Home-ground and pound: UFC wants to come to Barclays, but pro MMA is still illegal here • Brooklyn Paper

Home-ground and pound: UFC wants to come to Barclays, but pro MMA is still illegal here

Assemblyman Joe Lentol wants to legalize mixed martial arts sports, so it wasn't much of a trick to convince our art director to image what the longtime lawmaker might look like in the ring.

Call it pound for pounds!

The Ultimate Fighting Championship says it will hold fight nights at Barclays Center if state lawmakers finally pass a long-stalled bill to legalize professional Mixed Martial Arts in New York, and the sportsplex’s honchos are demanding opponents in Albany tap out so the borough can finally tap into some of those big blood-sport bucks.

“Fans are telling us they want MMA and it’s time to deliver,” said Barclays bigwig Brett Yormark, who joined Borough President Adams at a press conference demanding legislators pass the bill on Tuesday. “Not only does UFC further our goal of being in the big event business, it helps drive economic activity in the area.”

The Empire State is now the only one where Ronda Rousey can’t legally pummel another woman’s face inside a giant cage.

State senators have been trying to pass a bill to change that for six years, but the Assembly’s former leader Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) choked out past attempts by refusing to even call it to a vote.

Now the disgraced pol is down for the count, and the legislation has cleared the senate for a seventh year, but new contenders have also stepped up — several lawmakers are pushing a rival bill that would ban bouts for two years until the health department studies the impact repeated blows to the head and choke-holds have on the brain.

But the legalization bill’s proponents contend the best way to keep mixed martial arts safe is precisely to allow it to happen under government regulation — otherwise practitioners will just hold unsanctioned promotions behind closed doors.

“I have always believed any type of sport, be it MMA or boxing, should be out in the open and regulated rather than underground,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D-Greenpoint), who has been championing the legalization for years.

And local gyms say the impact will go well beyond the borough’s biggest arena — Brooklyn mixed martial artists will also be able to fight for belts and purses in front of home-town crowds around the borough.

“We’re ready for it,” said Eugene Ryzkin, owner of Fight Factory in Gravesend, whose boxers compete in professional shows at MCU Park in Coney Island, the Millennium Theatre in Brighton Beach, and Aviator Sports and Events Center in Marine Park. “We have a lot of students not competing because they’re not allowed.”

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Three musketeers: Borough President Adams, Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight champion Chris Weidman, and Assemblyman Nick Perry called for legal Mixed Martial Arts fighting in New York during a press conference at Barclays Center.
Photo by Jason Speakman

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