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New York News

Assembly To Vote On MMA Legalization

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Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Capital Region Democrat, says he recently learned that a vote to legalize mixed-martial arts could come as soon as Monday. Santabarbara, who  has been a vocal advocate for bringing the sport to New York, said the bill to regulate it has 80 co-sponsors.

"When it comes to the floor, we will hear the debate as it goes on. But in the end, I believe we're going to have to pass this and get it through the Assembly," said Santabarbara.

Governor Andrew Cuomo's executive budget proposal includes language to legalize the sport. The Senate approved a bill earlier this year.

New York is now the only state in the country that does not host professional MMA events. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was seen as one of the sport’s largest opponents in New York.

Now, prospective venues are standing up for the sport in advance of the Assembly vote.

Bob Belber, regional general manager with SMG at the Times Union Center in Albany, has been advocating for the sport for a handful of years. He said the arena would seat about 17,000 fans during an MMA event. And with two to four professional events a year, that's big business for downtown.

"We've estimated it would be about 3 to 4 million dollars in economic impact on each of the events as they take place in this building, in this market," said Belber.

According to a study commissioned by Ultimate Fighting Championship, 70 MMA events could bring in $67 million in spending and support more than 500 jobs.

Belber said the Times Union Center's size makes it one of the most viable venues in the state.

"We'll get much bigger championship  belt-type events here, because of our capacity, than for example, Syracuse would get or even Rochester would get."

But smaller venues are also looking for their share of the action. An amateur event held last year at the Schenectady Armory drew more than a thousand spectators.

The Glens Falls Civic Center, which seats more than 4,700, is also interested. The arena, now under the control of a coalition of local business people, is seeking to diversify its portfolio of events. The Civic Center recently said good-bye to the New York State Boys' Basketball Tournament after more than three decades.

Civic Center general manager Jeff Mead...

"We have a couple concerts coming, a country show and a Christian show. Obviously we have the hockey here. We just finished up with a lot of basketball. The circus is coming. Any type of entertainment that makes sense for our region, we are open to having it here," said Mead.

And MMA may be very soon added to that list.

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