New York MMA: Amateur Events Legal, Pros on the Cusp

by Bryanna Fissori

Legal Analyst

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The day before Valentine’s Day 2013, New York MMA received a little extra love in the form of favorable ruling for amateur mixed martial arts and a breakthrough for pros. The battle for legalization of MMA in the Big Apple has been underway for years through the legislative system, but has been unsuccessful in obtaining the floor vote. With multiple years of not gaining enough support to make it through both the assembly and house before the close of the legislative session, Zuffa, parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) took matters into their own hands. The lawsuit was filed late in 2011 against New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Attorney General for the City of New York Cyrus Vance. Thse are the two men primarily responsible for enforcement of the ban on MMA. The case has since been dropped against Vance, but remains active for Schneiderman.

Following over a year of legal document battles, February 13, 2013 oral arguments heard in front of Judge Kimba Wood. Most of the arguments were a verbal re-cap of the written arguments filed over the last year, but progress was certainly made in regards to the interpretation of the vague law dealing with amateur MMA. It came to understanding that amateur MMA is in fact not governed under the jurisdiction of the New York Athletic Commission or the current ban on the sport since it relates expressly to professional combat sports.

The ambiguity of this legal interpretation has served as the loophole to allow the existence amateur promotions which have seemed to fly under the radar. The fact is that there is no need for them to behave as such, since they are perfectly legal under the letter of the law and will now be openly acknowledged as such.

It came to light that professional combat sports may avoid the ban if sanctioned as a martial art by a third party sanctioning body such as WKA, USA Judo, PKF and the like. Professional Muay Thai has avoided persecution in the state through sanctioning under the WKA. This has also been a known truth, with the questions being the extent of the ban and state jurisdiction. No professional promoter has wanted to run the risk of a lawsuit for hosting an event. Judge Wood pushed for the defendant’s attorney to state for the record that Professional MMA was in fact legal in New York. He avoided the answer, which prompted Judge Wood to order the parties to take two weeks to come up with an answer and arrive at a settlement or else court would re-convene for the long awaited decision which looks extremely favorable at this point.

UFC President Dana White has been confident in the success of the suit since its commencement and has already mentioned plans in the works for a Madison Square Garden event.

Should something go amiss, New York legislators such as Joe Griffo are already discussing the circulation of a bill to legalize the sport. It seems to have become part of the routine for supporters like Griffo, though with passage last year coming closer than ever, proponents seem to be increasingly confident in pushing it though.

Early this year Griffo told Your News Now, “The Senate has passed it several times,” he said. “I’m hopeful now with the new sponsor in the Assembly that we can really see progress there and have this bill before the governor for his signature.”

Hopefully, the waiting is almost over.

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This entry was posted onTuesday, February 26th, 2013 at 2:37 pm and is filed under Headlines. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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