It might be a White Christmas in the Big Apple this year and not just because of the snow.
UFC president Dana White told Inside MMA on Friday that the promotion is so confident about MMA being legalized in New York this year that it is holding a date for an event at Madison Square Garden near the end of 2015.
"Imagine if we can do that this year," White said. "We're already having the greatest year we've had in the history of the company out of the gates here. And if everything holds together, people stay healthy, fights stay in place, we're in for an unbelievable year and that would be a great way to top if off."
One of the reasons the UFC is so confident is the arrest of New York State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver on federal corruption charges. Though the bill to legalize MMA has made it through the state's Senate every year recently, it always gets held up in the Assembly, because Silver doesn't allow it to even be brought to a vote.
The complication of pro MMA's ban in New York has been well documented and, as White has noted on many occasions, it has very much to do with a grudge the Las Vegas Culinary Union has against the Fertitta brothers, the owners of the UFC. Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta also own several non-union casinos in Las Vegas and the Culinary Union has enough of a lobbying presence in New York to affect the UFC running events legally there.
"You can pick up the paper and read about [Silver] and you can understand why we didn't get into New York," White said.
"Now he's got bigger problems than UFC. Hopefully we can get through."
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is an upstate New York native. Chris Weidman, the UFC's middleweight champion, hails from Long Island. Both have dreams of one day fighting at Madison Square Garden. So does former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who is from New Jersey and came up in New York City's underground MMA scene.
One would have to imagine that any combination of those three would be on the UFC's first New York card. And White has promised a blockbuster event for MSG the first time around.
White said that Lorenzo Fertitta and high-ranking UFC officials Lawrence Epstein and Marc Ratner were in New York recently with positive feedback from politicians. The MMA bill has already passed through the state Senate's committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation. Next up is the Senate, which will likely send it through as well. It'll come down to the Assembly yet again, likely some time in April.
"We don't want to be cocky, but we're being confident," White said.
"I'm very, very confident it's gonna happen."