The full-court press is on.
In a Thursday press conference held at New York City's famed Madison Square Garden, UFC president Dana White and UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta made their intentions known loud and clear.
The UFC re-affirmed its plans to see through the legalization of mixed martial arts in the state of New York, and according to UFC brass, MMA fans can expect the Empire State to host at least two events – including one at Madison Square Garden – within the first year of legal promotion in the state.
"This sport is global, and we think it's time we should be able to hold events in New York," Fertitta said.
White and Fertitta brought UFC lightweight champion and New Jersey native Frankie Edgar along for support, but the real focus of the event was the an independent economic impact study conducted by Jamie Springer of HR&A Advisors, which suggests New York stands to create hundreds of jobs and generate more than $23 million in annual new spending for the local economy through the legalization of mixed martial arts.
An obviously excited Madison Square Garden Sports president Scott O'Neil – who classified White and Fertitta both as "great guys and spectacular businessmen" – recounted his first live UFC event, March 2010's UFC 111 card, which the exec attended with his nephew.
"I've spent a lot of my carer around professional athletes, and I've never seen anything like a saw that day," O'Neil recounted. "We cant wait for this to be sanctioned here."
New York assemblyman Dean Murray, who was also on hand, said he has already contacted Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in hopes of the inclusion of MMA regulation on the state's upcoming budget – a step Murray said would streamline the entire process.
Murray also pointed to the potential economic impact of MMA regulation as an important reason to support the move.
"In this economic climate, we don't need to be raising any taxes," Murray said. "We need a chance to raise revenue, and this is a wonderful chance."
Springer said his firm predicts New York could host as many as 70 MMA events annually and that $16 million of the new revenue would come from the combination of one UFC event at Madison Square Garden and another in upstate New York at Buffalo's HSBC Arena. A full copy of the study can be found at MMAFacts.com/econstudy
White, who has oftentimes hinted at an eminent change in New York (one of only six states that doesn't currently regulate MMA) only to be forced to retract his prediction, insisted he remains positive about the UFC's chances in the coming year.
"I'm a little baffled but not frustrated," White said. "It's an education process.
"We've got a good team here in New York, and I feel like we're going to get this thing done. ... I think we're right there."