Yo New York! Could it finally be? It just might be.
The UFC made mixed martial arts’ first stride in the legalization of the sport in New York State.
These efforts include the scheduling of the organization’s first, professional MMA event in New York since the sport’s ban in 1997. This event will take place at Madison Square Garden on April 23, 2016 and will feature the UFC’s top champions competing with other world-class athletes inside the Octagon®. UFC is also taking additional steps through the federal courts to ensure the event’s success.
“We believe fight fans have waited long enough to experience live UFC events in the state of New York and we are thrilled to announce our first event at Madison Square Garden,” UFC Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein said. “Professional MMA is legal around of the world and it is about time New York followed suit.”
In August, UFC filed an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit – the federal appellate court with jurisdiction over New York – stating that New York’s prohibition of regulated professional MMA events violates the First Amendment rights of athletes and fans throughout the state.
On September 28, UFC filed a new case in federal court, reiterating its claim that the New York law banning MMA events is unconstitutional. This out-of-date law is too unclear for the public to understand and has allowed regulators in New York to pick and choose arbitrarily what events they will permit. Events featuring every combat sport except MMA seem to be allowed in New York, though this is not explicitly stated in the law. The statute, and the state’s pattern of enforcing it, violates the Constitution’s prohibition on unconstitutionally vague laws.
Later this week, UFC will ask a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction against New York state officials enforcing its unconstitutional law. Without such an injunction, the event at Madison Square Garden will not be able to proceed.
In a Las Vegas Review-Journal article from 2013, UFC President Dana White threw some verbal jabs at Culinary Local 226, blaming the 60,000-member union for using its political muscle to stop the legalization of UFC and mixed martial arts fights in New York state.
“They’re dirty, dirty, dirty,” White said in the Las Vegas City Hall lobby after an announcement ceremony held by the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame. White was among the 2013 inductees.
“You got these guys who are negative and dirty,” he said. “They’re using their influence in New York to stop the fights from being sanctioned. They’re stopping New York State from making money.”
Yvanna Cancela, the union’s political director, declined to comment directly on White’s remarks. She sent a union media release, dated March 14th 2013 that described women’s advocates worldwide demanding UFC adopt a zero tolerance policy for rape jokes, misogyny and sexism in a petition signed by people and women’s groups in 47 states and 24 countries.
UFC “fights are broadcast in over 149 countries and territories to nearly a billion homes,” the release said. “UFC fighters have joked about rape, and fighters and UFC representatives have used foul and abusive language that is particularly demeaning to women.”
The union also pointed out Zuffa has made political contributions to New York lawmakers in hopes of legalizing UFC events, citing the Albany Times Union.
The union has been battling UFC primary owners Lorenzo Fertitta and brother Frank Fertitta III, who both own Station Casinos, nonunion properties. Dana White is the face of the UFC and the minority owner at 10%.