Mixed Martial Arts is a combat sport that has made significant inroads into all major sporting markets in the United States and is increasingly popular in Europe and Latin America. MMA is among the fastest rising sports in the world with the largest promotion, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) generating gross revenues of between 300-400 million dollars. The UFC is televised in 145 countries and 22 languages represented. In addition to the live events and their broadcast on pay-per-view, the UFC has alternated income streams based on merchandising and the proliferation of UFC owned gyms and training centers (22-26% in 2013). 1 As of 2016, every U.S. state except New York has legalized this new sport. New York has held out sanctioning mma events due to safety considerations, pressure from activists who consider the sport barbaric “Human cockfighting” in the words of Senator John McCain who led a congressional investigation into mixed martial arts in 1998, and trouble with the Culinary Union (UFC Owners Frank and Lorenzo Feritta own the non-union Station Casinos in Las Vegas). 2 The UFC commissioned a study to demonstrate the economic impact of the mma ban in New York State in 2014. The study was done by HR&A Advisors and demonstrates the positive impact upon the state economy with a repeal of the current ban on mixed martial arts.
According to the Economic Impact of Mixed Marital Arts in New York, prepared by HR&A Advisors, the State of New York is missing potential revenues of 135 million dollars annually, with the UFC and other mma promotions generating roughly 70 million dollars in live gate sales and merchandise sold at the events. Another 67 million would be generated from the gyms and training centers owned and operated by the UFC to cultivate local talent and act as a recreational hub to promote health and wellness. The training centers would employ roughly 1000 full-time employees and would generate 28 million in annual compensation. The State of New York would receive roughly one million dollars in taxes from the planned training centers alone.
Live mixed martial arts events were projected by this study to generate around 70 million dollars in revenue and create 525 full time jobs. 30 million dollars would be produced by the live gates and approximately 220 thousand would attend the projected events. 4 This study bases its findings on three evens held in Syracuse and Buffalo and two major events held in Madison Square Garden with an estimated attendance of 22 thousand. Other mixed marital arts venues would be utilized by the smaller promotions around the state to add to this figure. Event spending, merchandise and training center fees are the main sources of income generation with taxes from the broadcast of pay-per-view events to be determined by sell rates within the state.
The lifting of the ban on mixed martial arts would be a boon for the State of New York in terms of residual income, taxes, jobs and infrastructure creation. The sport of mixed martial arts is still a relatively new one and the potential for future growth augers well for New York if the state can create an economic climate that encourages its development.