An interesting day in a New York court yesterday appears to have exposed a loophole that may give a boost to the UFC's efforts to promote MMA in that state.
Mixed martial arts has been explicitly banned in NY since 1997. It has been expected that the state legislature would need to pass a new law legalizing and regulating MMA for the UFC to be able to promote events in that state.
Judge Kimba Wood was hearing a motion from the state's Attorney General's office to dismiss a suit filed by Zuffa, parent company of the UFC, against the state claiming that the state's ban on mixed martial arts constituted a violation of their first amendment rights. In the course of that hearing representatives of the NY AG office agreed that the state ban on the sport does NOT cover amateur MMA regulated by a third party.
Jim Genia reported at Fightline:
The admission (that a pre-approved third party could put on amateur MMA in the state legally) prompted the counsel representing Zuffa's interests to say that if that were truly the case, then there'd be no further need to pursue the lawsuit - which in turn prompted the presiding Judge Kimba Wood of the U.S District Court of the Southern District of New York to push both sides to immediately settle.
Notwithstanding whether a settlement is reached, the door is now open for Zuffa - or any other MMA promotion - to circumvent the ban by utilizing one of the pre-approved sanctioning bodies enumerated in the statute. Those sanctioning bodies include the World Karate Association (since renamed the World Kickboxing Association, a.k.a. the "WKA"), the Professional Karate Association and the U.S. Judo Association, among others.
"We'll take it," said UFC in-house counsel Timothy Bellamy, who was present at today's proceedings. "We'd rather have the state lift the ban and we go that route first, but we'll know in the next two months if that's going to happen." If it doesn't, said Bellamy, then the UFC would use the third-party-sanctioning option.
It's unclear how this loophole, which seems to pertain only to amateur MMA events would allow the UFC to promote a professional event, but that is the claim Genia makes in his post.
The UFC is hoping to put on a 20th anniversary event in Madison Square Garden this November if the legislature passes a bill legalizing MMA. Yesterday's developments may preclude the necessity of getting new legislation passed although exactly how is unclear at this time.
Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more on the story as it develops.