UFC wins ruling in NY MMA lawsuit

The UFC’s case against New York and its ban on mixed

martial arts in the state will go forward


target="_blank">after federal district court Judge Kimba M. Wood

denied the state attorney general’s motion to dismiss the

suit, ruling the plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged an

as-applied vagueness challenge to the law written in 1997.

Specifically, the UFC and fellow plaintiffs including Jon Jones,

Gina Carano, Frankie Edgar and others, argued that the combative

sport ban is unconstitutionally vague under the Due Process Clause

of the 14th Amendment.

In declining to dismiss the claim, the court noted the

state’s erratic interpretation, application and enforcement

of the ban over the years, including an exemption for martial arts

sanctioned by various organizations including the

World Kickboxing


“A plain reading of this provision suggests plaintiffs

would be allowed to promote a professional MMA event in New York if

the event were sanctioned by one of the exempt

organizations,” Wood noted. Buttressing the vagueness claim,

Wood added that while the state originally agreed with that

interpretation, they have now reversed course.

While the court dismissed multiple other claims in the suit,

including one that the ban violates the plaintiffs’ First

Amendment rights of expression, Wood ultimately ruled the challenge

can go forward.

“We are pleased with the outcome of this crucial

ruling,“ UFC’s COO Ike Lawrence Epstein said in a press

release issued on Wednesday. “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. It is time for New York to have a new law on MMA, one that

legalizes the sport and regulates it in a safe way, as all other

states have done. New York’s law is outdated, written at a

time when MMA was a very different sport.”

Wood’s decision agrees with that claim, noting that

“MMA has changed substantially since the ban was enacted,

making the legislative history, which relates to earlier versions

of MMA, of little relevance.”

New York is the only state with an athletic commission that has

a ban on the sport. For several years, the UFC has been campaigning

the state’s legislative bodies to pass a law to regulate MMA,

but despite several successful votes in the State Senate and

significant support in the Assembly, the effort has ultimately

stalled out when the bill has been held back from a full vote.

In 2013, the UFC even pledged to hold at least four events per

year in the state if a law was passed sanctioning the sport. Two of

the promotion’s current champions — light-heavyweight

Jones and middleweight Chris Weidman — are natives of the


The UFC has already said that if the case is not ultimately

resolved at the District Court level, they intended to appeal the

First Amendment ruling.