New York becomes last US state to lift mixed martial arts ban

 Sam Erenberger (left) trains with a partner at a mixed martial arts gym in midtown Manhattan in New York.
Sam Erenberger (left) trains with a partner at a mixed martial arts gym in midtown Manhattan in New York. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Mixed martial arts makes its New York debut at Madison Square Garden on November 12 after the state governor ended a two-decade ban, in a major boost to the rapidly emerging sport.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legalising MMA in America's biggest city, declaring in a press conference at the famed fighting venue Thursday: "It was a long time coming, but it was worth the wait."

MMA has been outlawed in New York State since 1997 but in March, the state assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill legalising it - the last state in the US to do so.

"It means a lot because historically people that were against the sport, the first they would bring up was, 'Well, you're not even legal in New York,'" Lorenzo Fertitta, who runs the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), told AFP. "Obviously, it takes that argument away.

"New York, being the most important city in the world in many ways, particularly with the media, I think it will change perception."

MMA is under renewed scrutiny after Portuguese fighter Joao Carvalho's death in Dublin, but Fertitta warned the knockers to hold fire, saying: "Just judge us after you get a chance to experience the sport.

"It's going to be done the right way, in a safe manner, regulated by the New York Athletic Commission."