May 8, 2013
The CT Post reports that the state House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize mixed martial arts in the state. The bill now goes to the state senate for approval.
The bill passed 117-26 after debate in the House. The state senate voted down a similar bill last year. But, supporters of the bill proclaim the economic benefits.
Via CT Post:
A 5 percent additional tax on MMA bouts could give the state $350,000 for a single fight night at the XL Center, Dargan said. The economic benefits for downtown Hartford on fight night was estimated at $750,000 for hotels, restaurants and bars.
A good step for Connecticut. Although its unlikely that the UFC would not make the state a part of its annual rotation, the local/regional MMA scene would benefit from the legalization. As always, the ancillary benefits of boosting the local businesses is a plus. If the bill passes, New York, Montana and Alaska (which does not have an athletic commission) would be the only states without MMA regulation.
March 27, 2013
MMA Fighting reports that Nick Diaz’s camp is threatening to file a complaint against the Quebec Athletic Commission for its weight allowance and post-fight drug test.
First, the Diaz camp contests the Montreal Athletic Commission’s custom of allowing a 0.9 allowance for weigh-ins for a championship match. While a 1 pound allowance is granted in non-championship fights, the UFC has a strict rule that fighters in championship matches must weigh at the division’s limit. Diaz’s camp states that the commission allows for up to a 0.9 allowance and still be considered the weight (i.e., rounding down). So, GSP could have weight 170.9 and it would still be considered 170.
If you recall, Nate Diaz had to cut .5 pounds for his UFC on Fox 6 Lightweight Championship match against Benson Henderson.
Also, Diaz contends that the commission did not properly supervise GSP’s post-fight drug test. Diaz’s camp indicates that these two irregularities should pave the way for a rematch with GSP.
There seems to be two issues here. The first is to determine whether the Quebec Athletic Commission properly followed the regulations with respect to determining weights. Also, whether the commission properly conducted the post-fight drug test.
The next issue is whether these issues should necessitate a rematch. This issue would interest fans the most. Would these problems have meant that the fight would have been different? Certainly if GSP used PEDs, there may be an argument. Of course, if that occurred, there would be a much bigger issue than just Diaz’s rematch. But would 0.9 lb matter in determining the result of UFC 158?
The video is interesting as the “Canadian loophole” (as someone off camera calls it) is explained to Diaz. We will see how far the Diaz camp takes the grievance and whether it will mean anything for GSP-Diaz II.
March 18, 2013
MMA Junkie reports that South Dakota is ready to sign off on a bill that will legalize mixed martial arts in the state. Gov. Dennis Daugaard stated that he will not stand in the way of a bill that would regulate MMA and boxing.
The bill passed out of committee and the state legislature. The South Dakota Athletic Commission which will regulate MMA will commence on July 1st of this year. It has received $95,000 of funding.
While the governor is opposed to the violence in the sport, he recognized the argument that regulation would curtail some safety concerns.
South Dakota become the 46th state to regulate MMA. Only New York, Connecticut and Montana do not regulate MMA. Alaska does not have an athletic commission.
(H/t: Argus Leader)
A victory for mixed martial arts in the state of South Dakota. While this news will be just a blip on the screen nationally, the recognition by the governor that regulation would protect those participating in the sport should be highlighted. Even though he was opposed to the sport, one has to think of the safety of the people of the state and the new commission should oversee MMA and boxing events.
March 2, 2013
ESPN reports that a bill to legalize mixed martial arts in the state of New York passed out of the state’s Senate Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation. It now moves on to the Senate Finance Committee with the eventual hope a vote on it comes before the state Assembly.
Last year, a bill to legalize MMA died prior to being voted on after an informal survey of votes revealed it would not pass.
Last month, Zuffa’s lawsuit against the state of New York entered a negotiation phase as the state indicated that a third party sanctioning organization recognized by the state could regulate professional MMA in New York.
The legislative process is in the initial stages at this point as there is no date set for the Senate Finance Committee to meet. It appears that professional MMA may be allowed in the state if a sanctioning organization recognizes the event. Still, a bill to legalize MMA would dispel any concerns about coordinating with a third party sanctioning organization. We will see whether this bill will gain any traction for a vote this spring.
