UFC Suing New York State to Overturn MMA Ban
By FCF Staff
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has announced today that the promotion, alongside several trainers, fighters and fans, has launched a lawsuit against New York State officials “challenging the constitutionality” of the state’s ban on professional MMA.
According to a press release from the UFC and Zuffa LLC, the parent company of the promotion, the lawsuit alleges that the state’s ban “infringes upon the rights of the fighters who want to publicly exhibit their skills as professionals and express themselves before a live audience, the rights of fans who would like to experience live professional MMA events, and the rights of those who train, publicize or otherwise advance MMA in New York.”
The suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, comes after legislators failed to regulate MMA in the state for a third consecutive year. Barry Friedman, a constitutional law professor at New York University School of Law and co-counsel with Morrison & Foerster LLP for the plaintiffs, was quoted saying in today’s press release:
“It is unfortunate that we were forced to take the step of filing a lawsuit to overturn this senseless law, but the ban on live professional MMA infringes on the rights of countless New Yorkers. Despite sincere legislative efforts, the ban remains in place based on a flawed assessment of the sport’s supposedly ’violent message.’ This rationale is a patent violation of the First Amendment. In live events, fighters showcase their talents, communicate their convictions, show respect for their opponents and the art and tradition of MMA, and convey the importance of discipline, training and hard work. They also entertain their fans. Not only does the law prohibit live events, but as it is written it purports to ban other speech including media broadcasts and coverage of professional MMA….There is no legal basis for this unconstitutional ban to persist.”
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, some of the UFC fighters who are plaintiffs in the suit include Jon Jones, Gina Carano, Frankie Edgar, and Matt Hamill, who are claiming that the state’s ban is adversely affecting their careers and lives.
Today’s press release outlined several specific reasons as to why the plaintiffs believe New York’s ban on the sport is unconstitutional.
• The Ban was originally imposed in 1997, at a time when MMA was unregulated and prohibited in many other states. Today, MMA is a highly-regulated, broadly popular sport, which experts and supporting safety data verify is as safe as or safer than many sports and activities that are legal in New York, including boxing, football and rodeo.
• MMA is widely available on television in New York, and many New Yorkers lawfully train and spar in MMA.
• Live professional MMA can take place in virtually every state except New York.
• The individual martial arts that comprise MMA, including kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, judo, boxing and wrestling, are legal and performed live regularly in New York – it is only their combination, performed live by professionals, that is banned in New York.
UFC middleweight Brian Stann, another of the law suit’s reported plaintiffs, was also quoted saying in today’s release:
“Performing MMA live in front of a crowd is an unrivaled experience and allows me to speak to my fans. I was attracted to MMA during my time in the Marine Corps, after I returned from my first deployment to Iraq in 2005 and was looking for a path that allowed me to stay motivated, and inspire others, particularly fellow veterans. MMA is a brotherhood that demands respect for your fellow fighters and rewards mental discipline and skill. It has given countless veterans a way to rehabilitate and connect with other military veterans and I am grateful every day for the ability to compete and inspire my fans.”