MMA in New York: A timeline of events


Aljamain Sterling, from Uniondale, submitted bantamweight Takeya Mizugaki with an arm bar at UFC on Fox 15 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on April 18, 2015. Photo Credit: Mario Gonzalez

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A look back at the history of mixed martial arts in New York State and the legislative battle to legalize the sport.

February, 1997: Then-Gov. George E. Pataki signs into law a bill that bans mixed martial arts in the state of New York.

Feb. 12, 1997: UFC 12, originally scheduled for Buffalo, takes place in Dothan, Ala. It was the first card with weight classes and marked the debut of former UFC champion Vitor Belfort.

2001: The unified rules of mixed martial arts are adopted by athletic commissions and promoters.

June 4, 2008: The bill to legalize mixed martial arts, sponsored by Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), is introduced by the rules committee. The bill is referred to the Assembly's Committee on Tourism, Arts, Parks and Sports Development.

May 19, 2009: "UFC Undisputed" video game, including Madison Square Garden as a venue, released.

June 3, 2009: The Tourism committee voted 14-6 to pass a bill that would enable the athletic commission to regulate the sport. There would be no other votes that session.

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July 11, 2009: Radio City Music Hall hosts a viewing party for UFC 100. More than 2,000 people attend.

March 27, 2010: UFC 111 takes place at Prudential Center in Newark, with pre-fight events that week at Radio City and elsewhere in Manhattan.

June 16, 2010: New York State Senate passes a bill to legalize and regulate mixed martial arts by a vote of 32-26, but the legislation stalls in the Assembly without a vote.

Jan. 13, 2011: UFC announces it will bring the first event in the state to Madison Square Garden, once it's legal, plus commits to putting on at least two events per year statewide.

Feb. 12, 2011: Strikeforce hosts the first round of its heavyweight grand prix at Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J. Most PR events occur in Manhattan. Long Islander Gian Villante fought on the card.

March 19, 2011: Prudential Center in Newark hosts UFC 128, with pre-fight events that week at Radio City and elsewhere in Manhattan. Jon "Bones" Jones, from upstate New York, wins the light heavyweight title.

May 23, 2011: New York State Senate passes a bill to legalize and regulate mixed martial arts by a vote of 42-18.

June 6, 2011: The Tourism committee passes the bill again, this time 16-3. The bill is then referred to the Codes committee.

June 24, 2011: The year's legislative session closes with no vote in the Assembly.

Nov. 15, 2011: UFC files a lawsuit against New York State that claims the state's ban on the sport violates the First Amendment, equal protection and due process.

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March 5, 2012: UFC on Fox 3 takes place at Izod Center, with most of the media and public events happening in New York City.

April 18, 2012: For a third straight year, the State Senate passes the bill to legalize MMA, this time 43-14.

May 7, 2012: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) says the bill will not come to the floor for a vote this year.

June 22, 2012: UFC on FX takes place at the Revel in Atlantic City.

Jan. 24, 2013: The UFC announces its code of conduct for fighters, aimed at addressing the concerns of groups opposing the sport.

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March 6, 2013: The State Senate passes a bill to legalize and regulate MMA for the fourth straight year, this time by its widest margin of 47-14.

March 7, 2013: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo makes his first public comments on the issue, saying it's a possible source of revenue and that's "something we're very interested in." Assembly Speaker Silver also says he thinks the ban will be overturned soon but is unsure of when.

March 12, 2013: Gov. Cuomo says he is not personally opposed to legalizing MMA in New York.

March 23, 2013: The first sanctioned amateur MMA fight card in New York City in more than 10 years takes place at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Approximately 1,500 fans attend the event sponsored by Fighters Source and sanctioned by the USA MMA KI Federation. Amateur MMA is legal -- and unsanctioned -- in the state.

April 4, 2013: The bill is referred to the Assembly's Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development committee.

April 27, 2013: UFC 159 takes place at Prudential Center, with attendance of more than 15,000 and a live gate of more than $2.5 million.

May 17, 2013: Victory Combat hosts a sanctioned amateur MMA card at Terminal 5 in New York City.

June 6, 2013: Connecticut and all provinces in Canada lift their ban on MMA, making New York the only place in North America where professional MMA remains illegal.

June 18, 2013: The Assembly Democratic Conference debated the bill to legalize MMA and it was denied the opportunity of going to the floor for a full vote by the Assembly.

July 6, 2013: Chris Weidman defeated Anderson Silva at UFC 162 in Las Vegas to become the new middleweight champion. He became the fourth New York-raised fighter to win a UFC title.

Oct. 24, 2013: MMA Platinum Gloves hosts its first amateur tournament event on Long Island.

Nov. 21, 2013: UFC released a new study saying MMA events would generate $68 million in economic impact across New York State, and a total of $135 million when including expansion of UFC Gyms.

Feb. 1, 2014: UFC 169 takes place at the Prudential Center in Newark on Super Bowl weekend. Wantagh's Al Iaquinta fought on the card.

May 13, 2014: For the fifth straight, the New York State Senate passed the bill. The vote was 44-16.

July 16, 2014: Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller highlight UFC Fight Night at the Revel in Atlantic City. Long Island's Aljamain Sterling and Alptekin Ozkilic fought on the card.

Feb. 3, 2015: Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) was elected Assembly Speaker, replacing Sheldon Silver, a longtime power broker in New York who resigned his position amid federal corruption charges. Heastie was a sponsor of the bill but removed his name from all legislation once assuming his new position.

March 24, 2015: For the sixth straight, the New York State Senate passed the bill. The vote was 47-14.

April 18, 2015: UFC on Fox 15 takes place at the Prudential Center in Newark, with three Long Island fighters -- Eddie Gordon, Aljamain Sterling and Gian Villante -- on the card. Media Day took place in Manhattan.

June 9, 2015: Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle introduced a re-worked MMA bill that includes, among other things, the establishment of an insurance fund for fighters who sustain brain injuries. The State Senate passed the bill, making it seven consecutive times in six years it has done so.

June 25, 2015: The bill does not reach the Assembly floor for a vote as the legislative session comes to an end after being extended several days.

Sept. 28, 2015: UFC announces it will host a fight card at Madison Square Garden on April 23, 2016, pending passage of the bill or winning an injunction. The UFC filed suit in federal court in Manhattan to try to have the state's ban declared unconstitutional, saying the New York law banning its fights "is so badly written that neither ordinary persons nor state officials are able to say with any certainty what it permits and what it prohibits."

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