May 21, 2015
Silva’s attorney, Ross Goodman, was pleased with the court’s ruling that Silva’s punishment was overturned but no happy with its ruling that it had jurisdiction over Silva. With the court ruling, Monday, Silva would have to go back before the commission to determine his punishment for fleeing a drug test last year.
Silva argues that the commission had no right to drug test him since he was not licensed at the time. The commission counters that it has oversight over combat sports within the state and thus had the right to test Silva.
The appeal to the Supreme Court for the state of Nevada is a calculated risk but worth it. The district court ruled in Silva’s favor but he still must go before the commission to be punished. If Silva wins on appeal with a finding that the commission never had jurisdiction, his name is cleared. It would also spur an amendment to the laws in Nevada. Silva has a good chance with his appeal to the Supreme Court as the commission’s argument sought a very broad interpretation of the laws of the state. Reading the laws plainly, one could see Silva winning the appeal. We will see what happens.
May 15, 2015
On Friday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission passed new drug testing measures which include enhanced punishments for test violations. The NSAC hopes that other state regulators follow suit.
UPDATED: 4:07pm ET – MMA Junkie has a write-up on today’s hearing. One note is that the commission rulings are not mandatory and punishments will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
In addition to the increased penalties, it is now changing its rule that fighters that fail a post-fight drug test will now be credited with a loss instead of a no contest.
Per ESPN’s Brett Okammoto, a first offense would command more of a penalty regarding suspension and percentage of purse.
I believe I noted every amendment, but will confirm after meeting. This is the updated list of fines/suspensions. pic.twitter.com/4M3psalaH5
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) May 15, 2015
Notably, the first offense suspension for marijuana usage is more than the use of diuretics. Also, steroid use would command a 3 year ban and a fine of 50-70% of the purse.
The new penalties will go into effect on September 1st in the state. MMA Fighting’s Shaheen Al-Shatti indicated that the commission voted to shift diuretics and stimulants from the ‘in competition’ prohibited list to the ‘always prohibited’ list. Brett Okamoto also indicated that the commission will discuss whether the NSAC should continue to follow WADA’s testing and tolerance levels of cannabis
The NSAC’s moves on Friday is a step in the right direction with respect to addressing illegal drug use. It should help clean up the sport of MMA, at least in the state of Nevada. Certainly, the harsher penalties for marijuana use will be criticized as the perspective of the drug has changed over the years. We shall see how these new policy changes will influence other commissions to adopt the penalties issued by the NSAC.
May 1, 2015
MMA Junkie reports that an attorney for Jon Jones threatened to sue the Nevada State Athletic Commission for releasing results of Jones’ drug test which revealed his positive test for using cocaine.
Ross Goodman wrote on behalf of Jones claiming that the fighter’s privacy was invaded due to the release of the drug test results to the media. Per Junkie, Goodman wrote the commission on behalf of Jones stating that they were considering a civil lawsuit against the NSAC and its board members for invasion of privacy. The NSAC stated that the test for street drugs was an “administrative oversight.”
Junkie obtained the commission letter of February 13, 2015 in response to Goodman’s letter of January 29, 2015. Notably, the commission indicated that it did not disclose the December 4, 2014 Jon Jones test results to the media, but the UFC did. In the letter written by the Nevada State Attorney General (which represents the NSAC in these matters), it claimed to have broad authority over unarmed combatants within the state as well as permitting out of competition testing of any unarmed combat.
In its letter the commission indicated that it had adopted the WADA Prohibited List but not the WADA Code.
Notably, Goodman represents Wanderlei Silva in his lawsuit against the commission related to the NSAC’s fine and suspension after Silva allegedly evaded a drug test. He also represented Nick Diaz in a lawsuit against the commission in April 2012.
This information is probably not news as Jones was mum (Jones doesn’t comment at 7:27 in the FS1 exclusive on January 19th) when it came whether he would seek action against the commission. With Jones’ latest troubles, a lawsuit against the commission is likely the last thing on his mind. In general, to prove a civil claim for Invasion of Privacy, there must be an intrusion upon reasonable expectations to be left alone. Jones’ claim would likely fall under a claim of “Public Disclosure of Private Facts.” Here, legal action may be taken if an individual publicly reveals truthful information that is not of public concern and which a reasonable person would find offensive if made public. Clearly, the commission argues that 1) it did not disclose the drug test and 2) these are not private facts.
With all of the legal issues facing Jones, this one might be on the backburner until Jones’ criminal issues are clarified.
April 23, 2015
The legal fight in New York is not over yet. This week, the UFC announced that it has retained former U.S. Solicitor General, Paul Clement to appeal Judge Kimba Wood’s dismissal of Zuffa’s lawsuit in New York.
