Fighting outside The Octagon: The battle to legalize professional MMA

By Travis Eldridge

May 15, 2013 Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 2:02 PM EST

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) It's been an ongoing battle. One of the few the UFC has yet to tackle, and it has left the organization and its fans looking for answers.

New York remains one of two states in the country where professional mixed martial arts is illegal. But it's not for a lack of chances to make it among the other 48.

"All we want is a vote. That's what our goal is," said Marc Ratner, the vice president of regulatory affairs for the UFC. "To get through the committees, get on the Assembly floor and let the legislators, let the Assemblymen, vote it up or down."

With venues like Madison Square Garden in New York, the UFC could pin down the largest sports market in the country. However, after years of advocating, they claim it isn't a necessity.

"If New York never happens, it doesn't hurt the UFC one bit. But imagine what we could be doing for New York," said UFC President Dana White.

The UFC, though, is hoping lawmakers' imaginations wander to the economic boon it could bring.

According to the fighting organization, last month's UFC 159 in Newark, NJ drew a gate of $2.7 million. They say with the four events they promise to hold across the state in the first year the sport is legalized, they could bring in $12 million in ticket sales alone, but the Assembly hasn't budged.

"My concern is there is a vocal group of people, with a lot of influence, that will do anything in their power to prevent that from happening," said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-123rd) .

Lupardo is one of 64 co-sponsors of Democratic Majority leader Joseph Morelle's bill to legalize MMA. That's nearly double the number of lawmakers who signed on to last year's bill.

But as she mentioned, there is strong opposition to the bill, as some legislators only see the brutality in the sport.

While Lupardo says she's not a fan of MMA, she is quick to point out New York has an Athletic Commission to regulate these types of sporting events.

"The most compelling argument for me is that we are already seeing, in our community, amateur MMA bouts that are unregulated. By legalizing and regulating mixed martial arts at a professional level, it will have a trickle down effect and basically advance the entire profession."

UFC's Ratner says the New York Athletic Commission is already on board with the organization's current rules and regulations, and that professional fighting in the state could start soon after a bill is passed.

Dana White on Culinary Union lobbying

The UFC says the Culinary Union in Las Vegas is lobbying against the organization in New York because of tensions the union has with UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta.

When addressing the union's role in lobbying against the UFC, White claimed they had spent $2 million to prevent the organization from entering New York.

However, the ultimate question still for MMA fans and advocates remains: Will it happen this year?

"Honestly, if it comes to the floor it will pass," said Lupardo. "It's the question of getting it there for the vote."

The battle outside The Octagon is no first-round knockout. In Albany this one's going the distance.

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