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UFC president answers a question at a press conference. Kenai Andrews/MMA Crossfire

Start spreadin’ the news: New York passes MMA legalization bill

It’s a day many New York fight fans have been waiting a long time for.

Yesterday, the New York State Assembly passed A.2604-C  – known in layman’s terms as the MMA legalization bill. Sponsored primarily by Assembly majority leader Joseph Morelle, the bill has now officially passed both houses and now moves to Governor Andrew Cuomo to approve.

The bill passed in Albany by a vote of 113 to 25.

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Many fans in Canada – particularly in the province of Ontario – can related to the relief, joy and excitement New York fans might be feeling now. In fact, it’s now the five year anniversary of the first year of MMA legalization in Ontario, which was 2011, with legalization in Canada coming in 2013 with the S-209 bill.

“This has been a long time coming and on behalf of our New York UFC athletes and fans, I want to offer heartfelt thanks to Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Morelle and all the Members of the Assembly – Democrats and Republicans – who voted for this bill,” UFC chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said.

“Joe Morelle has worked tirelessly to educate his colleagues and build support for legalizing professional MMA and regulating both professional and amateur MMA. He has worked closely with Senator Joe Griffo, who has shepherded this effort in the Senate, where the bill has passed with strong bipartisan support for the last seven years, and MMA fans owe both a huge debt of gratitude.”

Previous bills were stalled in the assembly and former middleweight champion – and native New Yorker – Chris Weidman noted to UFC.com the one of the differences in the bill getting over a major hump.  “The obvious thing that changed was that we had a new speaker in Speaker (Carl) Heastie, who was at least willing – whether he supported the bill or not – to let the democratic process play out,” Weidman said. “And that was more than could be said for the prior speaker.”

The previous speaker, Sheldon Silver was removed from office amid the conviction of corruption charges last November.

“I’ve been fighting now for seven years and missing out on opportunities to fight in front of my family, friends and the fans here in New York,”  added Weidman. “Every year you hope and it kept falling through. So for it to finally happen, it’s a dream come true for me, and it’s a dream come true for all these New York fans.”

Like Ontario, it took a lot of education and a sustained effort to pass the bill, but the journey is not over yet. Assuming Cuomo signs the bill into law, regulations need to be put into place among other small details before places like Madison Square Gardens start hosting fights.

But this was the major act needed to open the door to professional mixed martial arts in the Empire state.

The UFC said it is committed to at least four events per year in the state for the first three years after legalization.

@kenaiandrews Start spreadin’ the news: New York passes MMA legalization bill

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Kenai is a former Postmedia Network online news and sports editor. He is the Editor-in-Chief for MMA Crossfire.

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