By Andrew Wroblewski
The New York State Assembly voted last week to legalize professional mixed martial arts events after a 19-year ban of the sport, effectively bringing the octagon to New York. How about Huntington?
Adam Ellis, The Paramount’s director of marketing, said in an emailed statement that venue officials believe it is “a great fit for the MMA octagon,” which could capitalize on the “success of our live boxing series ‘Rockin’ Fights’ – where hometown great Chris Algieri rose to fame.”
He added, “We are aware that Long Islanders are interested in seeing the sport of MMA live and we are looking into the potential of our ability to add this type of show to our event calendar.”
Chris Weidman, 31, of Baldwin, a former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight champion, said in an emailed statement that he “can't wait to perform at my best in my home state, where my biggest fans and supporters live.”
Weidman added, “A venue like the Paramount would be a great place for the UFC and other promotions to hold events. It’s only miles from where I grew up and has had some historically significant sporting events take place there. I would love to fight there some day.”
A.J. Carter, Town of Huntington spokesman, said Friday that town code does not prevent The Paramount from hosting professional MMA events, which are presented by promotion companies like Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Bellator MMA.
On March 22, the state Assembly voted 113-25 in favor of legalizing MMA, which was banned in New York under Governor George Pataki in 1997 due to concerns with the violent nature of the sport. New York is currently the only state in the country to prohibit professional MMA fighting, state officials said.
Part of the legislation includes recruitment of the New York State Athletic Commission to regulate events and ensure proper safety measures are in place.
The state Assembly’s legislation, which passed through multiple committees before the vote, is awaiting a signature from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who earlier this year included revenue from the sport in his 2016-2017 proposed state budget. If Cuomo approves the legislation it will go into effect in 120 days.
Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-South Huntington) said in an interview Friday that he cited The Paramount in his remarks to the Assembly when the bill was on the floor.
He said “the more local venues like The Paramount in Huntington, which I represent, or the bigger ones like the Barclays Center will see an economic boom from this.”
The expected economic boom, he said, is linked to the amount of people expect to travel to professional MMA events across the state.
“Usually people will make a weekend out of it, or at least make a day out of it. So, not only will it benefit the arena, but also the surrounding restaurants, bars and hotels, too. I think it’s a win for the tourism industry,” Lupinacci said.
State figures show that MMA stands to generate nearly $70 million in annual spending, and will create 525 permanent jobs across the state.
Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) similarly applauded the expected lift of the ban, stating that “Legalizing MMA will not only allow for its athletes to be properly protected, but will open the doors to hosting events in this great state and reaping the economic benefits and jobs that come with it.”