Chris Weidman has been a professional mixed martial arts fighter for seven years and three days, but he’s still never fought in his home state of New York.
Weidman, who grew up in Baldwin, Brooklyn borough president Eric L. Adams, Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark and others spoke at a news conference Tuesday at Barclays Center in support of the bill to legalize and regulate professional MMA in New York.
This is the only state left with a ban on professional MMA. Amateur MMA remains legal — and unsanctioned and unregulated.
The bill has passed through the State Senate for seven consecutive years but still needs approval in the Assembly.
“I think it’s definitely going to pass this year,” Weidman told Newsday before the news conference. “I’ve hoped that before. This time I’m more confident.”
Adams said that with a group of new Assembly personnel, including Assemb. Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn), also at the event, he’s hopeful 2016 is the year it finally passes.
“We are here for one reason only,” Adams said. “We are ready to crown mixed martial arts here in the borough of Brooklyn, in the state of New York. It’s long overdue that this great economic engine and sport initiative should find its home in the largest arena possible and that is in Brooklyn, in New York City and in New York State.”
Adams said MMA events would generate $5.4 million in state and local revenues and has the potential to expand New York’s economy by $135 million every year.
But it’s not just the economic benefit that has Adams as well as Walker on board — it’s also the benefit the sport would have on the community.
“Most people who know anything about martial arts know that although many of the fighters are lethal, however, the first idea of reaction is to retreat,” Walker said. “And that type of discipline is very, very needed, particularly in a neighborhood where we’re really trying to stomp out the violence.”
Barclays Center is already home to the Nets and Islanders, but Yormark said there’s one event that its fans are clamoring for: MMA.
“My goal from day one was to bring the best form of sports entertainment to this borough,” Yormark said. “And I will not complete that job until MMA is here and we’re hosting numerous events annually here at the Barclays Center.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo also has shown his support by including MMA revenue in his proposed state budget in January.
But once again, whether Weidman, the former UFC middleweight champion who gets another shot at the title in June against Luke Rockhold, and his fellow MMA fighters can fight in New York in 2016 will be up to the Assembly.
“It would be a dream come true for me, my fans, my family and friends,” Weidman said, “to be able to just take the train right here and not have to make a vacation out of going to Vegas.”