Lorenzo Fertitta, Ultimate Fighting Championship chief executive and chairman, is leading a contingent of UFC staffers and fighters Tuesday on a one-day tour of three upstate New York cities to extol the economic virtues of hosting a UFC event.
Fertitta plus two key UFC executives and three fighters are making stops in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse to discuss spending affiliated with a fight crowd of 15,000 UFC fans.
Fertitta is heading to upstate New York because the Las Vegas-based UFC is lobbying the state’s Legislature to allow the sanctioning of professional mixed martial arts fights.
The New York Senate easily passed the MMA bill for a fourth consecutive year, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver won’t allow the bill to reach the floor for a vote in the Assembly, said Marc Ratner, UFC vice president of regulatory affairs.
Ratner said that if an Assembly vote were held on MMA, it would win a majority. But any MMA legislation would have to be approved by several legislative committees before it reaches the Assembly floor.
Besides Fertitta and Ratner, Lawrence Epstein, UFC executive vice president and general counsel, is on the three-city trip. Three UFC fighters — Uriah Hall, Dennis Bermudez and Ryan LaFlare — also are part of the barnstorming lineup .
Ratner said that if Buffalo’s arena were to host a UFC fight, the event would generate $5 million to $8 million in spending. He pointed out that a recent UFC event in Newark, N.J. — a mere eight miles from New York — generated $2.7 million in ticket sales.
Ratner said UFC fans from Toronto and other Canadian cities would buy tickets for the combat fights in Buffalo. He noted that UFC employees, film crews and other related workers alone use 200 hotel rooms a night for an event, which means 600 room nights for the three required nights.
“It’s like a small convention,” he said.
UFC officials blame Culinary Local 226 in Las Vegas for using its political muscle to block the legalization of UFC and MMA fights in New York. The union has been battling Fertitta and brother Frank Fertitta III, who both own Station Casinos, because their hotel-casinos are nonunion properties.
Culinary Local 226 spokeswoman Yvanna Cancela declined to comment Monday, but she did send an email with information about New York state and national organizations opposing cage fighting events. Opposition groups cite the sport’s brutal nature, the negative statements by fighters about women and the potential impact on children.
The sport has been illegal in New York since 1997.
Contact reporter Alan Snel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5273.