Tuesday was a historic day for the UFC and mixed martial arts, as the bill to legalize and regulate the sport in the state of New York was finally passed. For the 21 fighters on the current UFC roster with ties to the Empire State, it opens the door for the opportunity to fight at home in front of family and friends. And while some of them already occupy this list of the most notable New Yorkers to compete in the Octagon, for the rest, it’s their chance to possibly make their own local history one day.
Phil Baroni / Long Island (Watch Baroni-Menne on UFC FIGHT PASS)
No list of fighters from New York would be complete without the “NY Bad Ass” himself, Phil Baroni. Entertaining and charismatic in and out of the Octagon, Baroni was a staple of the promotion in the early Zuffa era, competing eight times from 2001 to 2005, engaging in entertaining rivalries with Matt Lindland and Evan Tanner while also producing a highlight reel 18-second knockout of Dave Menne. Baroni would return for UFC bouts in 2009 and 2011, but lost both to Amir Sadollah and Brad Tavares.
Rashad Evans / Niagara Falls (Watch Evans-Griffin on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Winner of The Ultimate Fighter’s second season at heavyweight, Rashad Evans dropped down to the light heavyweight division following his win over Brad Imes and quickly evolved into one of the best light heavyweights of his era. A former 205-pound champion, Evans already holds victories over UFC Hall of Famers Stephan Bonnar, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin, and when his career ends, you can expect to see “Suga” join them in the hall.
Uriah Hall / NYC (Watch Hall-Leben on UFC FIGHT PASS)
A finalist on season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter, Hall – who had already faced Chris Weidman and Costas Philippou on the local circuit before TUF – made his name on the reality show with a knockout for the ages of Adam Cella. In the Octagon, Hall has shown flashes of brilliance, most notably in a knockout of Gegard Mousasi last September, but he has been erratic as well. On May 14, he gets the chance to put it all together against Anderson Silva at UFC 198.
Matt Hamill / Utica (Watch Hamill-Ortiz on UFC FIGHT PASS)
An inspirational figure who was the first deaf fighter to compete in the Octagon, Matt Hamill is more than just the answer to the trivia question of who is the only man to defeat Jon Jones (albeit via disqualification.) Over the course of his UFC career, Hamill fought the best night in and night out, even beating more than a few of them, including Tito Ortiz, Tim Boetsch, Keith Jardine and Mark Munoz.
Al Iaquinta / Long Island (Watch Iaquinta-Pearson on UFC FIGHT PASS)
The upside is high on lightweight up and comer Al Iaquinta, a finalist on TUF 15 who roared back from his loss to Michael Chiesa in 2012 to win seven of his next eight Octagon bouts. Currently sporting a four-fight winning streak that has seen him finish Rodrigo Damm, Ross Pearson and Joe Lauzon, as well as decision Jorge Masvidal, “Raging Al” should be making plenty of noise at 155 pounds when he returns from an injury-induced layoff.
Jon Jones / Endicott (Watch Jones-Rua on UFC FIGHT PASS)
At the moment, Jon Jones may not just be the greatest fighter to hail from New York, but the greatest of all-time. A once in a generation talent, Jones became the youngest champion in UFC history when he defeated Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in 2011, and he went on to successfully defend that title a 205-pound record eight times against a Murderers Row level of competition. Looking to regain the title he never lost in the Octagon when he faces Daniel Cormier on April 23, Jones’ biggest threat to greatness has only been himself, and if he stays on the renewed track he’s on, the sky is the limit.
Neil Magny / Brooklyn (Watch Magny-Kunimoto on UFC FIGHT PASS)
He may call Colorado home now, but Brooklyn-born Neil Magny will always be claimed by those living in the Empire State. One of the hottest fighters in the welterweight division, it’s hard to believe that Magny started his UFC career after The Ultimate Fighter 16 with a 1-2 mark. But from 2014, Magny has won 10 of 11 bouts, most recently putting together a three-fight winning streak that has seen him defeat Erick Silva, Kelvin Gastelum and Hector Lombard.
Ricco Rodriguez / Staten Island (Watch Rodriguez-Couture on UFC FIGHT PASS)
A former UFC heavyweight champion who went 5-2 in the Octagon from 2001 to 2003, Ricco Rodriguez spent his formative years in Staten Island, New York, even though he was always closely tied with the Southern California MMA scene for much of his career. A fighter who was one of the best in the game in his prime, Rodriguez also had a ton of crossover appeal, but he was never able to capitalize on that long enough to have the type of longevity enjoyed by a couple of men he beat in the UFC, Randy Couture and Andrei Arlovski.
Matt Serra / Long Island (Watch Serra-St-Pierre I on UFC FIGHT PASS)
If you open the MMA dictionary and look for “New York Fighters,” it’s likely that Matt Serra’s face will be smiling back at you. The quintessential New Yorker, Serra has gained a legion of fans for his sense of humor and affable nature, but you can’t forget how good he was as a fighter. Even before he shocked the world and knocked out Georges St-Pierre for the UFC welterweight title in 2007, Serra was fighting the best in the game, defeating the likes of Yves Edwards, Jeff Curran and Ivan Menjivar, while nearly pulling off wins over Karo Parisyan and Din Thomas and going the distance in a competitive battle against BJ Penn. Serra was more than the king of the one-liners.
Aljamain Sterling / Long Island (Watch Sterling-Mizugaki on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Unbeaten as a professional, bantamweight contender Aljamain Sterling has championship and star potential, a deadly combination that is likely to keep him in the headlines for years to come. A former college wrestling standout with a vicious submission game, “The Funk Master” has won all four of his UFC bouts thus far, with his last two finishes of Takeya Mizugaki and Johnny Eduardo sending him into the top five at 135 pounds.
Frank Trigg / Rochester (Watch Hughes-Trigg II on UFC FIGHT PASS)
A native of Rochester, Frank Trigg was a world-class wrestler with the kind of personality that made you either want to see him fight or see him lose. That, along with his ability to win on fight night, earned him two bouts with UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes, the second of which saw Trigg come perilously close to taking the title before Hughes roared back and won. That bout earned Trigg and Hughes a spot in the UFC Hall of Fame’s fight wing in 2015.
Chris Weidman / Long Island (Watch Weidman-Silva I on UFC FIGHT PASS)
One of the most vocal advocates to have MMA legal in the state of New York, former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman got his wish this week and quickly called dibs on a spot on the first card to be held at Madison Square Garden. If he can defeat Luke Rockhold in their June rematch and take the belt back to Long Island before then, even better for the “All-American,” whose career already has milestone wins over Anderson Silva (twice), Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort.