June 25, 2014
As most expected, including the UFC, the New York State Assembly failed to vote on a bill to legalize professional Mixed Martial Arts in the state. Despite another year without any movement, the bill’s sponsor intends to continue on next year.
The lead sponsor to the MMA bill set to legalize professional MMA in the state, Senator Joseph Griffo told MMA Payout the following:
I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that my bill to legalize MMA did not come to the Assembly floor for a vote before session ended. We’ve tried to address opponents’ concerns in crafting our legislation. This sport is much more organized and more regulated than when it first became popular. Everyone besides New York has allowed professional matches to be held in their state. The latest economic analysis, done by HR&A advisors, reports that legally sanctioned MMA would generate $67 million in annual spending and create 525 jobs in New York. I thank Assemblyman Joe Morelle for his effort to get a vote for the bill. It’s my hope that Assembly leadership reconsiders their position before the year is over. Regardless, I will carry this bill every year until it passes or I leave office.
Senator Griffo also sponsored the bill that would have allowed regulation of amateur MMA in the state of New York. That bill was not voted on either by the state Assembly prior to the end of this year’s session.
MMA Payout has reached out to Assemblyman Morelle for additional comment but his office has not responded at the time of this writing.
Another year, another missed opportunity for the legalization of professional MMA in the state. Perhaps we may see some movement with this bill next year as the lawsuit filed by Zuffa in the state appears to come down to the filing of Summary Judgment motions. The Court’s decision on these motions may coincide with next year’s legislative session which could facilitate a vote in the state Assembly.
This past Sunday we participated in a discussion on legal issues in MMA including the continued effort to legalize pro MMA in the state. You can find the Sports Law Chat tweetup here.
June 22, 2014
With the New York Assembly not voting on a bill to legalize pro MMA in the state, the focus turns to Zuffa’s lawsuit against the state. A court order issued late last week will allow the parties to file Motions for Summary Judgment by July 3rd.
The remaining cause of action left from Zuffa’s lawsuit filed back in November 2011 is the claim that the present law banning MMA in the state is unconstitutionally vague. The Court dismissed the previous claims upon New York’s Motion to Dismiss.
The parties have until July 3rd to file a motion which would dismiss the final claim and end the lawsuit if filed by New York. Zuffa has the option of filing its own motion which may leave an opening for a possible settlement.
Responses to the initial Summary Judgment Motions are due on July 17th with Replies to those Response Motions by July 31st.
H/t: Jim Genia
Spoiler Alert. There will be a Motion for Summary Judgment. The end to this lawsuit could be near. Or, we could be hunkering down for more briefing. Discovery has closed for all intents and purposes and if the Court is not persuaded to dismiss the lawsuit on New York’s Summary Judgment motion, we will be getting ready for a trial.
If you were wondering how long after the Court receives the papers will the Judge make a decision. The lawyerly answer to that is: it depends. But if you want some guidance. New York filed its Motion to Dismiss in October 2012, a hearing did not take place until February 2013 and the ruling was not issued until late September 2013. Thus, we could wait almost a year for a ruling. Hopefully, it may happen sooner. But, we may be through another legislative session in New York before a ruling.
MMA Payout will keep you posted.
June 20, 2014
On Sunday, June 22nd from 8pm-9pm ET MMA Payout will be a part of Sports Law Chat’s tweetup talking about Legal Issues in MMA including a discussion about the continued struggle to legalize professional MMA in New York. MMA Journalist Jim Genia and Sports and Entertainment Lawyer Carla Varriale will also be a part of the discussion.
Varriale is teaching a course this summer at Columbia University’s School of Continuing Education’s Sports Management Program entitled, “MMA in New York: A Study in Whether It Should Be Legalized and Regulated.” As you can tell from the name of the class, it takes a look at the battle to legalize the sport in New York state. As many of you know, Jim Genia is an MMA journalist that is intimately familiar with the battle in the state. It should prove to be an informative time.
