ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he has no problem with legalizing professional mixed martial arts fights — as long as its economic benefits can be demonstrated.Since when have developers not been able to produce reports that demonstrate economic benefits?
"We're looking for economic activity wherever we can find it, right? Mixed martial arts is a possible place for economic activity," said Cuomo. "We have a big viewership for MMA now. I understand the flip side, but I think it's something that should be pursued, definitely."
The governor said he hopes to address the issue before the end of the session in June; the topic hasn't come up in his budget negotiations with legislative leaders.
That's got to please Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner, which has been lobbying since at least 2011 for legalization of MMA. Forest City CEO Bruce Ratner and his wife have given generously to Cuomo, a total of $25,000 in 2009 and 2010.
The CEO of Ultimate Fighting Championship said his company would hold at least four events per year for the first three years, with more than half in economically struggling upstate cities. That leaves the rest... in New York City, most likely.
BLS: You have college hockey coming to Barclays Center, so it can be converted into a hockey arena. Any interest in having the New York Islanders move in?
BY: Let me just say that we can convert it to a hockey venue and have a great destination for professional hockey. And although it is not legalized in New York State, we can handle MMA when and if it is legalized.
A decade earlier Senator John McCain had derided it as “human cockfighting,” [see link] but by 2006 it was a bigger television draw than boxing. In 2008 the sport’s premier governing body, Ultimate Fighting Championship, known as the U.F.C., was valued at more than $1 billion.
All that face-punching is contagious. I've been to Barclays Center more than a dozen times, and there hasn't been a single incident in the stands; it's just not that sort of crowd. But during the Hopkins-Cloud fight alone, there were two separate scuffles in the crowd, including one between some guys in a skybox and some other guys below them, helpfully dramatizing scenes from the class struggle in the year 2013.