Via the UFC release:
The judge’s dismissal of the UFC’s case against the State of New York in March was based on a technicality, and the decision confirms the state is misapplying the law. UFC was advised by the judge to “consider filing new vagueness claims.” Wood also stated the New York Attorney General’s “recent statements that the Ban prohibits sanctioned MMA” were made “despite [the law’s] plain language to the contrary.” UFC also believes that Judge Wood erred in failing to recognize the serious First Amendment problems with the New York law.
Clement’s job as Solicitor General required him to be the representative of the federal government before the U.S. Supreme Court. He has argued over 75 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court according to his law firm bio.
If Zuffa were to appeal the judge ruling (which we should know soon), it will go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
UPDATE: Zuffa has filed its official Notice of Appeal to the Second Circuit. It not only will appeal the Court’s dismissal of the vagueness claim, but the other causes of action previously dismissed.
The retention of Clement certainly means we shall see an appeal of Judge Wood’s dismissal. It appears that the appeal will encompass not only the recent dispositive motion dismissing Zuffa’s claim that the New York law is unconstitutionally vague but also the causes of action dismissed previously by Judge Wood which includes the UFC’s argument that the New York law violates the First Amendment.
Clement has had his share of sports law cases in his past including representing the NBA during labor negotiations in 2011, NFL v. Brady (which was filed during the NFL lockout in 2011) and NCAA v. Governor of New Jersey II (regarding the fight to legalize sports gambling in New Jersey).
April 22, 2015
After extensive oral argument on Wednesday, a Clark County District Court will issue a ruling on or before May 11th as to whether it will uphold a lifetime ban issued by the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Wanderlei Silva.
Judge Kerry Earley heard oral arguments from Silva’s attorney Ross Goodman and Nevada Deputy Attorney General Chris Eccles arguing on behalf of the NSAC. The petition for review was filed by Goodman on behalf of Silva who was not in attendance at Wednesday’s hearing. It essentially appeals the NSAC ban and fine of Silva stemming from his evading a drug test in lead-up to UFC 175.
MMA Junkie’s John Morgan, who attended and tweeted the proceedings, reported that the primary question was whether the NSAC was correct to order Silva to submit to a drug test “out of competition” although he was not licensed by the state at the time.
As maintained by Goodman in his pleadings and oral argument, the NSAC does not have jurisdiction over a fighter not licensed in the state. Therefore, it had no power to suspend or punish.
Eccles argued that Silva took part in a news conference promoting the event and was thus “an unarmed combatant and contestant who was contracted to appear in the state as such.”
While the question of the severity of the suspension was discussed, it appears that the primary issue is that of jurisdiction.
Judge Earley indicated that she wanted more time to review the relevant statutes and regulations prior to issuance of a ruling.
As always, the issue of jurisdiction must be determined first prior to discussing the substantive merits. This could be a case where the Court knows a wrong has occurred and wants to make sure that the right result is made. But, how do you do it when the law is not in your favor. The relevant statutes appear to favor Silva’s argument but the NSAC makes an artful (and maybe persuasive) argument that the law should be interpreted broadly to include Silva within the jurisdiction of Nevada. We shall see what the Court does on May 11th.
April 14, 2015
The UFC has launched an online petition to push for legalizing and regulating MMA in the state of New York. It is offering a one month free subscription to UFC Fight Pass for signing the petition.
The catch is that the one-month free subscription is only for New York residents. The launch comes with hope that this year in Albany will be different for the UFC and MMA fans. With the removal of Sheldon Silver as speaker of the Assembly, hopes look good for a potential vote on legalizing MMA in the state. As we all know, New York is the only state in the U.S. prohibiting professional MMA.
Lorenzo Fertitta spoke about the new initiative in the announcement on UFC.com:
“We wanted to create a new vehicle for these passionate New York fans to demonstrate their support for legalizing MMA in New York and use their grassroots strength to convince Members of the Assembly that they can’t wait any longer to bring the world’s fastest growing sport to the Empire State,” Fertitta said. “I’ve travelled across the state and was in Albany just last month. I constantly hear from fans eager to help and now we’ve provided a way for them to do just that.”
With Zuffa losing out on its legal battle in New York last month, it’s clear that there is much more pressure for Zuffa to score a win in the legislature.
This is a good way for Zuffa to mobilize its support and offering Fight Pass also serves as motivation to fill out the petition. While there is no way of knowing if this type of campaign will eventually help, it’s another way for Zuffa to rally support. We shall see if this helps drum up support.
March 31, 2015
On Tuesday, Judge Kimba Wood granted New York’s Motion for Summary Judgment and denied Zuffa’s Motion for Summary Judgment thus ending (for now) the company’s legal battle to strike down New York’s law prohibiting professional mixed martial arts in the state.
Essentially, Judge Wood stated that Zuffa lacked “standing” as a plaintiff as there was no “injury in fact” and it was “merely speculative.” Since the Court determined that there was no “imminent injury” in the evidence presented, it sided with New York. Thus the remaining claim that the New York statute was unconstitutionally vague as well as a similar challenge to the state liquor law were dismissed.
