Joe Rogan opened the UFC 205 broadcast by celebrating the triumph over “corruption” that allowed mixed-martial arts (MMA) to finally hold a sanctioned event in the Empire State.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation earlier this year that paved the way for professional MMA events in New York. The bill becoming law made New York the final state among the 50 to sanction the young sport.
Longtime New York state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver blocked MMA legalization for years. But his arrest and conviction on public corruption charges imprisoned the speaker and freed up log-jammed legislation.
A grudge against the open-shop policies of a casino chain owned by the former owners of the UFC strangely migrated from Nevada to New York to prevent MMA from holding professional events in the state. Silver’s alliance with organized labor meant that any proposed bill to give the sport the state’s imprimatur never received an up-or-down vote.
“The reason MMA is not sanctioned in New York is because there is a lot of money from the culinary unions who have an old grudge with the Fertittas about Station Casinos not using the culinary unions in Las Vegas,” Urijah Faber told Breitbart Sports at a UFC 169 presser strategically held in Madison Square Garden almost four years ago. “It’s corrupt. It’s wrong. It’s something that everyone should be ashamed of if you’re a part of it.”
Saturday night’s Madison Square Garden event witnessed the Empire State debut of several New York-area natives, including Long Islander Chris Weidman. He entered the octagon Saturday night to the opening bars of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” before it transitioned into several other songs.
“It would be an absolute dream come true,” Weidman told Breitbart Sports two years ago about fighting in Madison Square Garden. “I’m working really hard fighting all around the world. [Mixed-martial arts] is legal pretty much everywhere else in the world. That it’s not in my home state is disheartening. Fighting in Madison Square Garden, or in the Nassau Coliseum, would definitely be a dream come true.”
Weidman, ahead on the cards heading into the third round, caught a freak flying knee from Yoel Romero Saturday night that turned his dream into a nightmare from which he awoke after several seconds seemingly asleep.
Though Weidman’s loss disappointed the crowd, wins by locals Frankie Edgar and Jim Miller cheered up the packed house. A back-and-forth Tyron Woodley-Stephen Thompson draw and Joanna Jedrzejczyk decisioning a tough Karolina Kowalkiewicz similarly elevated the event. In the featured bout, Conor McGregor electrified the audience by knocking down Eddie Alvarez five times before intervention from the third man in the cage.
“This is where the UFC belongs,” UFC announcer Mike Goldberg declared. “We are finally here.”