For more information, please follow Sports Law Chat on twitter (@SportsLawChat). You may also feel free to follow Varriale (@carlavarriale), Genia (@jim_genia) or myself (@dilletaunt).
For those on the west coast, it will take place on twitter between 5pm-6pm on Sunday June 22nd. Celebrate the U.S. World Cup win over Portugal by logging on and learning more about legal issues in MMA.
June 18, 2014
A bill to establish protocols for amateur MMA has passed the New York Senate and is being delivered to the New York Assembly for the possibility of a vote to make it a law. Newsday’s Mark La Monica first reported the passage of the bill.
The bill, sponsored by New York State Senator Joseph A. Griffo, provides rules and regulations for amateur mixed martial arts in the state. Griffo is a proponent of lifting the ban on professional MMA in the state.
“In my advocacy for mixed martial arts, I’ve met many fighters and promoters. All want to make the bouts as safe as possible – not just for the fighters, but for the judges, refs and fans,” said Griffo, R-Rome. “However, there was a lack of consistency among amateur contests. Most promoters would ensure their bouts were sanctioned by an established and reputable organization. A few, however, put profit over safety and held bouts that put fans and fighters at unnecessary risk.”
“This bill brings the entire amateur realm under the oversight of the New York Athletic Commission,” said Griffo. “It will put the emphasis where it should be – creating a safe and enjoyable experience for all.
The bill would establish a medical advisory board and commission to have jurisdiction over amateur matches. It would require participants to undergo a thorough physical examination, including neurological and neurophysical examinations, prior to being approved for a fight. No one could fight unless they were 18 years of age or older.
The bill would also prohibit fighters who suffered a KO or TKO – or were rendered unconscious – from participating in a match for 90 days. It requires promoters to provide insurance for participants and reimburse athletes for medical, surgical and hospital care that was a result of participating in the program.
Without mandating it, the bill gives the Commission the ability to require medical personnel and an ambulance at the site of match.
Any fighter, referee or judge who participates in an amateur match without being licensed by the Commission would be guilty of a misdemeanor.
If you read, Jim Genia’s piece on Deadspin a month ago, you might be thankful that this legislation is moving along. Genia provides an analysis of the bill here. Genia points out the potential ramifications of the bill which may include the NY Athletic Commission’s refusal of granting licenses to promoters to hold amateur MMA events, the NYAC could staff the amateur MMA events, there could be the interpretation that MMA is now a “single discipline art” and allow an MMA organization to oversee and/or someone could challenge the bill in court. We shall see whether the bill is passed and what the ramifications could be.
In the end, this does nothing for professional MMA in the state at this point.
June 9, 2014
With a week left in the 2014 legislative session in New York, it appears that Dana White’s comments a couple weeks ago were prophetic. A vote legalizing MMA in the state will not happen in the State Assembly this year.
UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner confirmed to MMA Junkie Radio he doesn’t expect a vote this year. “…I would say it will not make it to the floor again (this year),” Ratner said of the bill which will be bypassed yet again after passage through the state senate.
Ratner indicated that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the possibility of a bill but also stated that, “I feel like the handwriting is in big block letters on the wall and we’re not going to get it done this year.”
Ratner went on to express the frustration of the ordeal which we may assume is felt by White and many other MMA supporters in New York.
Via MMA Junkie:
“I’ve been to (New York state capital) Albany 20 times throughout the past five years, and it’s just wrong. One of my biggest analogies would be, give us a turn at bat, and if we strike out, then it’s on us. But to never, never get a chance and have the leadership of the Democratic assembly look around the room and say, ‘Not enough interest this year, let’s talk about medical marijuana,’ that’s all we get. It never comes to a vote.”
Ratner indicated that they would need 76 of the 101 Democratic assembly members to have the MMA bill pass. Ratner says they have 60 sponsors and would need 16 more votes for passage. While the UFC appears to be softening the blow for what will be another empty legislative session, one has to wonder what else the UFC could do to facilitate a vote.
