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Lorenzo Fertitta: UFC remains committed to legalizing MMA in New York

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Esther Lin

This year, hope arose that mixed martial arts would finally be legalized in New York state.

The sport's leading political enemy in the state, former state Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, went down in disgrace, as he was indicted on fraud charges. This led many to believe that the ban on the sport, passed in a wave of anti-MMA hysteria in the late 1990s, would finally come off the books.

But those hopes were dashed this week, as this year's legislative session ended without the Assembly taking action on a bill to legalize the sport, the eighth straight year this has occurred.

Friday, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta issued a statement on the matter, saying that while he's disappointed in the outcome, his company remains committed to the cause of legalizing the sport in America's only holdout state.

"While our disappointment cannot be overstated, our commitment to seeing New York legalize the fastest growing sport in the nation and the world is intact and undeterred," Fertitta said. "We continue to strongly believe that legalizing and regulating MMA in New York is the right thing for the state economically, the right thing for the millions of fans in New York and the right thing for the safety and benefit of the thousands of professional and amateur MMA athletes across the state."

Fertitta expressed regret on behalf of those, such as fighters and gyms located in the state, who base their lives around the sport, as well as cities and venues which would benefit by the sport's legalization.

"Thousands of New Yorkers participate in amateur MMA events in the state every year, and because there is no regulation and oversight, their health and safety are at risk," Fertitta said.

"We genuinely feel bad for the hotels, restaurants, gyms, and other businesses that support our effort and have championed this cause.  We also feel bad for New York's arenas - large and small, particularly those upstate - that have worked alongside us to pass the legislation."

Finally, Fertitta noted that the bill has passed the Senate on several occasions, supported by Democrats and Republicans alike, and called on the Assembly to let the bill come to a vote next time around.

"This bill has now passed the Senate seven times in the last six years with overwhelming bipartisan majorities," he said. "That's right, strong majorities of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate support this bill. We have never had more support in the Assembly, where there is clearly enough support among Democrats alone to pass the bill and we know if we could only get a vote in the Assembly, we would see strong majorities of Democrats and Republicans supporting the bill."