Concessions made by New York may allow UFC in state
February 14, 2013
In a turn of events on Wednesday, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York was to hear oral arguments in New York’s Motion to Dismiss Zuffa’s First Amended Complaint. Instead, John Schwartz, attorney on behalf of the state of New York made a surprising admission.
The attorney representing the Attorney General for the state of New York stated that the statute banning professional MMA in New York did not apply to amateur MMA and that a third party sanctioning body could regulate professional MMA. With respect to the sanctioning, Zuffa’s counsel advised that the lawsuit need not go forward if there was a possibility for the regulation of the sport in the state. The Court advised the parties to settle the lawsuit.
The briefing leading up to Wednesday may have aided Zuffa’s cause. In its portion of the Opposition Brief arguing that the New York law was unconstitutionally vague, Zuffa argued that the state of New York allowed the World Karate Association (“WKA”) to regulate kickboxing events which would be in direct conflict with the New York law. However, it would not grant other kickboxing organizations exemptions to the law which would allow them to run kickboxing events within the state. The briefing described this as a “loophole” although is it a loophole if its the law? The law identifies sanctioning organizations.
It appears that the state allowing exempt organizations the opportunity to sanction events such as kickboxing (and now MMA) may have led its counsel to concede this point without having to argue the broader issue of the constitutionality of the statute.
Wednesday’s result did little in making professional MMA legal in the state of New York. It did give Zuffa the opportunity to work with a third party sanctioning body to regulate MMA in the state. But is this a victory? While many are excited about the prospects about the state holding a UFC event, Wednesday’s result did not overturn the New York law. Furthermore, the UFC will still have to work with a sanctioning body to regulate MMA in the state. This is a good option but one wonders why Zuffa didn’t go forward with attempting to repeal the law.
How easy (or difficult) will it be for Zuffa to work with a third party? What will be the cost?
Did the UFC take a short-term victory when it could have won a long-term goal?
These are hard questions that one must weigh with against the legal fees (not to mention the non-legal lobbying fees to get the sport legal) it has expended up to this point. The Court could have influenced the parties to settle the case despite the outstanding legal issues.
Practically speaking, if Zuffa can find a decent working relationship with an exempt regulating body, then we may see the UFC in New York sooner than later.