $100 million in new revenue.
The first UFC event in New York is scheduled for Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden.
Chris Weidman, a Baldwin native and four-time UFC Middleweight champion, said he’s anxious to perform in front of his friends and family at the Coliseum.
“It would mean everything to fight here,” said Weidman, who visited the Coliseum Tuesday as he recovers from neck surgery. “Fighting at the Nassau Coliseum would be special.”
Construction work, meanwhile, is continuing inside and outside the Coliseum, which closed for renovations last August.
Crews recently completed asbestos abatement, painted the arena ceiling black, began prepping for the installation of new seats and are framing the exterior of the concession stands, VIP club and artists suites, said Alexis Lenza, senior vice president of construction for Forest City Ratner Cos.
On the exterior, the Coliseum’s top rim has been painted black as crews prepare to install 200 tons of metallic space frame that will be attached to 32 columns, creating a design meant to evoke Long Island’s coastline.
In the coming weeks, Lenza said, the entire 85,000-square-foot building will be painted black and crews will install anchors capable of holding 960 vertical fins that will surround the Coliseum.
Forest City is spending $260.5 million to renovate and build an adjacent sports and entertainment complex.