Tuesday marked a monumental day for mixed martial arts, specifically the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the industry’s clear-cut leader. The UFC has worked relentlessly over the years to get the controversial sport legalized in New York for the first time since a 1997 ban.
The UFC poured millions into their campaigning efforts, hosted several press conferences in the NYC despite knowing they weren’t going to hold an event there until New York’s State Assembly came around, whatever year (or decade) that might be.
If finally happened yesterday when the New York State Assembly passed the MMA bill on a landslide 113-25 vote.
The UFC celebrated the groundbreaking bill, with UFC VP of PR Dave Sholler leading a champagne toast at their corporate office in Las Vegas.
The irony of it all is that Bellator MMA, the UFC’s biggest rival, will benefit from the UFC’s efforts despite not lifting a single finger in helping get MMA legalized in the world’s largest media market.
Shortly after the vote was tallied, Bellator president Scott Coker posted a video on Bellator’s Twitter account thanking New York’s officials for finally approving to have MMA in New York. Coker said, “we look forward to coming in the fall and putting on a great show for you.”
Bellator even stole the UFC’s “#MMA4NY” hashtag in the tweet.
Bellator then had several of their fighters post the “Bellator Loves NY” poster (pictured above) their media department quickly whipped together.
Strangely, despite the fact the UFC single-handedly lead the charge in forcing MMA into NY, Bellator might beat them to the punch. UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said they plan on making their return to New York in “quarter four” (October, November and December), so if Bellator puts on a show in September, they will have kicked the coattail riding up another notch.
In this small MMA bubble that we live in, everyone knows the difference between the UFC and Bellator. However, the mainstream masses do not know the UFC is essentially synonymous with MMA. With New York opening up the mainstream floodgates (hopefully), Bellator played this perfectly.
It’s as though Bellator decided to party throughout high school instead of studying, knowing they could just copy all the answers off the smartest kid in the class. And now Bellator is about to graduate with honors, too.
New York, here we come. Oh, and the UFC will be coming, as well.