May 26, 2014
Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This time around we take a look at UFC 173 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada where T.J. Dillashaw pulled off the upset of Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao.
Dillashaw upsets Barao
Renan Barao was thought of as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the UFC. He had his way in the Bantamweight division and going through Dillashaw seemed like a sure thing especially with most odds having the former TUF cast member as an 8 to 1 underdog. However, Dillashaw controlled the whole fight from the first round and left no doubt by finishing Barao in the fifth.
I would say Serra-GSP still is the top upset in the UFC simply because Serra had to win a reality show to get the title shot. Dillashaw was an injury replacement but was still on the radar in the division.
The good news here is that the UFC now has a marketable U.S. Champion. No offense to Barao, but one of the unfortunate knocks on him was that he was from Brazil and his lack of English limited his ability to reach out to the U.S. fans. Now, the UFC can rally around the underdog story of Dillashaw and maybe revive the division.
Cormier dominates Hendo
Daniel Cormier served notice that he will be a formidable opponent for Jon Jones when and if Bones gets past his rematch with Alexander Gustaffson. Henderson fought without TRT but that would not have mattered as Cormier totally dominated Henderson. After winning, Cormier called out Jon Jones in a tasteful, pro-wrestling style way.
Attendance and gate
At the post-fight press conference it was announced that the attendance at the MGM Grand was at 11,036 for a gate of $1.7 million (via MMA Junkie). The number will be confirmed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission later in the week.
As we reported on Saturday, ticket demand on the secondary market was sparse. Since 2011, it was the second least expensive ticket ($239) for a UFC event at the MGM Grand Arena. Thus, not much demand from people that couldn’t buy (or did not want to buy) a ticket through the box office or Ticketmaster. For those wondering, the least expensive ticket ($168) since 2011 was UFC 141 which featured Brock Lesnar versus Alistair Overeem. You may recall that it was on a Friday due to New Year’s Eve.
The bonuses were $50,000 each and Dillashaw received two for Fight of the Night with (Barao) and Performance Bonus of the Night. Mitch Clarke won the other bonus with his submission over Al Iaquinta.
The UFC started new shoulder programming taking viewers behind the scenes with a series called, “Embedded.” The series is in the same vein as HBO’s 24/7 or ESPN’s “The Life” for those that remember that show in the 2000s. I am a fan of these behind the scene shows so I thought they were interesting although I can understand folks that think them a little tedious.
In addition, FS1 aired its usual “UFC Countdown” show along with “UFC All Angles” which was another behind-the-scenes show featuring Daniel Cormier.
Dana White was a recipient of a UFC friendly feature in the Washington Post.
The octagon sponsors included MusclePharm, Alienware, MetroPCS, Ultimate Poker, Air Force Reserve, Toyo Tires, EA Sports’ UFC video game (which comes out in June), Harley Davidson, the video game by Ubisoft, “Watch Dogs,” and Bud Light had the center.
Ultimate Poker had the fighter prep point.
People Finder and The Memory Tag were notable sponsors for T.J. Dillashaw as he won the Bantamweight Championship.
Odds and Ends
Popeyes Chicken crept into UFC 173 talk with the light-hearted dig at DC’s favorite fast food stop. One of the behind-the-scenes UFC spots had Hendo delivering Popeyes to DC during a training session. DC took it as a joke and did not seem to take real offense to Hendo’s “gesture.” For his part, Hendo seemed to do it as a joke and less of an insult on DC’s chicken habit. There was debate as to whether the subtle undertones of racism could be scene (and used) by opponents of MMA (i.e., Culinary Union). This seems unlikely as Cormier did not seem offended and he had admitted to liking Popeyes.
KFC, a UFC sponsor on TUF, cannot be happy with Popeyes being talked about without even having to pay.
