Loophole in New York MMA Ban Could Lead to Third Party Regulation in the State
Fightline reports that ZUFFA, parent company for the UFC, scored a big win in their legal battle with New York on February 13. The victory could pave the way for the UFC to legally hold events in New York in two weeks regardless of whether or not the ban on professional MMA is lifted by the state legislature.
Attorney John M. Schwartz, who represents the New York Attorney General’s office, acknowledged unequivocally that the law prohibiting professional MMA did not apply to amateur versions of the sport. Per the statute, a pre-approved third-party sanctioning body could oversee MMA events in the state. This admission led to the legal counsel representing ZUFFA to state there would be no further need to pursue the lawsuit against New York if this was the case. Presiding Judge Kimba Wood of the US District Court of the Southern District of New York pushed both sides to immediately settle.
The statue for banning mixed martial arts in New York was enacted in 1997. Since that time, cage fighting and MMA has become a much more organized and regulated sport. MMA has been sanctioned in numerous other states in the country with New York being one of the major holdouts. ZUFFA started a lawsuit against the state of New York citing constitutional violations in November 2011.
The door is now potentially open for the UFC or other MMA promotions to circumvent the ban by utilizing pre-approved sanctioning bodies enumerated in the statute. These include the World Kickboxing Association (WKA), the Professional Karate Association, and the US Judo Association. However, as long as the ban on MMA law is on the books, the New York State Athletic Commission would not have regulatory authority over MMA in the state or any oversight over such events.
Reportedly during the legal proceedings UFC in-house legal counsel Timothy Bellamy stated: “We’ll take it. We’d rather have the state lift the ban and we go that route first, but we’ll know in the next two months if that’s going to happen.”
Following UFC 155, Dana White expressed the intent for UFC to try and hold an event at the Madison Square Garden in New York City in November to commemorate the UFC’s twentieth anniversary. ZUFFA has already reserved the venue for such time. And now it looks like that cautious optimism could very well become a reality.