This morning, I was on Cage Radio, an internet radio show dedicated to combat sports, discussing the legalization and regulation of professional mixed martial arts (MMA). In 2009, and in last year’s state budget, with New York facing large fiscal deficits, I championed legalizing MMA because of its tremendous revenue generating potential. With 44 states, the District of Columbia, and many countries around the globe regulating the sport, and reaping the economic rewards of holding professional bouts and exhibitions, New York can ill afford to remain on the sidelines as the only state with an outright ban. In 2011, Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature must enact legislation authorizing the State Athletic Commission to regulate Mixed Martial Arts, the fastest growing sport in the world.
Independent economic studies have verified that just one MMA show in New York City would generate over $11 million and a show in upstate New York would generate over $5 million. MMA exhibitions fill hotel rooms and restaurants over the course of a full weekend, stimulating locally depressed economic businesses and regions. Many states including New Jersey and Pennsylvania have had huge success in hosting MMA exhibitions. A recent MMA exhibition in Newark, New Jersey sold out with gate receipts alone totaling $4 million — including many ticket sold to New Yorkers.
The popularity and mainstream acceptance of the sport is evident by the major sponsors of the exhibitions, which include Microsoft, Budweiser and the US Army. MMA has even been featured in one of Disney’s most popular television series, iCarly. Further, ESPN now covers the sports, and it is broadcast regularly on MSG, Spike and Versus cable networks; CBS, a major network, has broadcast three MMA exhibitions in prime time on a Saturday evening.
Safety of MMA participants is paramount, and the proposed language of previous Senate and Assembly bills ensure that New York will be one of the most diligent states in enforcing safety measures. The sport’s safety record – over thousands of bouts – can match and, in most cases, exceed any contact sport. The sport requires a high degree of physical training and skill, with participants averaging about two matches annually. Regulation will ensure safety by eliminating unsanctioned underground matches that are occurring in New York.
In short, MMA can provide New York, especially upstate communities, such as Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester, with a much-needed economic boost and help generate revenues for our cash-strapped State. New York should not continue to sit by as adjoining states and Canadian provinces sponsor MMA shows and reap the economic benefits. These events would produce approximately $3.5 million in annual General Fund revenue from sales, personal income, business income, broadcast and auto rental taxes. Lastly, state sanction will protect the health and safety of professional and amateur mixed martial artists. The time to legalize MMA is now!