Liam McGeary may hail from the United Kingdom, but he was as happy as anyone to see the New York State Assembly vote in favor of legalizing mixed martial arts Tuesday.
McGeary, the Bellator MMA light heavyweight champion, has trained in New York for most of his professional career and lives in Brooklyn.
“I can’t wait, man,” said McGeary, 33. “I really can’t.”
McGeary said he was peeking at the State Assembly debate on the MMA bill between training sessions Tuesday. He hasn’t fought near his home since two bouts in the U.K. to start his pro career. He came to America through “a friend of a friend” in 2012 before making his Bellator debut the next year and settling in New York “by accident.” The closest to Brooklyn he has fought was a Ring of Combat show in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 2012.
“I fought in my debut in Bellator and then I got invited to a seminar at Renzo Gracie’s, and that was it,” McGeary said. “I was invited to New York to come train and have been since.”
Much of the anticipation for MMA’s return to New York has focused on a potential UFC show at Madison Square Garden, but Bellator has made known its intention to hold an event at Barclays Center.
“We’ve already been in contact with the great people at the Barclays Center and several other incredible venues,” said Bellator president Scott Coker in a statement Tuesday. “We can’t wait to bring our world-class athletes and action-packed shows to an arena in the Empire State soon.”
McGeary expressed interest in fighting at Barclays Center, possibly for his next title defense in an expected matchup with Phil Davis, as well as the Garden in the future. Whenever it does happen, he’s looking forward to the perks of fighting near home.
“It’s definitely going to be a plus point, not having to take that six-hour flight back from California after a long night of fights and a few drinks,” McGeary said. “It’s going to bring jobs, it’s going to bring more money and it’s going to do good things.”
He also believes legalization will be a huge benefit to MMA fans and up-and-coming fighters in the state.
“It’s closer for all the fight fans to watch all the fights, it’s closer for the fighters to get to the venues,” McGeary said. “There’s some tough dudes in New York. There’s a lot of fighters over here which haven’t been discovered or they’re finding it hard to get discovered, so now it’s their opportunity. There’s a lot more shows with it being legal in New York.”