Free to Fight

Mixed martial arts


For nearly two decades, the state of New York has banned professional mixed martial arts (MMA) events, even as the sport has skyrocketed in popularity. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the premier MMA event production and promotion company, logged more than $500 million in revenue in 2014, according to Moody's Investors Service.

Though politicians have frequently maligned the sport for its brutality, their complaints did little to stop MMA's cultural ascendance. Attempts to regulate it out of existence ultimately failed, and by 2016 New York was the last state to prohibit the sport. In March, even the Empire State's ban fell, following a long, bloody fight.

For years, New York state senators have been introducing legislation to permit mixed martial arts, but the bills never got a vote in the state's assembly. But then the body's powerful speaker, Democrat Sheldon Silver, was found guilty of seven counts of corruption in November 2015 for pocketing millions in bribes and kickbacks. With Silver out of the way, and with the support of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, legislation to allow MMA sailed through the assembly, passing by a vote of 113–25. UFC representatives said they're planning to have one or two events in New York before the end of the year.