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Majority Leader Joe Morelle hopeful for vote next week on New York MMA bill

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What was supposed to be the final week of the New York Assembly session has come and gone without a bill passed to legalize professional mixed martial arts in the state, but UFC's hopes of running in New York this year are very much still alive.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle said on Friday that he expects a vote on the bill to take place sometime in the upcoming week, as the Assembly has extended its session.

"I certainly remain hopeful," said Morelle in speaking to reporters about the bill that he sponsored. "We had a couple of members who could not be here for family reasons, so I didn't want to take a chance,. We're right on the cusp here.  I knew I had the votes today, but I talked to the speaker and he said he's certainly willing to entertain it next week, as we're trying to close down other issues today."

Morelle indicated that Speaker Carl Heastie is likely to put the measure on the floor for a full vote as early as Tuesday, when the session resumes.

UFC officials have believed for several years that they had enough votes in the assembly to pass legislation, but could never get the bill to a vote.

Marc Ratner, UFC's Vice President of Regulatory Affairs as late as seven days ago thought that the disappointment would continue for another year, but this past Monday indicated a few Democrats had jumped on board and they had enough support to get the vote to the assembly floor.

He believed the actual vote itself would be almost a formality, believing the bill, which was revised on June 8 in the Assembly, had the support of roughly 100 members of the Assembly. The bill only needs 76 votes to pass.

The bill would put both amateur and professional MMA shows under the jurisdiction of the New York State Athletic Commission. New York currently has amateur events legal, but they are unregulated.

The bill would add a $1 million accidental insurance policy covering medical costs for potential brain injuries. It also raises the amount needed for accident insurance on boxing shows, as well as MMA shows, to $50,000 per event. Previously, accident insurance for boxing matches was $7,500.

The bill stipulated an 8.5 percent tax of the live gate for MMA, and a three percent tax of television or pay-per-view revenue, but with a $50,000 ceiling in both categories. Boxing and pro wrestling events in the state are only taxed three percent of the live gate.

All that would then remain would be for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill into law. Cuomo is believed to have been favoring the bill for more than a year.

UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta had promised legislators in New York that the company would run four events per year in the state over the next few years. The company has a date booked on Dec. 6 in Madison Square Garden.

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