Chico Camos sported Nike Foamposites at the weigh-ins. It’s the second PPV in a row someone has sported the sneaks at weigh-ins.
Dana White had the most unfortunate auto-correct in a twitter debate when trying to explain that Renan Barao finishes people. His tweet read “fishes” people. Of course, this was picked up on quickly.
It looked like slicker inset promos during the PPV hyping future events especially UFC 175.
According to Google Trends, Canada, Brazil and the United States were the top regions (in that order) searching for UFC 173. On another note, TI-Mayweather was generating more hits than any UFC search term on Sunday.
Great scene after with Duane Ludwig and T.J. Dillashaw embracing after Dillashaw ended Barao.
The Memorial Day Weekend show for the UFC had been one of the company’s bigger shows of the year. Even with last year’s big Heavyweight fights, it did not live up to expectations. In fact, last year was down in attendance and PPV buys. One might expect the same here. Barao-Dillashaw was not a marquee fight going in despite the great action that occurred and Cormier-Hendo is not a main draw. So what for the PPV buys? It’s hard to say but 200,000 buys would be a good estimation here.
May 21, 2014
Last week the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to open for public debate new rules to guarantee an open Internet. With the UFC and WWE online networks, both may have an eye as to what may eventually transpire.
Net neutrality is the concept that all Internet content should be treated equally. The issue here is that Broadband providers might be able to prevent or inhibit end-users from accessing certain content simply because it could. In January, we reported on the court ruling that precipitated last week’s vote.
The FCC indicated that it would propose new rules that would allow companies like Disney, Google and Netflix to pay Internet service providers for “fast lanes.” These special, faster lanes would presumably allow for content to flow much quicker than normal. Broadband companies have pushed for this right. This would come into play with services like online streaming. Thus, UFC Fight Pass and the WWE Network would be affected if such fast lanes require extra cost. Thinking along these lines, extra cost for the UFC and WWE would likely mean that it would get passed along to subscribers. However, this proposal has drawn the ire of consumer groups citing it would favor big business and stifle innovation.
There will be much more political wrangling as the sausage is made for net neutrality rules.
It may not necessarily be an issue on the top of the minds of anyone in combat sports, but with business expansion for both UFC and the WWE, each company’s network would be affected by new rules regarding regulation of the Internet. As we know, the WWE finds itself in corporate distress with a declining stock price with a disappointing television deal and news that the network’s cannibalization of its PPV product will affect revenue more than originally thought. Additional distress made by extra “faster lane” fees would increase already hefty network costs and passing them along to subscribers may cause a tipping point. With the WWE already setting network earning expectations for end of year 2015 based on 2 to 2.5 million subscribers, additional “fast lane” fees could make it tough for it to reach its OIBDA goal.
On the other hand, UFC Fight Pass has been a success from all indications. It has already been made available abroad which we assume has increased the number of its subscribers. Still, additional fees to allow for its live streaming could be a concern.
As UFC and WWE online networks depend on unfettered live streaming of its content, one suspects that each company is interested on how the net neutrality debate develops.
May 14, 2014
MMA Fighting reports that the New York Senate has passed a bill that would legalize MMA in the state. It now faces the task of having it pass the General Assembly, a hurdle that it has failed to accomplish despite several years of heavy lobbying.
UFC women’s bantamweight Alexis Davis made the rounds in Albany to talk to the media as an advocate of Zuffa and the sport of MMA.
While the vote on Tuesday passed easily, the real battle begins as the General Assembly will need to vote on it. You may recall that previous MMA bills have withered in the Assembly as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has made the decision not to vote on the measure the last 4 years for various reasons.
Here we are again. While we are happy that the bill has passed one hurdle, it needs one more successful vote. As we know, there will be stiff opposition to its passage. While this is going on, Zuffa continue its strategy of remaining vigilant in the process. Having a well-spoken, women fighter make the media rounds is a good idea as it changes the perception of what the sport is thought to be. Davis, the next challenger for Ronda Rousey, appeared to do well for herself and her sport as she fielded questions from the press. But, we’ve seen this before. Will there be an actual vote on the matter this year?
