Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cuomo supports legalization of mixed martial arts; that's good news for Barclays Center

The Albany Times Union reports today, in Cuomo sees MMA benefits: Governor say he backs "economic activity" of mixed martial arts fights:
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.
"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.
Since when have developers not been able to produce reports that demonstrate economic benefits?

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.

Part of the plan

In a 9/21/11 interview with Big League Sports, Yormark was asked:
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.
Even though the Barclays Center was not designed for major league (rather than professional) hockey, it will become the home of the Islanders. And, given that Yormark brought up MMA without being asked, you know it's on their radar.

Up from ignominy?

According to a 1/27/13 Times article
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.
According to a 5/10/12 article in Connecticut's The Day, that state and New York are the only ones not to have legalized MMA. Beyond issues of safety, state labor unions have opposed the UFC, which includes co-owners that own casinos accused of unfair labor practices.

Rough crowd? Two fights last Saturday

While crowds at most Barclays Center events are orderly (if sometimes 420-friendly), boxing can attract a rougher crowd, and presumably MMA could share that profile, at least if they give away lots of tickets to fill seats.

Will Leitch reported that he luvved seeing boxing last Saturday at the Barclays Center (free seats didn't hurt), but:
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.

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