In what was truly a historic day, the nearly 20-year ban on mixed martial arts (MMA) in New York was lifted, as the New York State Assembly overwhelmingly voted to legalize the sport in "The Empire State."
Now, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) -- as well as other promotions -- can start making plans to stage events in one of the biggest sports markets in the world.
On the heels of the monumental news, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta issued a statement applauding the New York State Assembly, as well as many other supporters, for helping bring MMA back to New York. He also discussed what it means for UFC moving forward.
Check it out:
UFC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo Fertitta applauded the overwhelming, bipartisan New York State Assembly passage of legislation to legalize and regulate professional mixed martial arts (MMA) in New York. The passage of A.2604-C, sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle and 72 other Assembly sponsors, means the bill has now passed both houses and will be sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his approval.
Fertitta stated: "This has been a long time coming and on behalf of our New York UFC athletes and fans, I want to offer heartfelt thanks to Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Morelle and all the Members of the Assembly - Democrats and Republicans - who voted for this bill.
"Joe Morelle has worked tirelessly to educate his colleagues and build support for legalizing professional MMA and regulating both professional and amateur MMA. He has worked closely with Senator Joe Griffo, who has shepherded this effort in the Senate, where the bill has passed with strong bipartisan support for the last seven years, and MMA fans owe both a huge debt of gratitude," Fertitta said.
Fertitta noted all the support the bill has garnered over the last several years.
"New York's amazing arenas - upstate and downstate - have worked with us to advocate passage of this bill. So, too, have restaurants, hotels, businesses and others who recognize the economic value professional MMA can bring to New York," Fertitta said. "Our athletes have been extraordinary. More than 20 have been to Albany to help educate legislators about the fastest growing sport in the world. And our fans have been phenomenal. Through letters and phone calls, rallies and social media, New York's MMA and UFC fans have lent their voices of support. It took a while, but their voices have been heard."
UFC has committed to holding at least four events per year in New York for the first three years after professional MMA is legalized and regulated in New York. Fertitta renewed that commitment.
"While there are still additional steps that have to occur before professional MMA becomes a reality in New York, I want to assure our fans that if Governor Cuomo signs the bill into law and the State Athletic Commission puts in place the appropriate regulations, we look forward to hosting our first New York event in the world's most famous arena - Madison Square Garden, home to so many epic sporting events throughout the decades," Fertitta said. "We also look forward to scheduling events in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Albany, and Brooklyn. We are excited."
As Fertitta noted, Governor Andrew Cuomo still has to sign off on the bill before it becomes official.
But, seeing as how Cuomo has long been an advocate for MMA in general and UFC in particular, the biggest hurdles have already seemingly been crossed.
That said, "start spreading the news!"