March 29, 2014
ESPN.com reports on a new study released in the American Journal of Sports Medicine which cites UFC records in concluding that MMA brain injury is more susceptible than that in boxing and other martial arts.
The new information is being released in time for the legislative session in Albany, New York where the UFC will once again try to legalize the sport of MMA in the state of New York. The UFC has unsurprisingly indicated that the new research is “somewhat flawed,” according to chief operating officer, of the UFC, Lawrence Epstein.
The study, conducted by University of Toronto researchers looked at 844 UFC bouts from 2006 to 2012. The conclusion showed that 13 percent of the fights ended in KOs and another 21 percent ended in TKOs (ref stoppage). These TKOs occur “usually after a combatant was hit in the head five to 10 times in the last 10 seconds before the fight was stopped” according to the Brett Okamoto article.
The UFC’s response cites the Cleveland Clinic study as its commitment to the safety of athletes. Boxing and MMA organizations are joining together in that study in contributing to the ongoing medical study of early stage signs of brain injury. The latest study from these Toronto researchers, based on how it’s described, appears to make a conclusion only on one source of research (records and video evidence). There appears to be no other source for the study (e.g., interviews with fighters, evaluating medical literature, comparisons with boxing, etc.). What it does is give opponents of MMA in New York evidence to point to in its arguments for the preventing the sport from legalization in the state.
March 12, 2014
A proposed revision to the existing law legalizing mixed martial arts in the state of Connecticut may inhibit MMA events in the state according to promoters.
The current law, which was enacted in 2013, makes MMA promoters liable for health care costs associated with fighters’ long-term injuries.
The statement of purpose for the bill states: “To require promoters of boxing, sparring or mixed martial arts matches to continuously provide health insurance for the protection of boxers and competitors.”
The proposed language would read as follows with the deletions being in brackets and additions being underlined.
Any person, firm or corporation that employs, or contracts with, a person to be a boxer or competitor in a boxing, sparring or mixed martial arts match conducted pursuant to this chapter shall [be liable for any health care costs incurred by such competitor for the diagnosis, care and treatment of any injury, illness, disease or condition resulting from or caused] continuously provide insurance for the protection of the boxer or competitor in matches produced by such person, firm or corporation. Such insurance coverage shall provide for total reimbursement to the boxer or competitor for medical, dental, surgical and hospital care for all injuries sustained by such boxer’s or competitor’s participation in such match. [for the duration of such injury, illness, disease or condition.] The Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection shall adopt such regulations, in accordance with chapter 54, concerning the insurance required by the provisions of this section.
The proposed legislation would take effect on October 1, 2014.
CTPost.com identifies the big issue with the proposed language:
Promoters would be required to cover the cost of injuries into perpetuity, rather than simply for an incident and period of recovery as in most states and under the state’s boxing regulations.
If you are a promoter of a small promotion that wants to hold events in the state, passage of this law would be debilitating. Essentially, the added language to “continuously provide insurance” and “total reimbursement” that may result to a participant from a promoted event would be very costly. Donald Williams, the state senator that introduced the amendment to the bill, accused MMA operators that balked at the amendment accusing them of “not wanting to be responsible for the full costs of injuries that they know will result in this sport.”
This is a tough measure and a similar bill is being proposed right now in Albany in an effort to legalize professional MMA in New York. On one hand, you understand the intent of the amendment but on the other it would make it tough for a promotion to hold an event in the state. Another issue, which does not seem to be discussed on the face of the bill is determining how much and how long care would go to an injured fighter. This would also be a very tricky insurance issue as well. We have also heard from promoters that indicate similar rules in other states are rarely followed. This might be the reason for the addition of language.
MMA Payout will keep you posted.