New Jersey is in many ways the home of MMA. Connor Orr of the Star Ledger explains how it helped the sport get its start.
New Jersey was the first commission to fully regulate and legalize the sport. The state started monitoring shows in 1997, with their humble beginnings in Elizabeth for “Bama Fight Nights.” It was in New Jersey where the first MMA fight allowed under regulation was held in February 2000 (Thunder at the Tropicana in Atlantic City) as well as the first full MMA card in September 2000 (International Fighting Championships, or IFC).
It seems natural that MMA is coming back to the Garden State for the upcoming Strikeforce event at the Izod Center, and the UFC event at the Prudential on March 19th. The state gave MMA its start, and in return, it is reaping some of the benefits of it's events.
But there is another reason that New Jersey is the state that can benefit from these events. Their neighbor, New York, has banned MMA events from taking place in their arenas, and therefore is allowing New Jersey to step in and be the Northeast hub of mixed martial arts.
But according to a UFC study, mixed martial arts is a sport that promises to generate $16 million from two New York events per year; $6.7 million in ticket sales and $5.3 million in direct event spending alone. And for now, the monetary potential still rests in the hands of New Jersey arenas like the Prudential and Izod centers, with the next month serving as no exception.
The state of New York stands to gain a significant amount of capital if it chooses to open its doors to the MMA and UFC. But if the state continues to uphold its ban, it misses out on all of those opportunities. And other states, like New Jersey, benefit. Which is just fine by them.
“We really are reaping the benefits of New York not sanctioning and making that legal,” said Aaron Davis, the commissioner of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. “Which we don’t mind here.”
MMA is still actively trying to work its way into the Empire State. If for nothing else than to bring the sport to a new audience that hasn't had an opportunity to experience it first hand. But until that day comes, native New Yorkers will have to head across the bridge if they want to get their ultimate fighting fix.