February 25, 2013
MMA Junkie reports that South Dakota Senate Bill 84, a bill which would regulate combat sports including MMA in the state is off to the state House of Representatives for a vote. On Monday it was voted unanimously for passage out of the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee.
According to the bill, SB 84 would appoint a 5 person commission. The commission shall have at least one member with actual experience in boxing, kickboxing or MMA. The commission would oversee, “all contests and exhibitions of boxing, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts competitions and sparring exhibitions held in the state of South Dakota.”
The bill would establish licensing fees and fees for events which would in turn fund the athletic commission governing these events.
Although the bill got out of committee, there is still opposition to MMA. Opponents of MMA have tried to pass an amendment which would make boxing and traditional martial arts as the only combat sports regulated in the state. Proponents of the SB 84 can point to an incident at an amateur MMA event last year in which a fighter died shortly after his fight. According to one of its sponsors, the bill was intended to put a halt to unregulated MMA events in the state. This argument had been taken up by Zuffa’s counsel in its lawsuit in New York. It will be interesting to see the debate that will take place when the bill goes to the house.
February 20, 2013
A Nevada Court has denied Nick Diaz’s request for a judicial review of his drug suspension. Diaz was seeking review of his drug suspension for not disclosing his marijuana use and fine fo $79,500.
The order which recites the Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law found substantial evidence that Diaz used marijuana, a banned substance per the NAC, after testing positive following his post-UFC143 urine test. The use was a violation. The Court concluded that Diaz understood that his use of marijuana should have been disclosed to the Commission and on its pre-fight questionnaire. Paragraph 9 of the Findings of Fact states the Court found Diaz’s credibility questionable as it believes Diaz should have known that he should have disclosed his medical condition which requires he be prescribed marijuana.
In sum, Diaz’s request for judicial review is denied and his lawsuit against the Commission is over.
Since Diaz is main eventing in March against GSP, its hard to see the damage done to Diaz. The UFC can set up matches for Diaz outside of Nevada until his suspension is over and the fine is minimal considering he is heading to a main event payday in March. Of course, the Court questioning his credibility may hurt Diaz’s feelings but that’s all it really does. The legal arguments made by Diaz’s counsel were the best that could be done (see here) for what amounted to a losing argument.
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.
February 12, 2013
This Wednesday, February 13th, the Court will hear oral argument in New York’s Second Motion to Dismiss Zuffa, et al’s lawsuit against the state citing that the state’s law banning MMA is unconstitutional.
As you may recall, Zuffa sued the state of New York citing the law banning Mixed Martial Arts in the state as unconstitutional. New York dismissed two of Zuffa’s original claims of due process and equal protection in August. At that time, the Court allowed a limited motion to dismiss on just those two claims. However, Zuffa filed its First Amended Complaint which included claims of violation of due process and equal protection which it argues is based on additional facts. New York proceeded to file a Motion to Dismiss Zuffa’s entire First Amended Complaint.
While the novel issue of Zuffa’s First Amendment argument is compelling, the issue of statutory interpretation will be argued as well as Zuffa claims that New York Unconsolidated Laws, §8905-a, the MMA Ban in New York is vague and overbroad.
Here are some highlights of what will be argued:
First Amendment: In its First Amended Complaint, Zuffa contends that the ban on Mixed Martial Arts is Unconstitutional as it violates the First Amendment. In this argument, Zuffa states that entertainment before a live audience includes sporting events and that it is expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.
Under this umbrella of argument, Zuffa contends that MMA is only barred in the state when it occurs in front of an audience. It points to other instances where MMA is practiced but not regulated by the state.
Zuffa contends that the states interests in suppressing the live performance of MMA do not satisfy the demands of the First Amendment. While Zuffa recognizes the state’s authority to regulate speech, the ban does not surpass the threshold of the First Amendment.
New York argues that Zuffa’s first hurdle is to show that MMA is speech or expressive conduct and that the First Amendment applies to it. Even if proven, New York argues that professional sports are generally not protected under the First Amendment. It argues that MMA is not expressive conduct and despite the skill shown in the Octagon, the sportsmanship during competition and post-match speeches, it does not give rise to First Amendment protection.
