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NEW YORK -- The rapid growth of mixed martial arts around the United States shows no sign of slowing down. That growth, however, has still not found its way into the State of New York.
Representatives of UFC visited Madison Square Garden on Thursday in their latest attempt to get the sport sanctioned in New York.
UFC president Dana White and Chairman/CEO Lorenzo Fertitta have been to New York the past few years, fighting to get their sport regulated. Each time they have been unsuccessful.
But White and Fertitta are as confident they will find success this year. They are focusing on better educating politicians and general public of the economic benefits of sanctioning MMA.
"We've talked about the economic impact, that's a real thing," Fertitta said during a press conference. "There's been an independent study done by the firm of HR&A, who've estimated that we would bring $23 million on an annual basis and create over 200 jobs, just by doing two shows in New York."
But White and Fertitta aren't just relying on financial data to build support for MMA sanctioning in New York. They have sought support from high-ranking Garden personnel and state politicians.
President of Madison Square Garden sports Scott O'Neil and New York State Assemblyman Dean Murray stood by White and Fertitta.
Murray has already begun lobbying for the passing of mixed martial arts legislation in New York. He's even had a conversation with newly elected Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
Early feedback from their conversation on MMA is positive.
"I'm not going to speak for the Governor, but I did have a conversation with him and he seems open," Murray said. "We've sent a letter and talked to him personally and requested that he include this in his budget proposal.
"We're taking a wait-and-see approach, but I'm optimistic."
While UFC awaits New York State's decision on whether to legalize mixed martial arts, the promotion will return to the New York City metro area on March 19. UFC 128 will be held at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
White expects another profitable night, and expects New York residents will represent a significant percentage of the paying public.
"Tickets go on sale today for Rashad Evans against light heavyweight champion [Mauricio] Shogun Rua in New York," White said. "I got a little ahead of myself. That event is actually happening in Newark, N.J.
"The event that we did there [on March 27, 2010] sold 17,000 tickets, did a $4 million gate. And 30 percent of those tickets were bought by New Yorkers."
Franklin McNeil covers mixed martial arts and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on 'MMA Live,' which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.