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NEW YORK (
MainStreet)--Last week at New York City's Beacon Theatre, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hosted its "World Tour" press conference to drum up publicity around the $500 million annual enterprise and its upcoming fights. But in an incongruous twist, though UFC president Dana White claims the MMA events could provide an economic surge of $23 million to the Empire State's economy each year, New York continues to ban the UFC despite the fact that it's legal in the country's other 49 states.
That's because the Culinary Workers Union, and particularly the Local 226 Las Vegas chapter, takes issue with what it alleges to be the UFC's anti-union policies. The organization, which represents workers in the hotel, food and gaming industries, casts aspersions at brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who run Zuffa, the UFC's parent company, and are also execs at Station Casinos, an un-unionized business headquartered in Las Vegas.
New York has been the anomaly in successfully keeping the UFC at bay, because of the union lobby, enforced by New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, is so strong in the state.
"The most powerful politician in this state is keeping us out of New York," White said. "The union is very strong here in New York, and Shelly Silver is backed by the union."
White argues that denying New York State UFC events is actually depriving its residents and local municipalities of significant financial boons.
"And let's say we go up to Buffalo or Rochester," White said. "When you do a UFC event, people come in from all over the world, other parts of the country, and they stay in hotels, they eat in restaurants, they shop at the malls, they go to the clubs and they buy tickets."
There are also added job opportunities for the production of the events.
Speaker Silver's camp denies any union ulterior motives for its opposition to the UFC.
"The simple fact is members have expressed objections to allowing mixed martial arts in New York, and that is why the bill to legalize it has not passed," Silver's press secretary Michael Whyland told
MainStreet. "The rumors you mention are baseless."
UFC Inside Look: A Rumble in New York