by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
On the heels of UFC president Dana White’s announcement of plans for an event in Massachusetts sometime in November, fighters and UFC officials made their case in front of legislators at a hearing on Thursday in Boston.
Released to the Senate’s Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security was a new economic impact study that detailed the fiscal benefits of conducting an event in The Bay State. The study, commissioned by HR&A Advisors, the firm responsible for a similar study focused on a potential UFC event in New York, was concluded last month.
Two of the state’s major sports hubs, TD Banknorth Garden in Boston and the Worcester DCU Center in Worcester, were profiled. The study claimed UFC events in both arenas would produce a combined economic output of $12.3 million. An event in Boston would generate $9.4 million in local spending, while a Worcester show would spur $2.8 million.
The events would also produce $775,000 in tax revenues to the state of Massachusetts and employ 600 workers, the study furthered.
Present at the hearing were UFC officials Lawrence Epstein, Michael Marsh, and Marc Ratner, who gave voice to the study’s findings. UFC fighter Kenny Florian, a Boston College graduate in Communications, spoke as well, in addition to his manager, Joe Cavallaro, who also promotes the Massachusetts-based World Championship Fighting.
“In the face of steep budget cuts during this challenging economic time, regulating mixed martial arts fighting would make the sport safer for competitors while also bringing millions of dollars to Massachusetts,” Epstein told the Committee. “There is no doubt mixed martial arts are popular in Massachusetts and some of the best professional fighters are from here as well. Regulating mixed martial arts would give fans the sporting event that they want, the state the funding that it needs and allow some of the best fighters in the sport to compete in their hometowns.”
Florian, who got his start fighting in his home state, said a return would be a dream come true.
“For that reason and for the fans here, I will keep working to regulate MMA fighting in Massachusetts,” he said.
Last July, the chair of the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, Senator James E. Timilty, introduced language into a state budget proposal that would regulate MMA. When the legislature met, however, the language failed to make it to the floor given the scope of proposal and time restraints of the session.
In 2005, the Massachusetts Boxing Commission withdrew from formal oversight of MMA events in the state when they concluded current laws gave them no authority to regulate the sport, exposing them to potential legal liability in the event of an accident or serious injury to a fighter.
Matt Moran, Senator Timilty’s Chief of Staff, told MMAWeekly.com that a re-vamped version of the original bill titled, “An Act To Regulate The Sport of Mixed Martial Arts,” could be re-introduced to the committee in the next two weeks.
Moran characterized the committee members as “sympathetic” to the UFC’s proposed date in November.
Cavallaro, who also spoke before legislators, said the testimony lasted less than an hour and was warmly received. He noted that Massachusetts Boxing Commission officials still attended the events and “had the pulse of the sport.”
“I want a standard set of rules,” said Cavallaro. “It’s good for the sport. I thought the meeting went great. It seemed like they understood what they were talking about. They seemed to have a genuine interest.”