Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday that he has no personal objection to the sport of mixed martial arts and that he wants to see exactly how much of an economic impact it could have if the ban were lifted.
"I don't have a feeling toward the sport that would say that sport should not happen in this state," Gov. Cuomo said Tuesday.
That's not exactly an endorsement of the sport, but it does represent Cuomo's second round of comments to the media about MMA, something he hadn't done in his first two years in office.
It doesn't exactly open the door for the legalization of MMA in New York -- which was outlawed in 1997 -- but it does give promoters such as UFC another reason to be positive after six years of lobbying.
“I think it’s something that should be pursued, definitely,” Cuomo said. “I want to understand it, basically. Let’s talk about the economics of the state. What’s the actual economic impact? What does it do for the state?”
An independent study by HR & A Advisors in 2011 estimated that New York State would see an economic impact of $23 million a year from MMA. That includes ticket sales, site fees, hotel rooms, restaurants, shopping, rental cars, subways and buses, bars and nightclubs and other revenues associated with traveling.
Lorenzo Fertitta, chairman and chief executive for the UFC, said in a statement that he was pleased with Gov. Cuomo's comments Tuesday. He also addressed the issue of economic impact in New York.
“Once MMA is legalized in New York and properly regulated by the State Athletic Commission, UFC plans to hold a minimum of 4 events per year for the next three years, with more than half of those events taking place in cities across upstate New York," Fertitta said. "I have toured the cities and arenas upstate. I have been to Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Albany and would look forward to attending UFC events in all of those cities."
The bill to legalize MMA could be included in the state budget proposals and get passed that way. In simple terms, if an approved budget includes revenues accounted for from MMA events, it becomes legal.
Gov. Cuomo said the issue doesn't necessarily need to be settled via the budget process, which is supposed to conclude April 1 (but often is extended). In that case, the bill would need to pass through the state Assembly. It passed through the state Senate last year by a vote of 47-14, the widest margin in its four years of passing the Senate. A vote on the floor of the Assembly would require 76 votes to pass.
“And I know that UFC is not alone among MMA promoters looking to do events in New York," Fertitta said. "Bellator and World Series of Fighting, to name just two, are as eager as we are to put on shows in New York. California and Ohio both have scores of MMA events every year and there is no reason to assume New York would be any different."
(h/t Newsday's Yancey Roy)