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New York removes ban on pro MMA fights

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) The light heavyweight Liam McGeary, an English expatriate who lives in Brooklyn and fights for Bellator, isn’t the only mixed martial arts champion most New Yorkers have never heard of. But they may soon.

The more famous MMA promotion Ultimate Fighting Championship lobbied hard for years to convince state politicians to legalize it, bringing marquee fighters like Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey to Albany’s Capitol. Meanwhile, Rousey became a model and action film star with an entourage. Jones, a native of upstate New York, is widely regarded as the best fighter, pound for pound, on the planet.

Although UFC opened New York’s cage door, McGeary, Bellator and others plan to storm into the lucrative new market now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law Thursday legalizing professional MMA in the last state where it was banned.

“There’s a lot of fight fans over here who don’t get to experience the fight shows we do over on the West Coast,” said McGeary, who has fought in California and other states. He predicted many local fans, as well as others from England, will turn out to New York venues. “I believe there will be packed houses.”

Bellator’s principal owner is New York-based Viacom, whose Spike TV broadcasts the fights to 150 countries. Promotion President Scott Coker said they put on 16 cards last year, plan to do 29 this year and are averaging 1.2 million viewers per show. “We’re building our roster every month. We’re going after some of the big free agents. We’re building some fighters from the ground up,” he said.

Among venues they’re talking to is Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, Coker said. “It’d be a great place to hold our inaugural event there in New York.”

The UFC, the sport’s largest promotion, which broadcasts shows on Fox television and major events on pay-per-view, announced plans Thursday to hold its first New York show Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden.

Cuomo signed the law there Thursday, saying it will boost New York’s economy. He was ringed by UFC fighters Rousey and ex-champion Chris Weidman, a Long Island resident. Weidman has a June middleweight title rematch with Californian Luke Rockhold set for Los Angeles.

“Madison Square Garden is the international icon for great sports events,” Cuomo said. “The economics that go along with the sport are undeniable.”

UFC President Lorenzo Fertitta said they’ll hold an upstate event this year and later others throughout New York.

Bellator is also considering the Garden and other New York venues, including Indian reservation casinos and Buffalo, Coker said. McGeary, coming off an injury, may fight again in July or August, but the state may not be ready by then.

The law doesn’t take effect until September, giving the New York State Athletic Commission time to add two members, adopt regulations, train staff and begin licensing promoters, trainers and fighters. The sport’s violence drew opposition from some lawmakers and proposals from others to better protect fighters in the combination of kickboxing, wrestling and judo often done inside a cage or other enclosure with small gloves and a referee.

Added provisions raise the insurance required to $50,000 for fighter injuries, a $50,000 death benefit and to $1 million for life-threatening brain injuries. It authorizes the state to study potential funding mechanisms for long-term care of fighters who develop degenerative brain conditions. It’s also designed to bring the amateur sport, which has grown unregulated across the state, under state-authorized supervision.

Duff Holmes makes his living as a personal trainer for a roster of about 20 fighters evenings and weekends at his gym in suburban Utica. Former UFC contender Matt Hamill trained with him.

“The last few years in New York, the highest level amateurs were basically pros,” Holmes said. Several of his guys had 15 or 20 amateur fights, while in other states most have only four or five before turning professional. For the New Yorkers, travel would have cost anything they made. The ability to sell hometown tickets could change that math, though the insurance requirements may keep smaller promoters out of the market, he said.

However, Holmes has at least two fighters, featherweight Eric Mendiola and lightweight Pete San Antonio, who’ve each fought professionally twice for smaller promotions following long amateur careers. “They’re at the level that’s going to be noted,” he said.

There are a dozen or more amateur promotions in New York, including some that sell tickets to mismatches with barely trained fighters, Holmes said. “That’s one good thing that’s going to come out of this. They’re going to go bye-bye.”

Melee at UFC 229 after Nurmagomedov chokes out McGregor

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LAS VEGAS — Conor McGregor tapped out in the fourth round of his comeback fight at UFC 229 against Khabib Nurmagomedov, who then climbed over the cage and set off a brawl by scuffling with another fighter in McGregor’s corner on Saturday night.

The wild scene occurred after McGregor (21-4) got caught in a choke by Nurmagomedov (27-0), who defended his lightweight belt with an impressive victory over the Irish star who infamously attacked a bus carrying Nurmagomedov in Brooklyn last April.

The men in McGregor’s corner appeared to respond with taunts, and Nurmagomedov climbed over the fence and fought with Dillon Danis, a Bellator welterweight who trains with McGregor. Meanwhile, two men entered the cage and sucker-punched McGregor, who defended himself before security personnel separated everyone.

