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Combat sports revenue in New York up 204 percent since state legalized MMA in 2016

A general view of Madison Square Garden

 A general view of Madison Square Garden during UFC 205 weigh-ins on Nov.11, 2016. Credit: Getty Images/Michael Reaves

Revenue generated from combat sports in New York has grown by more than 200 percent since the state's legalization of mixed martial arts two years ago, according to a release from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday.

Combat sports in New York includes MMA, boxing and wrestling. Total revenue from combat sports was $97 million, up from $31.9 million in the two years prior, according to the release. That represents a 204 percent increase. The study looked at the two years since MMA was legalized, from Sept. 1, 2016 through Aug. 31, 2018, and compared it with the two prior years (Sept. 1, 2014 through Aug. 31, 2016).

"The combat sports industry has produced unprecedented revenue and economic activity for New York since the introduction of mixed martial arts two years ago," Cuomo said. "This new data speaks volumes about the popularity of these exciting events, which support hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in economic output."

The study showed that in the first two years of legalized MMA, ticket sales to all combat sports events in New York generated $67,137,970 in revenue. That's an increase of 161.6 percent from the two prior years' total of $25,661,979.

State taxes paid in the past two years was $7,576,163, representing a 706-percent increase from two years' prior ($939,495).

Ultimate Fighting Championship spent more than eight years and millions of dollars in its effort to overturn New York's ban on MMA, a law enacted in 1997 when the sport had few rules, no distinct weight divisions and no regulation by state athletic commissions. The bill passed in the State Senate seven years in a row, but it never made it to the floor of the State Assembly for a vote. When it finally did in March 2016, the bill passed by a vote of 113-25.

Cuomo had included language in his 2016 budget proposal that accounted for revenue from MMA. He first made public comments on the bill in 2013, saying the sport's potential to generate revenue for New York was "something we're very interested in."

The first MMA event in New York, under sanctioning of the state's athletic commission, was Nov. 12, 2016, when Madison Square Garden hosted UFC 205. That event alone generated $17,740,543 in ticket sales revenue. New York State collected $1,557,946.16 in sales tax that night, according to documents obtained by Newsday. That includes ticket sales taxed at 8.5 percent and a $50,000 tax on broadcast rights fees.

The UFC has promoted nine fight cards across the state since MMA was legalized, with events in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island, Albany, Buffalo and Utica. Barclays Center hosts the next event on Jan. 19. UFC Brooklyn, which will be shown on ESPN and its streaming platform ESPN+, is headlined by flyweight champion Henry Cejudo, an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling, defending his title against reigning bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw.

Professional Fighters League has done three events in New York already this year, with its fourth coming on New Year's Eve as six fighters will walk out with championship belts and $1 million checks. Bellator MMA has hosted two events in New York since legalization, and the World Series of Fighting did one.

Tax revenue from boxing events held in New York between Sept. 1, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2018, was $807,949. That was up 127 percent from two years' prior total of $355,231, according to the governor's release. Boxing promoters are taxed at 3 percent for ticket sales, according to New York law. Total revenue for boxing events more than doubled in the past two years to $27.95 million.

Combat Sports Impact in New York

Cuomo released financial information about combat sports and the impact of the legalization of MMA in New York. The study looks at how the numbers compare in the two years since legalization with the two years prior.

SEPT. 1, 2014 - AUG. 31, 2016

Ticket sales revenue - $25,661,979

Simulcast revenue - $6,268,021

Total revenue - $31,930,000

State taxes paid - $939,495

Tickets sold - 333,529

Total number of events - 132

SEPT. 1, 2016 - AUG. 31, 2018

Ticket sales revenue - $67,137,970 (161.6 percent increase)

Simulcast revenue - $30,107,603 (380 percent increase)

Total revenue - $97,245,574 (204.6 percent increase)

State taxes paid - $7,576,163 (706 percent increase)

Tickets sold - 530,143 (59 percent increase)

Total number of events - 149 (12.9 percent increase)

New York Sports