NY looks to ultimate fighting to help fight its budget woes

New York Gov. David Paterson is looking to legalize mixed martial arts, also called ultimate fighting, as a way to help balance the state's estimated $7.4 billion deficit for the upcoming budget year.

Don't bet on MMA fighter Kimbo Slice coming to New York to debate any legislators against the idea, although a stare-down from the Mr.T look-alike with state senators in Albany would be worth a pay-per-view event.

It's a popular and violent sport of hand-to-hand combat that Peterson thinks could bring some revenue to his state. I've never been to an MMA event or watched one on TV, but a few years ago during the baseball playoffs I couldn't get a seat at a bar in California because the place was filled for a fight that was to be televised within an hour.

Forty-two states recognize it as a legal sport. New York banned it in 1997 when then-Gov. George E. Pataki called it "barbaric," according to LegislativeGazette.com.

Ultimate Fighting Championship, an organization that promotes the sport, found in a study it did in 2008 that its projected sales at a match in New York City would generate $555,000 in tax revenue for the state, and $320,000 in Buffalo. There would also be $16.1 million in net new economic activity, such as hotel rooms, merchandise sales and other visitor activities.

But opponents say most of the fights would be in Las Vegas, as it is with boxing and casinos, because many of the mixed martial arts companies are based in Las Vegas.

Paterson has said it would add $2.1 million to New York's accounts, which in the overall budget is a drop in the bucket.

Kimbo Slice, for non-fans who don't remember the news, was famous on YouTube before becoming a pro MMA fighter and amassing 7 million viewers in his third pro fight. In his fourth pro fight, on Oct. 4, 2008, Slice lost to a replacement fighter in a major upset of a fight that lasted 14 seconds.

For the sake of future New York state budgets, ultimate fighting fans better hope Slice lasts longer that 14 seconds in his next fight.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area who can be found at www.AaronCrowe.net

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