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MMA's biggest opponent in New York found guilty on federal corruption charges

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The man many people credit for keeping mixed martial arts out of New York is going to jail.

Sheldon Silver, the former New York State Assembly speaker for two decades, was convicted Monday on federal corruption charges, according to multiple reports (h/t New York Times). Silver was found guilty of all seven counts, which included honest services fraud, money laundering and extortion.

With the conviction, Silver must forfeit his legislative seat. The New York Daily News reports that Silver faces a maximum of 130 years behind bars, though he's likely to be sentenced to around 20 years. Silver is 71 years old.

The absence of Silver does not mean MMA is completely out of the woods in New York. Silver resigned from his seat as speaker back in February and there still was not an Assembly vote to lift the ban on MMA under new speaker Carl Heastie.

The UFC is attempting to force the state's hand by suing New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman and scheduling an event at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan on April 23. The lawsuit is asking for the law keeping MMA out to be ruled unconstitutional due to vagueness. Currently, amateur MMA is legal in New York, but continues to go unregulated by the state athletic commission.

A previous suit against New York with similar language was thrown out in federal court in March. One of the things that judge Kimba Woods wrote in her decision was that the UFC had not scheduled or planned any events in the state before the lawsuit, so the court could not provide a legal solution.

The UFC's new lawsuit and scheduled event seem to be a direct response to those words.

There is also a chance MMA can be legalized through the most conventional route if it is voted in by the state government. The state Senate has voted to lift the ban six years in a row, but the Assembly has yet to vote on the matter. Last year, the bill simply ran out of time and was not brought to a vote in the Assembly before the legislative calendar ended.

Does Silver's complete absence from the state capital of Albany mean things will be different when the legislative session opens up again in January? It's impossible to say for certain. The UFC does plan on pressing for an earlier vote from both bodies, so what happened last year does not occur again.

Even without Silver, the Culinary Union, which has battled the UFC's owners, the Fertittas, for years in Las Vegas, still has substantial power in New York.