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Lorenzo Fertitta promises 'epic series of major events' if MMA is legalized in New York

Esther Lin

The Business Council of New York State recently threw its political weight behind the legalization of mixed martial arts in the Empire State.

Thursday, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta upped the ante, promising the state an "epic series of major events" should New York remove the barriers and become the final state in America to legalize the sport.

"I've said it before but I want to say it again to be clear," Fertitta stated. "The UFC is prepared to demonstrate its commitment to our New York fans, who've waited longer for legal professional MMA than our fans in any of the other 49 states. We are prepared to launch the most intense and epic series of major events over the next three years that the Empire State has ever seen."

The sport was banned in New York in the mid-1990s in a fit of anti-MMA media hysteria. And while the sport, under the Unified Rules, has since been legalized coast-to-coast, New York has remained the final holdout.

Former New York assembly speaker Sheldon Silver has been considered the primary obstructionist to the sport's legalization. But he's since stepped down from the post after being indicted on federal corruption charges.

That's opened the door for legalization of the sport, for which bills are pending at the state capitol in Albany.

"With Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) being one of the fastest growing and popular sports in the United States," the Business Council stated, "this legislation would help will bring much needed economic activity to New York's sports and entertainment venues, hospitality industry and generate additional revenues for the State and local governments."

Fertitta, for his part, said the UFC will have a heavy New York presence if legalization goes through.

"If New York legalizes and properly regulates MMA in 2015, the UFC will hold a minimum of four events per year for the next three years," Fertitta said. "Yes, we will hold events in New York City - our fighters and our fans have been clamoring for the Garden and the new Barclays Center - but we are also looking forward to hosting at least three events annually in Upstate cities, where we will smash local box office records and bring in fans from Canada and states throughout the Northeast."

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