The battle to legalize mixed martial arts in New York state has been long and costly. Following a vote Monday, though, it is one step closer to paying off.

After receiving far more support in the state Senate than previous attempts, the bill will now go to the state Assembly. If it passes, fighters like UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones can finally enter the Octagon on their home turf.

“Last year the vote was 32-26, and this time it was 42-18, and we’re excited the decision-makers in New York are looking at this sport for what it is, the safest contact sport in the world,” UFC president Dana White said.

It’s also one of the most profitable. April’s UFC 129 in Toronto set company records for tickets sold (55,000) and gate ($12.1 million). In a January press conference at Madison Square Garden, UFC announced a new study that reported MMA would create $23 million in revenues for New York state, along with job creation. White and UFC majority owner Lorenzo Fertitta also said, if and when MAA is legalized, they plan on producing annual shows at MSG, Buffalo’s HSBC Arena and smaller events in Rochester, Albany and Syracuse.

“It's time to bring the fastest growing sport in the world to New York. We want to thank the State Senate, and we're confident that when Assembly members take an objective look at our safety record, popularity with their constituents and the economic benefits we would bring to the State, they will reach the same conclusion," Fertitta said. "With every passing month, our sport gets more and more popular around the world and we hope UFC fans in New York will finally be able to see live UFC events in their home state soon.”

Saratoga County Assemblyman Bob Reilly, though, has battled the legalization process for years. Reilly said the violence inherent in the sport is damaging to children and has questioned whether the state should do business with the heads of UFC. Reilly told Metro last fall he did not think the sport would ever be legalized in the state.

In January, UFC backer and Assemblyman Dean Murray of Suffolk County said he “had a funny feeling” he and Reilly would discuss legalizing MMA.


Looking ahead to UFC 130 in Vegas

Dana White stood at the dais on the floor of Toronto’s Rogers Centre in the very early hours May 1 and marveled at what the UFC had pulled off.

A whopping 55,000 tickets sold. A $12.075 million gate. The first major mixed martial arts event in the Canadian province, UFC 129, was a record setting event for the organization. White went on to say its success had caused the organization’s decision makers to look favorably upon doing more stadium events.

Still, in the aftermath of one of the greatest nights in UFC history, the organization has suffered some blows. The main event of Saturday night’s main event had to be canceled due to back and rib injuries to lightweight champion Frankie Edgar while challenger Gray Maynard suffered a knee injury. The Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Matt Hamill light heavyweight fight was moved up from the semi-main event to replace Edgar vs. Maynard.

White and Brock Lesnar recently announced that the former heavyweight champion had to pull out of June’s UFC 131 main event No. 1 heavyweight contendership fight against fellow Ultimate Fighter season 13 coach Junior Dos Santos because of a recurrence of diverticulitis.

Without Lesnar for the foreseeable future, UFC has rescheduled the main event of UFC 131. Dos Santos will meet Shane Carwin, while former heavyweight champion Frank Mir will fight Roy Nelson in the semi-main event at UFC 130 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas this Saturday. Almost certainly, the winner will of Mir-Nelson will be in prime position to challenge Dos Santos sometime in 2012.

Somewhat surprisingly, both Mir and Nelson were somewhat critical of Dos Santos, who has won three of his five UFC fights by knockout or TKO. Dos Santos has a career record of 12-1.

“I just think that I'll match up well. As far as dos Santos, (he) is a very good boxer. I think he has excellent hands. I just think sometimes he falls into the pattern of only throwing boxing and not utilizing wrestling and jiu jitsu and all the other skills,” Mir said about a proposed fight against Dos Santos in a conference call last week.

Added Nelson: “You’ve always (have) to be scared of Frank. He’s got a true mix of martial arts. He’s good in every aspect. He’s knocked out (Mirko) Cro Cop. Frank’s even said it—he’s bigger and stronger than Dos Santos, so I’m assuming he hits harder.”

Mir even suggested that his hated rival, Lesnar, would have beaten Dos Santos.

“I just think that it would depend on how Brock recovered from the Cain Velasquez fight, whether he decided that he didn't want to be a striker or if he just came in and wanted to take dos Santos down. I (saw) that happening, and I thought that Dos Santos (was) going to have a hard time with him on the ground,” Mir said when asked his thoughts about how the proposed Lesnar-Dos Santos fight would have played about before acknowledging the opportunity in front of the heavyweights.

“It depends on our performances. Roy's a tough guy. I'm really just looking at that fight. I really haven't given too much thought about what's beyond it. In the past, I caught myself looking past people and I don't want to do that to Roy. He's a pretty tough guy, and I think that anybody that overlooks him ends up having a rough night.”

You can follow us on Twitter @MetroNewYork and @DenisGorman.

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