April 14, 2016
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the MMA bill into law making professional mixed martial arts legal in the state. As a result, the UFC announced a “major Pay-Per-View event at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, November 12.”
UFC returning to New York on Nov. 12 at MSG https://t.co/o0GYRgRc9F
— Steven Greenberg (@GreenbergPR) April 14, 2016
The UFC also announced another event in upstate New York to occur by the end of this year.
Via UFC press release:
UFC will be adding another live event in Upstate New York before the end of the year. The organization has pledged four events per year for the first three years after passage of the bill. The events will be held in Upstate cities such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, and Albany, in addition to Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center.
Today’s bill signing and event date announcements cement mixed martial arts’ incredible future in the state of New York, and reaffirm UFC’s commitment to a market that is home to many top stars including former UFC champions Jon Jones, Chris Weidman and Rashad Evans, and countless other title contenders.
“I want to thank Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, Senator Joe Griffo and the many other leaders in the state of New York for legalizing and regulating the sport of mixed martial arts,” said UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta. “Our commitment to bringing incredible live events to New York starts immediately, as we’ve planned a major Pay-Per-View event at Madison Square Garden on November 12. It’s going to be a historic, monumental moment for this sport and our passionate fans when the Octagon finally arrives in New York.”
“Today marks a great day for both MMA fans and New York,” said Joel Fisher, executive vice president, Marquee Events and Operations, The Madison Square Garden Company. “We think it’s only fitting that the first UFC event is taking place at The World’s Most Famous Arena and look forward to these world-class athletes becoming part of The Garden’s storied history.”
For those wondering, the New York State Athletic Commission, who will oversee MMA in the state, will be up to speed by September 1, 2016. Essentially, this is when the law will come into effect as explained by Jim Genia. Although no names have been pinned to the November 12 debut in New York, you can expect New York natives Jon Jones and Chris Weidman to be prime candidates for the event at Madison Square Garden. Also, Ronda Rousey is rumored to be back in the octagon around this time so that would make sense as well. Certainly, Bellator and WSOF will be working to have events in New York as well.
April 6, 2016
Despite the fact that the New York Assembly passed legislation to legalize MMA in the state, Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to sign the bill into law. Thus, the New York Times published an op-ed piece calling for the governor to veto the MMA bill.
The opinion piece by Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute is a valid but antiquated argument about the reasons not to legalize MMA in the state. The op-ed highlights the issue of health and safety as a reason to continue the ban on the sport. The writer argues that the legalization of MMA in the state will “cause more traumatic brain injuries among vulnerable young people.” To double down to emphasize the risk, the writer gives a worst case scenario that these injures could result in “lifetime disabilities.”
The editorial goes on to do what everyone does when they don’t want to address a controversial issue. Put it off for a later date. The op-ed states that there needs to be more time to study the issue. And while there is an acknowledgment that the NFL has similar issues with head injury, it is better organized as opposed to MMA’s “gig economy.”
There are (at least) two sides to every issue. While the anti-MMA editorial in the NY Times calls for Governor Cuomo to veto the legislation based on health and safety reasons. The fact is that unregulated MMA goes on in New York and there are legally run MMA gyms already in the state. The article does not address this. While it is valid to say that MMA fighters are susceptible to head injuries, it’s scare tactics to infer that the sport may lead to “lifetime disabilities.”
It’s clear that the op-ed is against combat sports and believes that banning the sport would benefit the state. The reasons are similar to those that are not familiar with the sport and see as much more violence than sport. Does the op-ed hold any persuasion with the Governor?
April 1, 2016
The World Series of Fighting has announced that it has signed a letter of intent to acquire the New York City-based MMA World Expo. The organization said that it plans to stage a series of bouts at the Javits Center in Manhattan this December.
Via WSOF press release:
“This is a very exciting and momentous time for our great sport, so we could not be more thrilled to take significant steps towards becoming owners of the MMA World Expo, which has been consistently delivering an incredible fan experience for the last six years and which will make for a great home for live World Series of Fighting action at a landmark location in Manhattan,” said World Series of Fighting CEO Carlos Silva.
In anticipation of New York legalizing professional mixed martial arts in the state, WSOF opened a satellite office in midtown Manhattan late last year.
The acquisition makes sense considering that MMA in New York is now legal. It could have been something that the company had been eyeing for a while. The Expo is an event that WSOF could build around as one of the organization’s “big” events of the year. We will see how the execution plays out.
March 22, 2016
The New York State Assembly passed legislation that would legalize mixed martial arts in the state. The bill now needs the signature of the governor for New York to be the final state to legalize MMA.
The passage comes after years and years of lobbying efforts, two lawsuits and an appeal that was set to occur next month.
