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      UFC chairman in Syracuse asking New York to legalize mixed martial arts

      Lorenzo Fertitta and Al Stirpe at Wednesday morning's news conference
      Ultimate Fighting Championship chairman Lorenzo Fertitta was joined by UFC fighters Uriah Hall and Ryan LaFlare at a press conference at the Oncenter War Memorial Wednesday morning to push for New York State to legalize professional mixed martial arts events.

      Mixed martial arts has become one of the most popular sports in the world. Millions of people from across the globe watch events on TV and live events have drawn tens of thousands of fans - but not in New York. The New York State Legislature banned professional mixed martial arts events in the mid-1990's. That means Central New York MMA fighters like Mike Mucitelli from Liverpool have to travel to Maine, Vermont and Mississippi to get a match.

      "When I compete I meet people from Brazil, I meet people from Russia, it's a worldwide phenomenon, and to think that New York is left out is really confusing to me," said Mucitelli.

      When New York banned professional mixed martial arts it was largely unregulated - but fighters say modern MMA has strict rules, weight classes and referees. It is a combination of several professional sports - including boxing, karate and kickboxing - that are legal on their own but not allowed to be put together in New York.

      Fertitta said the sport is radically different from when it was banned in New York State in the mid 1990s, and safety precautions and referees now make Ultimate Fighting ??less dangerous?? than football or boxing.

      Right now 48 states and all of the Canadian provinces allow MMA events. The Connecticut House of Representatives passed a bill last week approving bouts in their state.

      Louis Chalas is an amateur right now and trains in Syracuse. He's hoping the state legalizes matches so he can get a shot at a professional match.

      "Once it gets legalized and everything goes through it would make it easier on a lot of amateur fighters who are trying to get into the sport and make a better life for themselves," said Chalas.

      A bill has passed the New York State Senate but not the democratic controlled State Assembly.

      The International Culinary Workers union has targeted the bill and asked lawmakers to keep professional MMA events out of New York. Lawmakers and the UFC's leadership say the union is upset with the owners of the UFC and their non-union Las Vegas hotels.

      Democratic State Assemblyman Al Stirpe said Wednesday that he has not been contacted by the union but had heard about it from another lawmaker. Stirpe said he supports legalizing MMA events in New York he hopes the assembly's leadership will allow a vote

      "I believe if it came to the floor it would pass - there are plenty of people who support it," said Stirpe.

      The UFC has already done research on holding an event in Syracuse. Lorenzo Fertitta said the economic impact of an event at the Carrier Dome could be comparable to an NCAA basketball tournament regional weekend.

      "We also love that the Carrier Dome has the capacity to handle a big event - 30,00 plus. When we were in Toronto we did an event with 57,000 people. We had an economic impact of nearly $50 million just for the city of Toronto," said Fertitta.

      Fertitta acknowledged that an upstate NY MMA event featuring Binghamton native Jon Jones would be ideal. Jones is one of the biggest stars in worldwide MMA and is the brother of former Syracuse football players Chandler and Arthur Jones.

      Fertitta said the sport is radically different from when it was banned in New York State in the mid 1990s, and safety precautions and referees now make Ultimate Fighting ??less dangerous?? than football or boxing.

      Right now 48 states and all of the Canadian provinces allow MMA events. The Connecticut House of Representatives passed a bill last week approving bouts in their state.

      Fellow Democratic Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli responded to the news conference via email, saying "The issue of mixed martial arts has gathered quite a bit of momentum as an accepted sport, in addition to the revenue that it generates. I feel that if the legislation to legalize this activity is brought to the Assembly floor, it has enough support to pass.

      I also believe that due to this increase in interest in this new sport, not only on a professional level, but also on an amateur one, it seems that the time has come for safeguards. Therefore, I could only support the legalization of mixed martial arts if regulations are put in place for the safety of the participants."

      Fertitta says if MMA was legalized in this legislative session (by the end of June) it??s possible there could be professional mixed martial arts events in upstate New York by the end of the year.