Lorenzo Fertitta file photo | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Ultimate Fighting Championship officials on Thursday held a press conference at Madison Square Garden in New York City to both reiterate the promotion’s commitment to legalizing MMA and to release the findings of a study detailing the economic impact of bringing the sport to the Empire State.
“Fans in New York have to travel to outside states [to attend UFC events]. When they do that, they’re spending tourism dollars that impact those local economies,” said UFC Co-Owner and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, who attended the conference along with company president Dana White. “We have cities bidding for our event. This sport is now global. It’s time to hold events in New York.”
According to the study conducted by HR&A Advisors, Fertitta said, holding two UFC events in New York would generate $16 million for the local economy. Events run by smaller promotions would inject an additional $7 million of revenue into the state, bringing the total to $23 million, the study found.
“We prepared an economic study, and we made conservative assumptions for economic projections in New York. We assumed that the UFC would hold one event at Madison Square Garden and one event in upstate New York,” said HR&A partner Jamie Springer.
Springer went on to predict that smaller organizations would combine for roughly 70 MMA events, selling 2,000 tickets per show on average, which would make up the other $7 million per year.
Madison Square Garden Sports President Scott O'Neil asserted that as soon as the sport became legal, the UFC would be welcome at the Garden.
“We are thrilled that Dana and the UFC are so committed to New York,” O’Neil said. “UFC and its passionate fans have a home here at Madison Square Garden, and we look forward to welcoming them as soon as the sport is regulated in New York. We have no doubt that UFC would be enormously popular at the Garden and a great addition to our lineup of world class sports and entertainment events.”
UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, a native of nearby New Jersey, was also in attendance. The champ expressed his desire to fight in the world’s most famous arena.
“I can’t wait until I get to fight here. I’ve always been a New York sports fan. Being from New Jersey, I always wanted to fight at the Garden. Fighting in Jersey is great, but there is nothing like fighting here,” said Edgar. “There is nothing like a live UFC event. Being a guy who gets to [fight in the UFC], you would think that I’d get numb to it, but I always get the chills. I think the people of New York would appreciate having [MMA] here.” For several years, the UFC has lobbied the New York legislature to regulate the sport. Asked if he was frustrated with the drawn-out process, White pointed to the promotion’s track record of helping to get MMA legalized in similar situations.
“To be honest, I’m not frustrated. I’m a little baffled. It’s an education process. I feel we have a good team here in New York and we’re going to get this thing done,” said White. “The process is the same everywhere we go. Our job is to educate these guys on who [the fighters] really are and what this sport is. We got Ontario done, and I’m confident we’ll get New York done, too.”