Explaining the loophole that could allow the UFC to run legally in New York state

Michael Cohen

A few days after Wednesday's surprise ruling that professional mixed martial arts events can be legally run in New York state - outside the purview of the state athletic commission - Luke Thomas has an in-depth explanation of the legal loophole allowing MMA and how the court reached its decision.

We reported on Wednesday about a legal agreement coming out of a mediation session in the UFC's suit against New York state that may allow the UFC to legally run an event in that state. Through a loophole by which professional Muay Thai boxing events have been running at Madison Square Garden. Luke Thomas of MMA Fighting drilled down into the mumbo jumbo and got an in-depth explanation of how this works.

The first thing to know is that Zuffa, parent company of the UFC, and the state of New York are headed to mediation before a judge since the current judge believes they share a fundamental agreement that there is a clear legal road for the promotion of professional mixed martial arts, even a UFC event, outside the jurisdiction of the New York State Athletic Commission.

Secondly, if that hearing blows up, all bets are off and the case goes back to court.

Thirdly, in order to run a UFC in NY, Zuffa would have to get legal authorization via one of organizations named in the original 1997 law which banned all combat sports, then opened exceptions for some. Luke Thomas explains:

According to the 1997 law, "the Ban does not mention MMA explicitly, but makes illegal the performance of 'combative sport,' defined as any 'professional match or exhibition' in which participants deliver 'kicks, punches, or blows of any kind to the body of an opponent or opponents," the plaintiffs contended in their response to the state's second motion to have the lawsuit dismissed.

"The Ban then exempts from the definition of 'combative sport:' 'boxing, sparring, wrestling or martial arts.' The Ban does not define 'martial arts' with reference to any specific activity. Rather, martial arts 'shall include' matches or exhibitions sponsored by one of the listed organizations, such as the World Karate Association ('exempt organizations')."

(Zuffa's attorneys) contend the state hasn't found this to be a loophole, but rather, a plain reading of the law by which the UFC can stage events. While the law likely forbids the New York State Athletic Commission from regulating a UFC event, the door is open for an 'exempt organization' to stage a 'martial arts' event.

While the UFC may prefer to continue its direct attack on the law via the legislative process if they can get this current agreement done they could bypass the always unpredictable goings on in Albany entirely and put on the rumored November 20th anniversary UFC in Madison Square Garden featuring Light Heavyweight champ Jon Jones, a New Yorker.

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