New York remains as the only state in the country where professional mixed martial arts are banned. Things are currently on an upswing, however, in the road to legalizing and regulating the sport in New York State. In January, Sheldon Silver—who was one of the biggest opponents of MMA in New York—was arrested on a flurry of corruption charges. Things looked very bright then.
This year, the state’s bill in support of pro-MMA—which has passed fives times in a row—was successful in its sixth iteration with a 47-14 vote. Governor Cuomo has even said that he believes “it can create jobs and economic growth in the state of New York,” and that he is “interested in it.” Dana White and the UFC feel so confident that things will change this year that the UFC has even reserved a date at Madison Square Garden for December.
But there are still some bumps to flatten.
Three years ago, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s parent company, Zuffa LLC, filed a lawsuit against New York State. The complaint questioned the validity—and constitutionality—of the laws that have kept professional mixed martial arts banished from the Empire State since Governor George Pataki outlawed them in 1997 in the “Live Professional MMA Ban”. Zuffa claimed that the language of the ban is “vague.” As it stands, only amateur mixed martial arts are allowed.
U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood, however, has dismissed the case because Zuffa doesn’t have the proper legal standing to pursue such a course of action. According to Wood, the company hasn’t been “injured”—in other words, it hasn’t been prosecuted by the government for breaking the ban law, it’s only been “threatened” of prosecution—and that her interpretation of the 1997 ban doesn’t forbid professional mixed martial arts from happening. In fact, the UFC could host a card in partnership with a one of the ban’s licensed promoters, who are exempted by the law.
Judge Wood has suggested that the UFC tees up another course of action. In dismissing the lawsuit, she encouraged them continue pursuing the overturning of what is commonly understood as an act of con-artistry.
This might all be a moot-point, as the wheels are indeed in motion to get that ban overturned. Ronda's been lobbying in Albany, Jimmy Fallon is down with the cause, and even Cuomo is with it.
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