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Jon Jones, Chael Sonnen

The referee stops the fight as Jon Jones defeats Chael Sonnen in their UFC 159 Mixed Martial Arts light heavyweight title bout in Newark, N.J., Saturday, April 27,2013. Jones retained his title via first round TKO. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

The campaign to legalize and regulate mixed martial arts in New York is getting some key backing from New York City tourism leaders.

NYC & Company, the leading tourism organization in New York City, sent a letter to state legislative leaders asking them to support legislation that would legalize MMA in New York.

NYC & Company chief operating officer Bryan Grimaldi wrote that mixed martial arts will not only help boost tourism in the Big Apple, but it would also benefit the tourism industry throughout New York.

"From a New York City tourism perspective, legalization (of MMA) would allow NYC & Company to continue its work expanding the city's portfolio of sporting attractions, which already includes Wrestlemania 29, the 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star Game and Super Bowl XLVIII," Grimaldi wrote. "With the newly renovated Madison Square Garden and the recently opened Barclays Center, New York City should prove to be a very attractive destination for MMA organizations — particularly when you consider our world-renowned dining and shopping options, wide-range of hotel accommodations, and the accessibility of public transportation."

Grimaldi called for passage of A6506/S2755, which would legalize and regulate MMA in New York. The New York State Senate already passed the bill by a vote of 47-15 in March. The Assembly bill was introduced by Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, a Rochester-area Democrat, in April. 

UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta has said the sport will generate more than $100 million in economic activity in the first two years it is legalized in New York. He repeated that estimate Tuesday.

"We thank NYC & Company and other tourism advocates who recognize what our organization and the myriad other MMA promoters can bring to New York — upstate and downstate — in economic activity," Fertitta said in a statement. "Thousands of MMA fans would travel to the Empire State annually — staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, shopping at local stores — bringing jobs, state and local government revenue, and more than $100 million in economic activity to New York."

Fertitta, other UFC executives and UFC fighters Uriah Hall and Ryan LaFlare visited three upstate cities — Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse — to call on the Assembly to pass the MMA legalization bill. Fertitta has previously said that if MMA is legalized in New York this year, UFC will hold four events each year for the next three years. Most of the events would be held in upstate cities, he said.

"Two years ago, one weekend in Toronto for a UFC event generated more than 55,000 tickets sold and more than $40 million in economic activity," Fertitta said. "We would love to bring that kind of economic activity to New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Albany and other communities across New York. It's time to make New York the 49th state to legalize MMA."

Grimaldi's letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate co-leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein is posted below.

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