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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.”

Conor is back: UFC says McGregor will fight Oct. 6 in Vegas

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Conor McGregor will return to mixed martial arts on Oct. 6 in Las Vegas with a bout against UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The UFC dramatically announced the matchup Friday to close a news conference promoting the slate of fight cards for the rest of 2018.

McGregor won the featherweight and lightweight championships during his meteoric MMA career, but he hasn’t fought in the UFC since taking the lightweight belt from Eddie Alvarez in November 2016.

McGregor hasn’t competed at all since losing his incredibly lucrative boxing match against Floyd Mayweather in August 2017.

McGregor also has resolved his legal troubles after throwing a hand truck at a bus containing UFC fighters last April. Nurmagomedov was the intended target of his misbehavior after a previous spat between the fighters’ camps.

T.J. Dillashaw Slim Favorite Against Cody Garbrandt on UFC 227 Odds

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The betting lines are tight for the rematch between T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt, even though the outcome was as clear-cut as it could be the first time around.

Dillashaw is a -120 favorite with Garbrandt coming back at -110 on the UFC 227 odds in a bantamweight title matchup that is the co-main event for the night, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The rivals will square off at Staples Center in Los Angeles exactly nine months to the day since their title bout at UFC 217, when betting underdog Dillashaw won by a second-round knockout.

Dillashaw’s many virtues include premier footwork and being hard to hit, and he likely has the edge in grappling over Garbrandt, who will be conceding a 1½-inch disadvantage in reach. Garbrandt is also a top striker with knockout potential, but given that neither man has been in the Octagon since their title encounter, it’s hard to see how he flips the tactical edge that Dillashaw exhibited last November.

It seems eminently possible that the fight could be a rehash, albeit a more a drawn-out one, as Dillashaw’s other four title fights have all gone at least four rounds.

The co-main event of UFC 227 might be more of a matter of “how he wins” than “who wins?” as Demetrious Johnson (-500) takes on Henry Cejudo (+350) in his 12th title defense as flyweight champion. The value on Johnson is to be found in the method-of-victory props, where it is worth noting that four of his last seven victories have come via submission.

Cejudo, thanks to a decent wrestling base, should put up enough resistance to make Johnson work for a few rounds.

Thiago Santos (-375) is a ranked middleweight while Kevin Holland (+285) is a newcomer to the UFC in a matchup that was added to the main card just days ago. The heavy-footed Santos has had issues against technical fighters that work to take away his biggest weapon, but Holland is also a kickboxer first, who is jumping up a notch in competition.

Santos is coming off of a loss but his last four victories were all by technical knockout.

Renato Moicano (-375) would seem to be on more of an upswing than Cub Swanson (+285) entering their UFC 227 featherweight matchup, having gone 3-1 in his last four fights (all wins by decision) while Swanson has lost two in a row. However, Swanson is a high-volume striker who has a puncher’s chance for the betting-line upset, provided he can keep the fight standing and prevent Moicano from getting the fight on the ground and utilizing his Brazilian jiu-jitsu skillset.

And Polyana Viana (-225) is heavily favored against J.J. Aldrich (+175) in a matchup between two promising women’s strawweights. Viana has finished nine of her 11 pro fights in the first round, but is facing a step up in competition. Aldrich, whose last four fights have all gone the distance, is very capable of taking a victory by decision.

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 listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com