After New York State Assembly unanimously voted (113 to 25) to finally legalize mixed martial arts (MMA) in the "Empire State" (read about it here), it didn't take long for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) officials to start planning their first event.
According to UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, the company's focus at the moment is UFC 200 -- which is set to go down on July 9, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada -- but phones calls were immediately made to see what venues are available in New York for a 2016 debut.
Once UFC 200 is in the books, Fertitta revealed during a special media conference call that his team will work tirelessly to make sure the first-ever event in New York is a massive one, promising to bring the biggest names on the UFC roster to Madison Square Garden.
His words (via FOX Sports):
"I think it's going to be an epic moment for the sport and for our company. Obviously, right now all of our focus is on trying to put together the matches for UFC 200, but when we go to New York and we eventually debut at Madison Square Garden, me and Dana (White) and the rest of the team are going to be very focused on delivering for the fans. We're going to put together the best available matches that we can. You'd have the biggest names that we can possibly put on, the biggest names that are available at the time. Believe me, we want to knock it out of the park and we want to deliver to New York in a big way. It's going to be massive and when you do massive events it takes time, it takes runway, it's going to be a tremendous amount of promotion, a ton of marketing assets, we're going to have to book the fights that make sense for there, it's going to be big. I think the fourth quarter is a good target for us. A realistic target for us."
Since Governor Andrew Cuomo still has to rubber stamp the bill and the New York State Athletic Commission (SAC) has 120 days to adopt the rules and regulations, the higher-ups at ZUFFA have plenty of time to dot their i's and cross their t's.
Of course, there are several other locations UFC may be targeting around New York such as Buffalo, Brooklyn, and Syracuse, just to name a few.
As for the debut event, while the planning is still in its infancy, it's safe to expect hometown locals such as Chris Weidman, Jon Jones and other superstars such as Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor to vie for headlining duties.