UFC empire grows, but New York state still out

Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship expanded its combat sport empire with recent legislative MMA wins in Connecticut and Canada, but as of Wednesday afternoon, it could not get the New York Assembly to make mixed martial arts events legal in the Empire State.

For UFC, the good news of the split decision is that the MMA fight promotion company scored big in Connecticut, where the state Senate recently approved a law making MMA legal and regulating the sport. The legislation awaits the governor’s signature.

“One of our goals is to have the sport approved in every state. Connecticut became the 49th state where it is legal. We’ve been going state by state for six, seven years,” said Marc Ratner, UFC director of regulatory affairs.

Ratner said arenas in Hartford and Bridgeport are looking to stage UFC fights.

“Connecticut is a viable market,” he said.

In Canada, UFC also racked up a recent political win. The House of Commons updated a 69-year-old law to spell out that MMA is officially legal north of the border.

“It took us four years to have the bill go through the different committees,” Ratner said. “MMA was added to the existing law.”

Ratner said provinces such as British Columbia and Saskatchewan now have the legal comfort zone to permit MMA fight events with the amended legislation.

But the state of New York remains a thorn in UFC’s side because the New York Assembly did not get a chance to hear the proposed MMA legislation on the floor as of late Wednesday afternoon, Ratner said.

UFC President Dana White, never shy about expressing his thoughts, last week posted a picture on Twitter showing a map of North America, with New York state colored in red and the rest of the continent colored in green. White’s punch line: “Hey I have a question for everyone, who looks stupid on this map?”

UFC officials recently toured upstate New York cities, including Buffalo and Syracuse, to drum up support for legalized MMA fights, and even former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal has lobbied New York lawmakers to approve MMA legislation.

But opponents of MMA bouts in New York argue that the fights are barbaric and that the mixed martial arts culture is anti-woman.

The New York Daily News reported that 35 Assembly Democrats signed a letter urging Speaker Sheldon Silver to not legalize MMA fights in New York.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273.

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