UFC hypes $37M impact from first Madison Square Garden bouts

ALBANY — Mixed martial arts has been a knockout so far in New York.

A new analysis commissioned by the Ultimate Fighting Championship league found that the state’s first professional MMA event, held Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden, far exceeded economic projections.

UFC had initially estimated its events would generate $32 million in economic activity annually across the state.

But the Garden event alone took in a $17.7 million live gate that set a UFC and MSG record and had an overall $37.4 million economic impact on the surrounding area, according to the study done by Applied Analysis, of Las Vegas.

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The overall impact includes money fans spent at local restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

Because the Garden would have otherwise been dark that night, the UFC event supported an estimated 300 jobs that generated $18.3 million in salary and wages and brought in $1.6 million in taxes for the state.

The MSG event also set UFC attendance records, with 15,480 at the weigh-in and 20,427 at the fight, while also establishing commercial pay-per-view and social media records.

“We said it from the very beginning, we knew New York was going to be huge,” UFC President Dana White said in a statement. “The numbers don’t lie. A lot of people came out to support us and we’re going to keep doing this up and down the state.”

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After years of debate and the growing popularity of the controversial sport, New York last March became the last state in the nation to legalize mixed martial arts.

As part of its lobbying effort, UFC officials promised to hold at least four events a year in the state for the first three years. The league is set to meet the first-year goal in its first six months.

UFC on Saturday held its first event at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which generated a $2.7 million live gate that made it the highest grossing sporting event in the history of that arena, officials said.

Another event was held recently in Albany, and one is scheduled for Buffalo on April 8.

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“Mixed martial arts competitions have already proven to be major economic drivers across New York, and the jobs and revenue generated by (the MSG) event illustrates the enormous impact of this growing industry in our state,” said Gov. Cuomo.

“I look forward to seeing the further growth of this sport continue to foster economic activity, help create jobs, and further establish New York as an international entertainment hub.”

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat who was a leading opponent of the effort to legalize MMA, said she was never swayed by the economic argument, saying she views the sport as “brutal, demeaning, and dangerous to participants.”

“We could probably sell out a public lynching, but we don’t do that because it’s wrong and encourages violence,” Glick said Sunday.

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