MMA in New York has been little more than a pipe dream for close to two decades, ever since the state ran UFC 12 out of town back in 1997, the state hasn’t hosted a pro MMA event. Recent changes in the state government, namely the criminal investigation and arrest of house speaker Sheldon Silver (one of the main blockers of attempts to legalize MMA in NY), could make 2015 the year that a bill attempting to lift the state’s MMA ban finally reaches the House for a vote and gets passed.
If that does indeed happen, the UFC may have some very big PPV plans in the works. Namely, the return of Brock Lesnar, who was on hand for UFC 184, in a highly publicized meet up with Dana White. Dave Meltzer reports on the potential return of Lesnar to the UFC in a recent edition of the Wrestling Observer:
Lesnar had made arrangements with Dana White at least a couple of days earlier to appear at the show. It wasn’t a last minute thing, although everyone kept it secret. UFC itself pushed him being there.
Those in UFC had expected for some time that Lesnar would be returning, beginning with a fight with Frank Mir. Mir had brought up the night before Lesnar’s issue with McMahon, about potentially fighting Lesnar, noting that if he didn’t win his 2/22 fight over Antonio Silva, he wouldn’t get what he acknowledged would be his highest profile match possible.
The situation remained unresolved as of press time. Lesnar was not in Newark, NJ, for Raw on 3/2, but he was not scheduled for the date. He was scheduled to be on the 3/9 Raw in Pittsburgh and is expected to be on that show. The feeling is that he’s got a contract and missing a second date, particularly during the Mania build, would fracture the relationship badly. One person noted that Lesnar missing any of his four last dates would pretty well force a termination after Mania, although WWE does forgive if someone’s star power is big enough. Even if Lesnar has decided he’s leaving, and if the new contract is anything like the last two, that would on the outside feel like a mistake, it’s still preferable to be negotiating between three big companies (UFC, Viacom and WWE) as two. Although most feel that even though he could make money and beat lesser heavyweights in Bellator, that they are not in the running, because Lesnar only wants to be with the top organization. The idea is if he’s going to compete in a sport, he’s competing to be the best, and he can’t be that in Bellator.
As to just how that relates to the potential legalization of MMA in New York:
The bill to legalize professional MMA (yes, the silly laws of New York allow MMA, as long as the fighters DON’T get paid) passed through the New York State senate tourism committee. The bill has passed in the senate the past several years, but always stalls in the assembly. With Sheldon Silver out of power, there is the hope that they can get it passed this year and run Madison Square Garden in the fall. An idea that would make sense, if Lesnar actually signs, would be to put Lesnar vs. Mir as part of a double main event for the MSG debut show. With Jon Jones and Chris Weidman both from New York, one or the other would be the likely first main eventer if both are still champions if/when they are allowed to run there.
Right now, obviously, everything is still in the idea stage. However, there’s no doubt that during his brief time in the UFC, Brock Lesnar was one of the sports brightest stars and biggest draws. The potential that the UFC could both open one of the highest profile markets in the country and re-sign one of their most marketable talents makes for an interesting possibility of a massive PPV offering in late 2015.
About the author