As fans of the UFC know, the promotion has, for years now, been agitating to get MMA legalized in the state of New York.
In pursuit of that goal, the UFC has not only been hammering away in the State Legislature, but also in the courts and today, it appears that they might have scored some success; a takedown if you will; not decisive, but worth some points, nonetheless.
In a ruling that is significant to the advancement of the cause, U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood, has ruled in favor of the UFC, sustaining the promotion’s argument that the state’s ban on MMA is vague and as such, could be unconstitutional.
At the heart of their argument, the UFC has alleged that New York’s ban constitutes a violation of (a) fighters' First Amendment right to freedom of expression. For the record, the UFC used New York State resident and light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, as the lead plaintiff in the case.
In moving forward, the promotion will now be required to demonstrate the ban’s constitutional vagueness. If successful, the UFC will overturn by legal ruling that which they have been unable to overturn by decree.
However and regardless of today’s win, there are still significant hurdles to overcome. First, the State’s Attorney General can appeal the ruling. Second, as the case to establish the right to go to court has taken two years, the case to prove the argument could easily take another two or more years. Beyond that and pertaining to the first point, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman could add more time to the clock, simply by appealing today’s decision.
Regarding the actual vagueness of the ban, it’s really more hypocrisy then vagueness. As New York States allows amateur MMA bouts within the state and one’s that adhere to the same rules and conduct within the cage as does the UFC, one really has to ask the question, what’s the difference between a sanctioned amateur event and a UFC one? Of course, the answer will inevitably be money.
In way of a reaction to the ruling, UFC chief operating officer, Ike Lawrence Epstein made statement to the Democrat & Chronicle, commenting:
"We are pleased with the outcome of this crucial ruling. The inconsistency has cost the UFC considerable time and expense, but more important it has deprived MMA's countless New York fans of the opportunity to attend and enjoy live professional and amateur MMA events in New York."
In terms of root causes for the UFC’s legal issues in New York and as noted, money appears to be the real whip that’s driving this horse. More specifically, it’s the expenditures of the Culinary Union to thwart the UFC in the state, and ostensibly for the purposes of using the New York MMA market as a bargaining chip, in their ongoing labor battles with the Fertitta brothers and their Stations Casinos.
So, now that the particulars have been brought up to date, let’s consider where we are.
Yes, the UFC won a victory today, but it was a victory in a battle, not the war and unfortunately, the war is being fought on two fronts; the judicial and the legislative. As such, it can be continued to be obstructed on two fronts.
Further and taking into consideration two things, the union’s successes in New York and the hypocrisy of state sanctioned amateur MMA, but not it’s professional big brother, fans really have to ask themselves the question, is the fix in?
On this subject, most MMA fans would probably say yes and that any answers that are given, whether or not they’re in a courtroom or legislative assembly, will forever be “no” and that today’s ruling is just part of the façade of fairness and true deliberation in New York, meant only to lull us all into believing and accepting, that the process is blind to bias or corruption.
Concluding, yes the UFC won a courtroom victory today, but given the track record in New York and taking into consideration what the union and its allies put the promotion through in Boston this past August, it's easy to understand why fans wouldn't spend much time applauding today’s ruling or daydreaming about booking flights to and hotel rooms in, “The Big Apple”, for the purposes of seeing a UFC event at Madison Square Garden.
At the snail’s pace this is moving, fans probably won’t have to worry about it until sometime in 2020; if then.