Mixed martial arts is the world's fastest growing sport, but it still isn't regulated in America's financial capital of New York. ZUFFA CEO Lorenzo Fertitta estimates that legalizing MMA in NY would generate $100,000,000 in economic activity in just the first two years.
Fertitta said most of the economic activity would come in upstate cities like Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. While UFC events factored into Fertitta's statements, he also included the likelihood that other mixed martial arts organizations will hold events in the Empire State if MMA is legalized.
On Tuesday, Fertitta said if the state legalizes MMA, UFC will hold four events in New York each year for the next three years. In his statement Friday, he said that total will include three events in upstate cities each of the first two years. Between the UFC events and events held by other MMA promoters, the sport could generate more than $35 million in economic activity for upstate.
"UFC 129 in Toronto two years ago generated nearly $35 million in economic activity for the city, with more than 55,000 fans attending the event at the Rogers Centre. There are no venues in New York that can accommodate that many fans in one night," he said. "However, we are committed to holding three upstate UFC events — in three upstate cities — in each of the first two years that MMA is legal in New York and that will easily produce that many ticket-buying fans. And many fans will travel to those cities from out of state and even from other countries. When you add to the ticket price, concessions, merchandise, hotel rooms, meals, beverages and other ancillary spending, we know that three UFC matches in upstate cities in one year, along with events by other promoters, will easily generate at least $35 million in economic activity."
Fertitta's statements come after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier this week that the economic impact the sport would have on the state could be "persuasive" in deciding whether to legalize MMA.
Legalizing MMA would also have a major impact on the downstate area. Fertitta said a study conducted in 2008 found a UFC event at Madison Square Garden would generate about $15 million in economic activity in New York City. The study, which you can read below, also found that legalizing MMA in New York would create hundreds of jobs.
"An independent economic study five years ago concluded that a UFC event at Madison Square Garden would generate approximately $15 million in economic activity," he said. "Combine one downstate UFC event with three upstate UFC events and events by other MMA promoters and that will generate more than $50 million in economic activity annually, creating hundreds or thousands of jobs, and employing union labor at every venue hosting a UFC event.
"We know how strong the New York MMA fan base is because we see lots of New Yorkers at UFC events in other states. We'll see New Yorkers tomorrow night in Montreal and next month in Newark. A recent UFC event in New Jersey drew at least 40 percent of its ticket buyers from New York. And just as New Yorkers travel to UFC shows in other states and countries, fans from those states and countries will come to New York to see UFC here."
But UFC wouldn't be the only MMA organization holding events in New York. Others, like Bellator and World Series of Fighting, will likely hold fights in New York. Fertitta said these shows will also generate economic activity for the state. He pointed to California as an example. California, he said, held more than 60 MMA events in 2012. But only a small percentage of those shows were UFC events, Fertitta said.
"Now's the time to bring MMA and UFC to New York," he said. "For the jobs, the economic benefits and for the fans."