Two key points made by Judge Wood here was that Zuffa had to establish an “injury in fact.” It held that there were no “specific facts” provided by Zuffa to survive the motion for summary judgment. Secondly, the Court stressed that standing must be determined at the commencement of the suit. Essentially, the Court let it be known that anything that occurred after the filing in November 2011, could not be utilized as evidence to prove standing now.
In her opinion issued on Tuesday, she indicated that if Zuffa wants to re-file based on events that may have occurred since the lawsuit was filed in November 2011, it may be better served to do this in state court rather than federal court.
The Court did not rule on a Motion to Strike filed by New York which it sought to preclude some of Zuffa’s evidence since it already had ruled in New York’s favor.
(h/t: Jim Genia)
We had predicted that this may have been a likely outcome. In its moving papers, New York had stressed the standing argument which would allow an “out” for the Court to dismiss the case without a further need for ruling on the merits. Yes, that’s a Zuffa view of the New York strategy (of course, a more Zuffa view would be its press release announcing the decision). It’s also a very good one and one that courts tend to look for if the issues either become convoluted, a toss-up or they just don’t think that the claims were that strong. We’re not saying any of those was the reason for the ruling Tuesday. But, standing is a necessary requirement in bringing claims. Essentially Con Law 101. But, there were legitimate arguments set forth by Zuffa which addressed the reasons why it had a right to bring the lawsuit.
At this point, it’s too early to know whether Zuffa will appeal or focus its efforts on lobbying for an MMA bill in Albany. MMA Payout will have more on this and keep you posted.
March 23, 2015
Ronda Rousey is heading to Albany to lobby the legislature for the legalization of MMA in New York this week. In addition to heading to the state capital of New York, Rousey made an appearance on “The View” on Monday as well as “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” on Monday night.
Rousey indicated to the NY Daily News that she wanted to make the trip to Albany “a priority” despite her busy schedule of promoting her upcoming movie release, “Fast & Furious 7,” as well as her August fight in Brazil against Bethe Corriea. She also stated that, “[i]t’s pretty ridiculous that MMA is not regulated here [New York].”
Rousey’s appearance on “The View” Monday morning did not mention New York but was more of a general interview in which the show aired her complete fight from UFC 184 (it was just 14 seconds). She did promote her UFC 190 fight this August against Bethe Correia.
As is always the case, the momentum for MMA in Albany picks up steam with appearances by UFC talent, but will it mean that the bill will actually be put to a vote this year. With a new speaker in the General Assembly, and Zuffa picking up some key endorsements in the past couple weeks, this year could be different from years past. Rousey’s appearance in Albany this week will be a good source of mainstream news and perhaps grab a little more momentum for MMA’s cause in the state.
March 21, 2015
Zuffa received another show of support for a law legalizing MMA in the state of New York with the New York State Association of Counties expressed its support for the bill this week according to the Auburn Citizen.
According to its web site, the NYSAC’s mission is to “represent, educate and advocate for New York counties and thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public.”
The NYSAC’s executive director indicated that “legalizing MMA would generate economic for local municipalities and the state.”
This is the second endorsement of the MMA bill this year as the Business Council of New York state expressed its support for the bill in a legislative memo.
Lorenzo Fertitta acknowledged the support of NYSAC citing that its recognition of the economic potential that MMA would provide for the state.
It appears that the UFC is receiving much more support this year from key stakeholders that it has in years past. Perhaps the key here is the focus on the economic benefits that MMA events would provide for the state. This would not only be the UFC, but other organizations being able to conduct MMA events all over the state. We will continue to monitor Zuffa’s efforts in Albany this year.
March 12, 2015
MMA Fighting reports on the annual pilgrimage to Albany, New York for the UFC to lobby for the legalization of the sport in the state. Lorenzo Fertitta has stated that if professional MMA is legalized in the state that it will show its commitment to the fans of New York through an “epic series of major events over the next three years.”
Dana White indicated in an interview on AXS TV’s “Inside MMA” last week that it has reserved Madison Square Garden in 2015. The UFC has reserved MSG in the past with the hope that the sport would be legal but to no avail.
This legislative session Zuffa has the support of The Business Council of NYS, Inc. The organization identified that the legislation would likely benefit its cause as many of the organization’s members are resorts and sports venues. Many of these would benefit from the influx of legalized MMA events as one would presume promoters would seek out these venues to hold MMA in New York State.
Fertitta was in Albany on Tuesday to lobby with legislators and advocate for the passage of the MMA bill. In an interview with the Auburn Citizen, he indicated that the UFC was “cautiously optimistic.”
The current budget proposal by the state of New York includes legalizing MMA. There’s no guarantee that MMA will be in the final budget.
Hope renews once again in Albany. Will this be the year that MMA is legalized in New York? With the legal case in New York potentially coming to a conclusion, Zuffa hopes that it will not have to depend on the ruling. With a new speaker that has supported previous MMA legislations, we shall see this spring if MMA will come to New York this year.