New York closer to legalizing MMA than ever before

UFC champ Ronda Rousey will meet with Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week.

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The UFC has been trying to tackle MMA legislation in the state of New York for the better part of a decade, but now it appears the sport is on the verge of being legalized after a dramatic shift in government leaders in the state.

MMA was first banned in New York state in 1997 when the sport was still considered nothing more than a legalized bar fight. Promotions such as the UFC fought to change that perception by working with state athletic commissions such as New Jersey and Nevada to enforce a set of rules and regulations that are still used to this day.

Now MMA is a thriving business on a global scale, yet New York has continued to miss out on the financial benefits the sport provides — but that may soon come to an end.

According to the New York Post, the legalization of MMA could happen any day now as lawmakers look to end the nearly 20-year ban on the sport with a vote in the state House and Senate, as well as a budget being submitted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

"This is a big sport, and it’s growing," Cuomo said recently. "It can create jobs and economic growth in the state of New York, and I’m interested in it."

To hopefully help persuade lawmakers in New York to push through a bill to legalize the sport, UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will spend Monday and Tuesday in the state speaking with Cuomo as well as legislators in a trip to the state capitol.

The report says Cuomo and state legislators are "very close" to including a provision in the state budget that would include MMA legalization among the items submitted for approval.

In past years, the UFC’s biggest obstacle to get the sport legalized was former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was the man in charge of sending a bill to representatives to decide whether to allow the sport to take place in the state. Year after year, despite overwhelming support in the state Senate, Silver refused to put the bill to a vote in the assembly, and MMA legalization died.

The roadblock was removed earlier this year when Silver was brought up on corruption charges after authorities claimed that the former state assemblyman was guilty of taking millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks over the years in his role as a government official.

With Silver out of the way, the legalization of MMA got fast-tracked in New York once again, except this time it appears the sport will finally find a home in the Empire State.

UFC officials have often commented that if New York legalizes MMA they will bring several shows to the state per year, including commitments at Madison Square Garden as well as the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Smaller shows could also land in cities such as Buffalo and other upstate areas where MMA continues to be a popular sport.

With New York out of the running in recent years, the UFC has continued to rely on New Jersey to hold many of its biggest cards, including an upcoming show airing on FOX as Luke Rockhold takes on Lyoto Machida on April 18.  Assuming this bill is passed in the near future and MMA becomes legal in New York, the UFC could announce a date and location for a show there before the end of 2015.