On Tuesday, the Ultimate Fighting Championship and a group of plaintiffs including fighters, fans, trainers and others involved with mixed martial arts filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against New York State officials challenging the constitutionality of the state law banning live professional MMA events and associated activities (the “Ban”).
“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, said Lorenzo Fertitta (Pictured), Chairman and CEO of Zuffa LLC, owner of the UFC. “We believe the ban should be eliminated, and look forward to fighting live in New York.”
The suit challenges the Ban for violating numerous provisions of the United States Constitution, including the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause. The lawsuit specifically claims 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.
Plaintiffs point to the following as evidence of the irrational, unconstitutional nature of the Ban:
• 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.
This past June, the bill to sanction MMA in the world’s largest media market was left off the New York Assembly’s agenda. It marked the third straight year the bill has been denied, despite the fact New York’s State Senate voted a resounding 42-18 to pass Bill S.1707-A the month prior, crushing the 32-26 passing score it received in 2010.