Lawsuit questions constitutionality of ban
Taking a new course of action in the state that has been the staunchest opponent of mixed martial arts, the UFC has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban of the sport in New York.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Tuesday announced it has filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that will look to reverse “the constitutionality of the state law banning live professional MMA events and associated activities.” The legal action says the current ban in New York is in violation of Constitutional rights “including the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause.”
New York has banned the sport since 1997, and over the last several years, the UFC has been relentless in its efforts to see regulation through the New York State Assembly. For three straight years, a bill seeking to regulate the sport has failed to get far enough to make legalization a realistic possibility. UFC president Dana White, CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner and dozens of fighters have campaigned in New York to have the ban lifted. The UFC regularly holds events just a short drive away from New York City in Newark, N.J., including UFC 128 in March.
Joining the UFC in the lawsuit, according to a release, is a plaintiffs group consisting of fighters, fans, trainers and other MMA proponents. According to the release, “the lawsuit alleges the 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.”
“MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. and one of the most popular in the world,” Fertitta said in the release. “When we acquired the UFC, we went to great lengths to invite regulation and adopt substantial safety measures. MMA is now as safe as or even safer than many other sports and activities sanctioned in New York like boxing, for example, because it allows fighters to honorably tap out and involves far fewer hits. All the disciplines that go into mixed martial arts are performed live in New York; it is only their combination that is illegal. Denying fighters the chance to exhibit their training and skills before a live audience and denying thousands of New Yorkers the ability to watch their favorite fighters perform live is not only an injustice to them, but to the local markets that would reap tremendous economic benefits from hosting competitions. We believe the ban should be eliminated, and look forward to fighting live in New York.”
The UFC has long said that once MMA is legalized and regulate in New York, it will bring live events not just to New York City – and the arena that has been a mecca for boxing events, Madison Square Garden – but to cities like Rochester, Albany and Syracuse.
Fighters named as plaintiffs in the suit include UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, a New York native; UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, from nearby New Jersey; Gina Carano; retired UFC fighter Matt Hamill, a New York resident; and former Marine Brian Stann.
“Performing MMA live in front of a crowd is an unrivaled experience and allows me to speak to my fans,” Stann said in the release. “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.”