13 for 13: No. 8 Zuffa still shut out in New York
December 24, 2013
Another year, another full-court press by Zuffa to hold an event in New York….another disappointment. The Southern District of New York ruled on New York’s Motion to Dismiss and found in favor of the state and dismissed all of Zuffa’s claims except for its claim that the existing statute banning professional MMA in the state is unconstitutionally vague.
The dismissal severed a huge chunk of Zuffa’s case against the state which was originally filed in November 2011. While Zuffa attempted to spin the news, the fact that it now has only one claim in its lawsuit has to be damaging for its possibility of success. To give a snapshot of the glacial pace of this litigation, New York filed its Motion to Dismiss Zuffa’s lawsuit in October 2012 and a hearing on the Motion was not heard until February 2013. And then, the ruling did not come out until September 30, 2013.
Notably, the Court dismissed Zuffa’s claim under the First Amendment citing that the central question in determining First Amendment protection was whether the activity was primarly communicative and expressive. The Court claimed that the fighters lacked the “essential communicative elements” for a claim under the First Amendment.
At this point, the parties have provided the Court with a “Scheduling Order” detailing deadlines for written discovery and depositions. New York has identified the named Plaintiffs as potential people to depose which includes Frankie Edgar and Jon Jones. It is intended that they will need to be deposed by March 7, 2014 according to a Court filing.
Where will the Court case go? After discovery, it’s likely that we see New York attempt to make a case to bring a summary judgment motion to dismiss Zuffa’s remaining claim. If Zuffa survives another motion to dismiss its case, we will likely see a trial sometime in 2014. Even if it is found that the MMA ban is unconstitutional, it’s likely the state of New York would have to draft legislation allowing professional MMA in the state and how it would be regulated.
The ongoing legal saga is just another chapter of Zuffa attempting to legalize MMA in New York. Despite its usual confidence at the beginning of the legislative session in Albany, there was no vote for MMA once again. The UFC had claimed to have secured Madison Square Garden in November for its 20th Anniversary show but the date came and went. Whether or not the Culinary Union of Las Vegas played a part, or whether a sexual discrimination claim played a part, Zuffa is spinning its wheels. In July, it was revealed that it had contributed $35,000 to New York Legislators since the start of the year. Notably, it spent $330K on federal lobbying efforts this year. This is down from $620K on lobbying efforts in 2012.
While most MMA fans believe that the UFC will be in New York one day, the company continues to strike out when trying to make inroads into the state. We will see what can be done this spring in Albany and what movement happens with the court case