- Governor Cuomo signed bill today in ceremony at the Garden
- MSG event will be first in New York in over 19 years
The same day Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the bill legalizing mixed-martial arts, the Ultimate Fighting Championship series announced its first New York City event.
UFC will fight in Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden on Nov. 12, the first scheduled professional MMA fight in the state in more than 19 years. After a $2 billion lobbying effort by the Las Vegas-based fight promoter, New York last month became the final state in the U.S. to legalize the sport.
The card for the November bout hasn’t been announced. Ronda Rousey, MMA’s biggest star, attended a bill-signing event Thursday at the Garden, where UFC intends to break the $11 million box office record set in 1999 with a heavyweight matchup featuring Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.
"This is an opportunity for us to grow the brand, and introduce UFC to sponsors and advertisers based in New York, arguably the biggest market in the world. Our inability to fight here hurt us in that regard," said UFC’s Chief Operating Officer Ike Lawrence Epstein. In its contract with the Garden, UFC pays up front to use the facility and keeps the entirety of the revenue from the event.
Speaking about an hour after the New York State Assembly passed the bill in March, UFC Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo Fertitta said his company is planning two events in the state this year, a number that will grow in the future. The group is looking at Syracuse, Rochester and Utica as the second host for a fight that would be broadcast for free. The Madison Square Garden fight will be on pay-per-view.
A November 2013 report by HR&A Advisors Inc. and commissioned by UFC projected that each UFC event in New York City would sell about 17,000 tickets, with gross tickets sales of $12.2 million per night. The upstate events would average nearly the same number of fans, but because tickets will cost less, sales are projected to be $1.7 million per event.
UFC’s first and only New York event was held in Buffalo in 1995, when the sport was just gaining an audience. In the interim, nearby venues, such as Toronto’s Air Canada Centre and Northern New Jersey’s Prudential Center, have served New York’s fanbase. The Newark building has featured a major UFC fight in six of the past seven years, including a 13-bout card on January 30, headlined by Ryan Bader and Anthony Johnson.
The New York State Athletic Commission is in the process of adopting rules for MMA, which must be finalized before a fight can take place.