The New York MMA Ban is Vague and Overbroad: The statutory interpretation occurs in Zuffa’s arguments that the statute is vague and that it is overbroad. Notably, Zuffa points to questions about the enforcement (or lack thereof) of the MMA Ban. It also points to questions in the statute including: What is professional? What is a combat sport? What is martial arts? These are questions that Zuffa argues are vague in the statute while New York claims should be looked at in the plain meaning of the words and/or the statute’s legislative history for guidance on ambiguities.
Due Process and Equal Protection: Despite the dismissal of Zuffa’s causes of action for lack of due process and equal protection in its initial Complaint it has plead new allegations in its First Amended Complaint in claiming that the Ban violates Zuffa’s Due Process and Equal Protection. The major difference is it claims new, purported facts set forth by the state and that the proper standard to evaluate the Ban is strict scrutiny which is a higher standard than rational basis which was used by the Court in deciding to dismiss Zuffa’s original claims for due process and equal protection.
Wednesday will be a big day for the UFC’s chances of having an event in New York this year. While there is still a chance a resolution may occur via Albany, a legal ruling against the UFC would mean another year not in the state. It would be interesting to see if the UFC would continue on with an appeal if its lawsuit would be dismissed.
The legal battle will hinge on the Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment arguments and the interpretation of the New York statute. It’s hard to tell whether the Court’s ruling this past August (in which it dismissed two of Zuffa’s claims) would be an indication of how it may rule on the rest of the lawsuit on Wednesday.
February 7, 2013
Recently, I made a FOIA request to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) inquiring about its investigation of Zuffa with respect to its purchase of Strikeforce. The documents provided under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) did not reveal anything of note.
The documents consisted of 5 pages. Two pages were form letters, dated January 25, 2012, from the FTC to law firms in the Washington D.C. area (apparently) representing the parties advising that it had closed its investigation.
The letters indicated that the FTC investigated whether the acquisition of Explosion Entertainment, LLC (“Strikeforce”) by Zuffa, LLC violated Section 7 of the Clayton Act or Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.
“Upon further review of this matter, it appears that no further action is warranted by the Commission,” read both letters. The form letters went on to say that the closure of the investigation did not mean that a violation had not been committed…or that one had. It also reserved the right to reopen the investigation if it deemed necessary. Legal enough for you?
The other three pages were a document entitled “Document Logging Form” which did not reveal anything about facts on the investigation. It appeared to be a checklist for closing a file.
The FTC cited rules which preclude responsive documents which contain staff analyses, opinions and recommendations. These are exempt from FOIA.
A little late on getting this information but you didn’t miss much. The FOIA process was fairly easy and the FTC responded quickly. Of course, the information that would have been interesting were exempt from FOIA disclosure. So, the official rendering of the Zuffa investigation by the government is that it had looked into its acquisition of Strikeforce but found no reason to conduct further action into investigating the purchase.
January 2, 2013
MMA Fighting reports Dana White is looking to have an event in New York’s Madison Square Garden for its 20th anniversary show in November 2013. The only problem: MMA is still not legal in New York state.
White revealed his plans at the post-UFC 155 press conference. Despite the fact that MMA is prohibited by law, White has a date for the event and a main event planned. You may recall that Zuffa brought a lawsuit against the state citing the state’s ban on MMA was unconstitutional. This fall, New York brought a motion to dismiss Zuffa’s lawsuit to strike down the state law. The court has yet to rule on New York’s motion.
Notwithstanding the lawsuit, the only other way for the state to legalize MMA would be through the legislature this year.
Is revealing plans for an event at MSG a sign that this may be the year that a bill is passed? Or is this just thinking out loud? The legal case could take years if the court denies New York’s motion to dismiss. The quicker way would be through the legislative process although Zuffa has been unsuccessful in prior years. Last year’s legislative session was disappointing as the UFC indicated that it had votes for a law to legalize MMA in the state but a vote never occurred.
A show at MSG would be on par with UFC 129 in terms of milestone moments for the company.