As the campaign to legalize mixed martial arts in New York heated up this year, a company that owns the largest MMA organization made several contributions to state legislators and party committees.
According to the latest campaign finance filings with the state Board of Elections, Zuffa, the parent company of UFC, contributed $34,000 to campaigns and committees in the six-month filing period beginning in mid-January and ending in mid-July.
Zuffa contributed $15,000 to New York State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee — $10,000 to the Senate Democrats' housekeeping committee and $5,000 to the party's other committee. The company also gave $5,000 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee and $5,000 to Jeff Klein's campaign.
Klein is the co-leader of the Senate and the leader of the state Senate's Independent Democratic Conference.
Other committees or elected officials receiving campaign contributions from Zuffa:
- Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle and state Sen. Joe Griffo, the sponsors of the MMA bill, each received $2,500.
- The company gave $2,000 to the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee.
- State Sen. Mike Gianaris received $1,000.
- Zuffa gave $500 each to Assembly members Carl Heastie and Francisco Moya.
Zuffa is also one of the largest contributors to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's campaign. In the 2014 election cycle, the company has donated $105,000 to Cuomo's re-election campaign committee.
While Zuffa was generous with their cash, the state Legislature did not pass legislation that would legalize MMA in New York.
The state Senate passed a bill introduced by Griffo that would legalize and regulate mixed martial arts in New York. The Senate passed the bill in March.
In April, Morelle introduced the legislation in his chamber. The bill had more than 60 cosponsors.
During the 2013 session, especially in the final few months of the legislative calendar, UFC and other MMA supporters increased their efforts to urge passage of the MMA legalization bill. UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta visited Albany and toured upstate New York to rally support for the bill.
Fertitta said, if the state legalized the sport, UFC would hold four events in New York each year for the next three years. He also touted the economic impact the sport would have in New York. According to Fertitta, legalizing MMA would generate $100 million in economic activity in the first two years.
In an April interview, Fertitta said he was confident the Assembly would pass the bill if it was brought to the floor for a vote. But that never happened. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced in June that there wasn't enough support for the bill in his conference to allow a vote on the measure.
The decision not to vote on the MMA legalization bill leaves New York as the only state where MMA is illegal. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy recently signed a bill legalizing the sport in his state.