Nurmagomedov and McGregor both left the ring before the championship belt could be put around Nurmagomedov’s waist.

Before the post-fight madness, Nurmagomedov firmly asserted his grappling dominance over McGregor’s striking skill in the Irish superstar’s first MMA bout in 23 months. McGregor hadn’t been in a fight since losing his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather last year, and Nurmagomedov proved an insurmountably tough opponent for his comeback.

Nurmagomedov and McGregor made no secret of their mutual loathing in the past few months, and the UFC used footage of McGregor’s attack on the bus to promote UFC 229, which could be the best-selling pay-per-view card in UFC history.

Four security guards separated the fighters while they didn’t touch gloves before the bout, and Nurmagomedov went for a takedown in the opening minute while dominating the opening round.

Nurmagomedov staggered McGregor with a right hand early in the second round, but McGregor got up and landed a flying knee. Nurmagomedov made another takedown and steadily improved his position throughout a dominant round, eventually standing and raining down blows on the prone McGregor.

Nurmagomedov decided to stand and strike with McGregor in the third round, apparently unafraid of McGregor’s famed power. McGregor landed several significant shots, but Nurmagomedov took them and eventually reasserted control against the cage.

McGregor did decent work in the fourth round before Nurmagomedov got control, climbed on McGregor’s back and finally submitted the former two-division champion.

UFC 229 Khabib vs McGregor odds update: Betting lines, props for Saturday

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Just as a longer fight likely works in favor of Khabib Nurmagomedov against Conor McGregor in what is being called the biggest bout in UFC’s history, bettors might also need to wait out the pre-fight odds.

With his UFC lightweight championship on the line, the undefeated Nurmagomedov is a -160 favorite on the Khabib-McGregor odds with the Irishman coming back at +130 in the main event on the card for UFC 229 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The quintessential showdown between grappler and striker — likely no need to guess who is who — might see a reprise of a pattern with the odds for McGregor fights. The line moved toward parity late before The Notorious One’s boxing match against Floyd Mayweather in August 2017, suggesting the former two-division’s champion has a fanbase who hew to the Han Solo maxim of “never tell me the odds.”

This time around, Nurmagomedov opened at -200, so those convinced he can handle McGregor, who last got in the Octagon 23 months ago, might wish to wait until closer to fight time.

For Nurmagomedov, eight of his 10 career UFC bouts have gone at least three rounds, winning six by unanimous decision, which is offered at +400 in method-of-victory UFC 229 props. Nurmagomedov is a superior wrestler who puts endless pressure on opponents, and it’s realistic to think that if he can protect his chin from McGregor, then he could end the fight relatively early through submission (+290) or KO/TKO/DQ (+280).

There are also +1400 odds on the fight ending in Round 5, with +235 on it going the distance.

Nineteen of McGregor’s 21 career wins in mixed martial arts have ended in either the first or second rounds. It’s probably no secret that McGregor will need an early strike to establish himself, and his footwork might help him play some rope-a-dope against the takedown attempts of Nurmagomedov in the early round.

There are +333 odds at UFC betting sites on a KO/TKO/DQ win by either fighter in Round 1, with the price jumping to +475 in Round 2, which seems like a way that both McGregor fans and skeptics can back up their sentiments. The over/under on the fight’s duration is 2.5 rounds, with the under at -140 and the over at even money.

One prop where laying chalk on McGregor seems to make the most sense is -175 to have a longer walkout. Nurmagomedov is priced at +125.

In a lightweight lead-in bout on the main card, Tony Ferguson (-350) is favored against Anthony Pettis (+265) on the UFC 229 odds in a matchup between two submission stylists. A knee injury has contributed to this being Ferguson’s first bout in more than a year, so there’s a strong possibility of the fight going to a decision.

Rising light heavyweight Dominick Reyes (-225) faces a stiff test against Ovince Saint Preux (+175), who has never quite been able to hang with the division’s elite. The scenario seems tailor-made for Reyes, who has ended of his nine career bouts in Round 1, to have another short night.

Alexander Volkov (-190) has been moving deeper into minus money ahead of facing Derrick Lewis (+155), whose sometimes-wonky back condition may give bettors pause. Volkov rates having the edge in both the volume of his striking and his striking defense.

And Felice Herrig (-130) might be a vulnerable favorite against Michelle Waterson (+100) in a women’s strawweight bout. Herrig has a diverse skill set but also absorbs significant strikes at a frighteningly high rate, while Waterston is proficient with both landing significant strikes and converting takedown attempts. Herrig’s fights tend to go to a decision, which could repeat itself here.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.