After years of being barred from holding events in New York state, UFC is finally fighting back.
MMA's top promotion filed a federal lawsuit Monday looking to overturn the longstanding ban on the sport, saying the law "is so badly written that neither ordinary persons nor state officials are able to say with any certainty what it permits and what it prohibits," per Stephen Rex Brown of the New York Daily News.
Mixed martial arts events have been banned in New York state since 1996. New York is the only state with a formal ban on MMA, which has led to a groundswell of criticism as the sport's grown in popularity.
UFC also announced it scheduled an event at Madison Square Garden in New York on April 23, via Brett Okamoto of ESPN.com, but noted "it's contingent on [a] judge issuing an injunction on state officials."
"We're professional athletes," UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman said earlier this year, per Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News. "The majority of us are college graduates. We're doing this for a living. We entertain the rest of the world—but not New York. It's ludicrous."
Theories on why the state has kept its ban have run rampant, with UFC President Dana White indicating it has to do with the promotion's ownership. New York state's battle with Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta is centered on the brothers' casinos being nonunion establishments, which runs counter to the pro-union stance of the state.
As White said before UFC 129 in 2011 (via Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting):
It has nothing to do with mixed martial arts the reason that we're not in New York. It has to do with the Culinary Union. The Culinary Union is spending millions of dollars of all these people who pay dues to keep us out of there because my partners, the Fertitta brothers, are the largest non-union gaming company in the country. So these union idiots, all these people work in the Culinary Union, pay their money towards dues, this is what all their money's being spent towards. Fighting the UFC from coming there and bringing money into the state of New York.
The suit filed in federal court Monday claims New York's ban on MMA is too vague to be upheld. It contends other MMA-related events are allowed to take place in the state and that it's unfairly written in a way that singles out UFC. The promotion previously sued New York in 2011, but that was thrown out by a court.
If the new suit gains some steam, it could mean UFC will finally get a chance to host an event at Madison Square Garden. Given the way the court system works, though, we're likely years away from finding out.
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