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Meet Cory Gardner’s Most Unlikely Top Campaign Contributor

Among Republican Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner’s top campaign contributors is an unlikely name — Ultimate Fighting Championship.

UFC, which stages mixed martial arts cage-fighting matches, is the Republican candidate’s seventh largest contributor, having donated $18,100 to his campaign, according to Open Secrets.

The sports organization is included in a list of more typical contributors like Elliot Management, a hedge fund founded by billionaire Paul Singer; Charles and David Koch’s Koch Industries; and oil and gas company Anadarko Petroleum.

It wasn’t immediately clear what interest UFC has in the outcome of the Colorado Senate campaign, where Gardner holds a slight edge over incumbent Democrat Mark Udall; neither Gardner’s campaign nor UFC representatives responded to emails from The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The UFC has been active in lobbying since 2008, Open Secrets reported, using the catapulting popularity of the sport to push for an end to restrictions on cage matches on a state-by-state basis.

“By moving into federal lobbying efforts, [UFC] are behaving exactly as one would expect a mainstream sport would behave,” a 2010 Open Secrets blog quotes Marie Hardin, associate professor of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State University, as saying.

The site reports that UFC donated to eight Senate and congressional campaigns this election cycle, benefitting both Democratic and Republican candidates, up from one each in 2012 and 2010.

Many of the candidates are in Nevada, where the sport is headquartered.

On its website, UFC calls itself the fastest growing sport in the world.

“UFC produces more than 40 live events annually and is the largest Pay-Per-View event provider in the world,” the site says, “broadcast in over 149 countries and territories, to nearly one billion homes worldwide, in 30 different languages.”

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