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UFC reserves December date at Madison Square Garden, just in case

Dana White, president of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC),

Dana White, president of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), poses for a photograph following a Bloomberg Television interview in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. In UFC, fighters square off in the Octagon, an eight-sided ring enclosed by a chain-linked fence where the object is to punch, kick, slam or choke the opponent into submission. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Dana White Credit: Bloomberg / Brent Lewin

Ultimate Fighting Championship has asked Madison Square Garden to reserve a date in December for an event should the sport become legal in New York this year, UFC president Dana White said Thursday.

"We have a date," White said, reinforcing his comments from last month's world tour stop in Manhattan.

White didn't specify the exact date, but UFC's website says UFC 194 is scheduled for Dec. 5 at a location to be announced. The site lists three other planned events for December billed as "Fight Night" cards, a lower-tier event than numbered events which are traditionally pay-per-view fights. A source told Newsday that Dec. 5 is the date they've asked to reserve.

"Obviously, it'd be a bad-[expletive] card," White said. "We come to New York, we're going to blow it out of the water."

This, of course, is predicated on the bill to legalize and regulate professional mixed martial arts in New York State passing through the Assembly by the end of the legislative session in June and being signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The State Athletic Commission then would need to adopt regulations before the first event could be held. The UFC said Marc Ratner, its vice president of regulatory affairs and a former chair of the Nevada Athletic Commission, met with members of New York's Commission this week, and that Peter Dropick, the UFC's senior vice president, event development and operations, is meeting with venues in upstate cities such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany this week.

In late March, the bill passed through the State Senate for the sixth straight year. First outlawed in 1997, New York remains the only state with such a ban.

A change in power atop the Assembly -- Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) replaced Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) as Assembly Speaker -- has led to renewed optimism among UFC officials that 2015 will be the year the sport finally becomes legal in New York.

Should that happen, the UFC will hold the first New York card at Madison Square Garden. Expect to hear more New York and Long Island accents on the microphones that night. Among those on the UFC's active roster who were raised in New York are middleweight champion Chris Weidman (Baldwin) and light heavyweight champion Jon Jones (Ithaca), plus three fighters on this Saturday's UFC on Fox 15 card in Newark -- Eddie Gordon (Freeport), Gian Villante (Levittown) and Aljamain Sterling (Uniondale).

"You know we're going to have a lot of New Yorkers fighting on the New York card," White said. "We do that in every market we go in. Plus, the first ever at the Garden, I mean, some of these guys' dreams are to fight at the Garden."


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