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It got a little sketchy in Albany, but MMA is finally legal in New York

Kirby Lee, US Presswire

Well, it’s about damn time.

No more underground mixed technique fights in New York. They can be held overground, right there in plain sight for everyone to see, just like in other cities that have made themselves comfortable in the 21st century. All it took was 19 years, a man being thrown in the clink, and the UFC’s Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner never losing his optimism. Maybe France will follow suit.  

But for now, start spreading the Dominick Cruz.

On Tuesday, the bill to get MMA legalized in the progressive state of New York finally hit the Assembly floor, where it was voted on and passed…although, to be fair, there were some valid concerns voiced about the organized crime going on at the gay porn plantation next to the youth fight club (or something). It was all very confusing. Yet in just a single day, after years of lobbying and campaigning and pie charts showing dividends, the taboo came off of the sport that could be watched on the big screen in Times Square, but not in person. That was one hell of a detour out of the Dark Ages for a place that was once the Mecca of fighting.

Anyway, MMA is one giant step closer to being sanctioned in New York. And it wasn’t even close. It passed 113-25.


It’s absurd when you think about it, how far MMA has come since the UFC last tried to hold an event in upstate New York back in 1997, the year the sport was banned. For instance, there’s such a thing as the "unified rules" now, and weight classes are strictly adhered to. Things like that. There are global sponsors in play. It’s aired on broadcast television. Major media outlets have more than dipped their toes over the years. In other words, New York is showing up to the dancehall the morning after, kicking through the party balloons that have fallen from the rafters. Yet some on the Assembly floor talked about it like MMA was the onset of the blood-dimmed tide.

Eh, all blood under the bridge though, because mulish old New York is finally in lockstep with the times. We don’t have to say "except New York" anymore.

And let’s be real, all is as it should be — Madison Square Garden has always been the home of big fights, and in the year 2016, the most consistent big fights happen in MMA. The UFC, which has spent a lot of money over the years trying to snap the all-but-visible line between the Culinary Union and Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver (now serving time), has been banging its head against the wall for years. All those head-slamming sessions and fits of déjà vu finally paid off.

The UFC doesn’t have to plan theoretical events at Madison Square Garden, with guys like Jon Jones pining for the theoretical chance to headline them. They can just book it. Chris Weidman doesn’t have to travel to his surrogate home of Las Vegas. Aljamain Sterling, Al Iaquinta, Costas freaking Philippou -- and even Bellator’s Liam McGeary and Marcos Galvao. They can take subways rather than airplanes.

If you care about the fighters, then you care about their geography.

Honestly, there were moments on Tuesday when the UFC might have wanted to reconsider bringing its Octagon to New York at all. Some of the state representatives had a pretty good grasp of the basics…and, to be fair, there were some valid concerns about the bare-knuckle canards interfering with the public hangings going on at Fake Tarverdyan’s gym (or something). It was all very confusing.

But logic somehow prevailed in the end. And everyone who cares about MMA should be happy.

It’s no longer Frankie Edgar dreaming of fighting Conor McGregor at MSG; it’s now we can do Frankie Edgar against Conor McGregor at MSG. Or the Barclays in Brooklyn. Or the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. Buffalo? Hell, why not. New York is a big state, and the UFC wants to hit it multiple times a year.

At some point this year the UFC hit the Big Apple, and this time there’s nothing tentative about it. Put it on the marquee. 

MSG. UFC. Manhattan. Bright lights. Big Fights. It’s about damn time.

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