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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.”

Mayweather stops Nasukawa in 1st round, flooring him 3 times

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SAITAMA, Japan (AP) It took less than three minutes for Floyd Mayweather to knock down his Japanese kickboxer opponent Tenshin Nasukawa three times in a totally one-sided bout of exhibition boxing on New Year’s Eve.

Nasukawa’s father threw in the towel after 140 seconds of the first round on Monday as his 20-year-old son bravely teetered around the ring trying to get up.

It was a quick and definitive victory for the 41-year-old American. Mayweather was gracious in victory, hugging the weeping Nasukawa and calling him “still a great champion.” Nasukawa, however, barely landed a clean punch against the vastly more experienced Mayweather.

The rules for the three-round contest – organized by The Rizin Fighting Federation and held at Saitama Super Arena on the northern outskirts of Tokyo – were no kicking allowed and no official record of the match.

Mayweather said: “Tenshin is still undefeated. I’m still undefeated.”

Mayweather has won all 50 of his pro fights, while Nasukawa has an undefeated record in kickboxing and mixed martial arts.

“It’s all about having fun,” Mayweather told reporters after the fight, praising Nasukawa as a “young hungry lion.”

The Mayweather-Nasukawa bout culminated an evening of more than a dozen fights, streamed by FITE for a fee, but not in the U.S. Fuji TV was the broadcaster in Japan.

Mayweather, who hadn’t fought since beating UFC star Conor McGregor more than a year ago, said he was retired and came to Tokyo to give an opportunity to a younger fighter like Nasukawa.

“I told Tenshin to `hold your head up high,”‘ Mayweather said.

Nasukawa said after the bout that he was grateful for the experience and that he had learned a lot.

Fans – and possibly Nasukawa himself – appeared taken back that Mayweather showed little mercy in the exhibition.

“He is first class,” Nasukawa said.

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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.