Despite their best efforts, the UFC has been unsuccessful in their bid to get mixed martial arts legalized in the state of New York in the past several years. Rather than wait for MMA legislation to stall out again, the UFC has decided to take a much more aggressive approach in 2012.
In short, they’re doing what they do best. They’re fighting it.
The UFC announced today that they’ve filed a lawsuit against the state of New York challenging the constitutionality of the state law that bans MMA, claiming the ban violates the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, the Due Process Clause and other provisions of the United States Constitution. They believe 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.”
UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and Barry Friedman, one of the attorneys involved in the case, commented on the suit in the press release.
“MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. and one of the most popular in the world,” said Lorenzo Fertitta, Chairman and CEO of Zuffa LLC, owner of the UFC. “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.”
“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,” said Barry Friedman, a constitutional law professor at New York University School of Law and co-counsel with Morrison & Foerster LLP for the Plaintiffs. “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. It is ironic that New York — in many ways the home of free expression, the global media, and the art world — would deny someone his or her fundamental freedom of expression. The Ban is contrary to what New York is all about. There is no legal basis for this unconstitutional ban to persist.”
To be clear, the ban will be lifted and MMA will be legalized in New York if the UFC wins the case, according to Friedman.
Our resident NY MMA expert, Jim Genia, will have more on this story later today. In the meantime, a copy of the complaint can be found here.