The legislation came to the State Assembly for vote and after over 2 hours of assembly members having their chance to speak, the bill passed.
— jim genia (@jim_genia) March 22, 2016
The green in the twitter picture indicates “Yes” votes.
The UFC issued a press release immediately after passage and will hold a press conference at 4:30pm PT Tuesday.
From the UFC press release:
UFC® Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo Fertitta applauded the overwhelming, bipartisan New York State Assembly passage of legislation to legalize and regulate professional mixed martial arts (MMA) in New York. The passage of A.2604-C, sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle and 72 other Assembly sponsors, means the bill has now passed both houses and will be sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his approval.
Lorenzo Fertitta thanked all in Albany that helped in the effort.
“This has been a long time coming and on behalf of our New York UFC athletes and fans, I want to offer heartfelt thanks to Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Morelle and all the Members of the Assembly – Democrats and Republicans – who voted for this bill.”
Perhaps the UFC press conference will reveal a date for the UFC to head to New York. Bellator and other promotions will be able to hold events in New York as well. The UFC indicated that it would hold an event in the state by the fall but maybe that could be moved forward depending on when the state will be able to establish its protocols for regulating MMA.
March 17, 2016
The UFC has issued a statement in light of the anticipated vote in the New York State Assembly on legalizing mixed martial arts in the state.
The statement on UFC.com is from UFC Vice President of Global Business Development and Government Relations Michael J. Britt.
“We want to thank Speaker Heastie and of course we also need to thank Majority Leader Morelle, who has worked tirelessly to educate his colleagues and build support on both sides of the aisle, but particularly among Assembly Democrats. Our thanks, as well, go to those legislators in both houses and both parties who have supported this effort over the years.
“This is a big step forward for MMA, the athletes and the huge fan base the sport enjoys in New York, however, there are still more steps before New York finally crosses the hurdle to legalize professional MMA. We look forward to working with the chairs of the committees and all Assembly members to provide them with any information they may need as they address the bill to legalize and regulate MMA.”
Cautious optimism from the UFC as we’ve heard many times the efforts to legalize MMA in the state would happen only to be disappointed in the end. We shall see what transpires next week and whether or not there will be opposition.
March 16, 2016
Newsday reports that there will be a vote in the New York State Assembly on the possibility of legalizing mixed martial arts in the state. The vote could possibly bring an end to a long battle to legalize the sport in the state.
A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie indicated that the vote should occur next week. Allowing such a vote likely means that there is a sufficient amount of votes for passage. After the measure passes, it will only need the governor’s signature to enact the bill. In all likelihood Governor Andrew Cuomo should sign off on a bill that crosses his desk. His office included MMA revenue in an executive budget proposal earlier this year.
According to the Newsday article, the bill to legalize MMA in the state needs a simple majority of 76 votes to pass.
Once passage occurs, the New York State Athletic Commission will have 120 days to adopt guidelines and regulations for use as the sanctioning body.
The UFC reserved a date this fall for an event under the assumption that MMA would be legal in New York either through passage of legislation or via an injunction related to a lawsuit filed this past September. In addition, there is an appeal related to its November 2011 lawsuit against the state to overturn the current law prohibiting MMA in the state. Oral argument on the appeal is set to be heard before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals next month.
There is a bit of apprehension from many that have heard that MMA will be legal in the state and then it does not happen. From all reports, a vote in the Assembly should finally put the rest the fight to legalize the sport in the state. Of course, we have not heard from the opposition which includes, in part, the Culinary Union. We shall see if they will make one final push to oppose the bill or have they just given up on the effort.
February 17, 2016
The Nevada State Athletic Commission issued a 3-year suspension of former UFC fighter Wanderlei Silva on Wednesday. Silva’s suspension is retroactive to May 24, 2014, the date that he evaded a drug test in lead up to his fight with Chael Sonnen at UFC 175.
In addition to the suspension Silva will have to submit a clean drug test upon applying for a new license. There was no fine since a fight at UFC 175 never materialized. Previously, Silva was fined $70,000 and banned him for life. Silva filed a lawsuit seeking judicial review of the original NAC ruling.
Silva appealed the judicial review (despite the court reversing and remanding the NAC punishment) citing that the NAC did not have jurisdiction of Silva since he was an unlicensed fighter at the time that he evaded the drug test.
The ruling could provide closure for Silva who will likely continue to fight. But, with the ruling from the NAC, Silva’s attorney may reinstate his appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court. A precursor to the legal court action was the NAC ruling. Even if Silva accepts the 3-year ban, it does not mean the 39 year old will have to wait to fight. He could fight overseas outside of the jurisdiction of the NAC. We shall see if there will be an appeal.
