The lawsuit, filed today in U.S. district court, alleges multiple violations of the U.S. Constitution, including infringing the rights of fighters to “publicly exhibit their skills as professionals and express themselves before a live audience” and the rights of fans “who would like to experience live professional MMA events.”
In their announcement of the lawsuit, the UFC says the ban was imposed in 1997 when the sport was unregulated and prohibited elsewhere, but nearly every other state now allows MMA. It also notes that individual martial arts, including jiu-jitsu, boxing, and wrestling, are legal in New York and are only illegal when performed together by professionals.
“MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. and one of the most popular in the world,” UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said in a statement. “When we acquired the UFC, we went to great lengths to invite regulation and adopt substantial safety measures. MMA is now as safe as or even safer than many other sports and activities sanctioned in New York like boxing, for example, because it allows fighters to honorably tap out and involves far fewer hits. All the disciplines that go into mixed martial arts are performed live in New York; it is only their combination that is illegal. Denying fighters the chance to exhibit their training and skills before a live audience and denying thousands of New Yorkers the ability to watch their favorite fighters perform live is not only an injustice to them, but to the local markets that would reap tremendous economic benefits from hosting competitions. We believe the ban should be eliminated, and look forward to fighting live in New York.”
The lawsuit comes after New York State legislature declined to legalize MMA yet again this summer, though the movement has made progress in recent but continues to come up short of approval.
Pictured: UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta