Dear New York State Assembly:
My name is Chris Weidman. I was born, raised and still live in the great state of New York. I’m a professional mixed martial artist and the current UFC middleweight champion, and I’m writing in regards to the bill proposing the legalization of MMA in New York.
As you know, New York is the only state in which professional MMA is still illegal. The other 49 states have adopted standardized rules to regulate the sport, from weight classes to health and safety standards. With the rise of the UFC, MMA has become one of the fastest-growing sports in America, and I — a native New Yorker — am proud to be a part of that growth.
For me to be able fight in my home state of New York would be a dream come true.
Earlier this year, I was sitting courtside at a Knicks preseason game. It wasn’t my first time at Madison Square Garden — far from it — but things looked just a little different from down on the floor. I looked up to where the seats sort of disappear into the shadows and found the places where my Uncle Jimmy and I used to sit when we came to Rangers games back when I was a kid. I looked out onto the court and I could still picture the old Rangers skating up and down the ice. I could even picture the circus I went to as a boy.
It’s still the same old Garden. So much history. Such a special place. Iconic New York.
I grew up taking the Long Island Railroad from Baldwin, New York into Penn Station and walking upstairs to Madison Square Garden. Those are some of my favorite memories. Today, I look around the Garden and think, This is where Rocky Marciano fought Joe Louis. Where Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier. This used to be the epicenter of fighting… But I’m not allowed to fight here.
I remember my first few fights before I got into the UFC. I had a match at The Tropicana in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which is the closest to home I’ve ever fought. That was basically my home venue. I had a lot of people make the three-hour drive to come support me and watch me fight. When you’re so physically and emotionally invested in something — like you have to be in MMA — there’s nothing like having your friends and family there to support you on fight night.
Then, I got into the UFC, and I haven’t fought on the east coast since.
I’ve fought all over the place, from Chicago to Canada to California. Once I started fighting for the middleweight title, it was on the bigger stage of Las Vegas.
But there’s no place like home.
I’ve been blessed enough to live some of my dreams. I’m the defending UFC middleweight champion. I’m married to the love of my life and we have two beautiful children and a third on the way. I have family, friends and an entire community right here in New York supporting me in everything I do.
But ever since I got started in mixed martial arts, I’ve dreamed about walking into the Octagon at Madison Square Garden. After fighting so many fights across the country, I can’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like to finally come home — to have my Uncle Jimmy and the rest of my family, friends and supporters in the seats watching me, and to have my dad in my corner with me when I fight.
I get the chills just thinking about it.
I’d like to live that dream this winter. I’d like the first-ever professional MMA fight in the state of New York to feature one of its own, and I’d like it to happen in the most famous venue on earth, Madison Square Garden.
I believe we have some of the best jiu-jitsu in the country right here in New York with academies run by guys like Matt Serra, Renzo Gracie and many more. We also have some of the best wrestling, which is a feeder system for MMA. That’s where I got my start. MMA is already something New York does better than anywhere else. Now, it’s time to showcase that to the world and add it to the long list of things New Yorkers can be proud to call their own.
It’s been a long battle for the UFC to break into New York, and it’s time for that battle to come to an end. The New York State Senate has voted overwhelmingly for six straight years to pass this bill, but the bill has never gotten past the Assembly and to the floor for a vote.
With less than 48 hours in the current session to vote on this bill, I urge the speaker of the assembly, The Honorable Carl E. Heastie, to allow this bill to come to the floor for a full vote.
I appreciate your time and hope that you’ll consider my request to put this bill to a full vote so that I can finally see two of my greatest loves come together: MMA and the state of New York.
Thank you for your consideration.