UFC Lawsuit Challenges Constitutionality of New York MMA Ban

By Mike Whitman Nov 15, 2011
The Ultimate Fighting Championship Tuesday announced that the promotion, along with a group of plaintiffs from the mixed martial arts community, has filed a lawsuit in New York in an attempt to overturn the state’s ban on MMA.

According an official release from the Las Vegas-based organization, the lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of a New York state law banning the sport. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that the MMA ban infringes on the rights of fighters who want equal opportunity to showcase their abilities in the Empire State, as well as on the rights of fans and MMA supporters in New York.

“It is unfortunate that we were forced to take the step of filing a lawsuit to overturn this senseless law, but the ban on live, professional MMA infringes on the rights of countless New Yorkers,” stated Barry Friedman, a constitutional law professor at New York University School of Law and co-counsel with Morrison & Foerster, LLP, for the plaintiffs. “Despite sincere legislative efforts, the ban remains in place based on a flawed assessment of the sport’s supposedly ‘violent message.’ This rationale is a patent violation of the First Amendment.”

For years, the UFC has pushed to legalize MMA in New York, but state officials have yet to regulate the sport. The proposed bill died in the State Assembly once again this year, though it appeared to gain momentum in 2011, passing through the state’s Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development Committee and the Codes Committee before stalling in Ways and Means.

When the bill failed to be placed on the Ways and Means committee’s agenda in June, it prevented members of the committee from voting on the proposal. Without the approval of the committee, the bill could not be brought to the floor of the State Assembly for a full vote, and the bill was set aside until next year.

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