January 25, 2016
Judge Kimba Wood has denied the UFC’s request for a Preliminary Junction which would have allowed UFC 198 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The UFC will either appeal the ruling and/or seek another venue for UFC 198.
In denying the Preliminary Injunction, Judge Wood cited the Pullman doctrine, a legal case which dictates that a federal court must abstain from ruling on a state court law until that state court had a chance to adjudicate the matter.
The court indicated it would issue a longer opinion, but the one issued today is below:
The New York Attorney General cited this argument when it filed its opposition to the Preliminary Injunction.
Via our December post regarding the Pullman doctrine:
New York also claims that the U.S. District Court should abstain under the Pullman doctrine. Under this case, where a state law is allegedly vague, a federal court should abstain from interpreting the law until the state courts have a reasonable opportunity to construe the statute.
Railroad Commission v. Pullman Co. is a 1941 U.S. Supreme Court Case which dictates that a federal court should stay (i.e., hold off on deciding) a decision on state law when the state court has yet to interpret. It bases the decision on three factors:
- The case presents both state grounds and federal constitutional grounds for relief;
- The proper resolution of the state ground for the decision is unclear; and
- The disposition of the state ground could obviate the need for adjudication of the federal constitutional ground.
Frankly, the UFC should have saw this coming as Judge Wood indicated a state court might be a better venue for its claims. She wrote this in her concluding order dismissing the UFC’s original lawsuit against the state:
Earlier in the day, we wrote about New York’s response to the UFC’s demand for an order by today. Looks like the UFC got what it wanted so to speak. The UFC may appeal the ruling which would mean that the UFC could have two appeals in the Second Circuit related to legalizing the sport in the state. The other avenue to legalization in New York, is of course, through the legislative process. We will see what the UFC’s decides to do at this point. As for UFC 198, it looks like that the UFC will need to find another venue outside of New York.
January 25, 2016
Monday is the deadline set by the UFC in its hopes to obtain a ruling on its Preliminary Injunction to hold UFC 198 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. It had requested that Judge Kimba Wood rule on the issue lest they need to move the event for marketing and event planning reasons. New York offered its response to the alleged deadline in a letter to Judge Kimba Wood.
The Office of the Attorney General for the State of New York responded to the letter from the UFC to the court in which the company requested a ruling on the preliminary injunction. In a January 20, 2016 letter, the New York AG issued its response to the UFC request. New York argues that moving the April 23, 2016 event reveals that the UFC could have scheduled the event at a later date. This, according to New York’s contention, means that the UFC “can mitigate if not eliminate the alleged “irreparable” harm it says it will suffer from not holding events in New York.” Thus, New York argues to the court that the UFC letter “adds nothing to, and indeed detracts” from the UFC’s preliminary injunction request.
Perhaps a moot point for the hoped UFC 198 at MSG as the UFC intends to seek another venue if there is no ruling by today (Monday, January 25th). But, the New York letter offers some legal strategy. By requesting a ruling from the court and issuing a tacit ultimatum, the UFC indicated that it would move its April event if a ruling had not been issued by today. Since there appears to be no ruling, it is moving the event to another venue outside of New York. Capitalizing on this move, New York argues that since the UFC is moving the event, there is no “irreparable harm,” an argument needed to prove a preliminary injunction is warranted. New York will likely bring this letter up again in later arguments for a PI by the UFC citing that there is no immediate harm to the company as there are comparable alternatives to holding an event in New York. We shall see if there will be an official statement from the UFC this week about the venue for UFC 198.
January 23, 2016
MMA Junkie reports that former Bellator middleweight Alexander Shlemenko is slated to fight in Russia despite a three-ban by the California State Athletic Commission for alleged steroid use.
Last June, Shlemenko was suspended 3 years and fined $10,000 by the California State Atheltic Commission. It was the harshest penalty against an MMA fighter since it began regulating the sport.
Shlemenko filed a lawsuit in California seeking judicial review of the commission ruling. The case is stil ongoing, but Shlemenko believed that he could no longer wait on a determination and took the fight in Russia for the M-1 Global promotion. According to a report from Bloody Elbow, Shlemenko stated that Bellator gave him written permission to fight for M-1.
The CSAC indicated that it would not take further administrative action against Shlemenko since it had no jurisdiction. It is not known whether the CSAC would use Shlemenko’s decision to fight elsewhere in the court case.
At the age of 31, you can understand why Shlemenko is seeking somewhere to continue his career. Despite being banned by the CSAC, one had to know that this would be a possibility with a 3 year ban. The inevitable return of Shlemenko reflects the fact that a state commission’s reach when banning fighters can only be so far. Even if Shlemenko were to lose his court case, it’s clear that a fighter can find other promotions to continue fighting if the promotion is willing.