Legal Newsline

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Attorney: UFC's lawsuit against New York likely to succeed, leading to 2016 event

By Anna Aguillard | Oct 28, 2015


NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) – A lawsuit filed by the UFC with the goal of changing the state’s laws on combative sports looks “likely” to succeed, lawyer and combat sports law consultant Erik Magraken believes.

The suit brought by the Ultimate Fighting Championship demands clarification of the state’s Combative Sports Law (CSL) and its Liquor Law. According to the UFC, both laws are “badly written” and are arbitrarily applied by the state to discriminate against the UFC.

“Yes, the laws the UFC are looking to strike down have negatively impacted their business model,” Magraken told Legal Newsline.

New York lawmakers have historically opposed UFC and its president, Dana White. Additionally, White’s business partners own the Station Casino empire, which is a non-union organization.

Some allege that the Culinary Workers’ Union, the largest union in America and one tied strongly to the New York state Senate, works to keep non-union companies from growing in the state.

According to Magraken, the UFC seeks to clarify these laws after booking an event in Madison Square Garden for April. The UFC signed a contract to act as an “exempt organization” in attempt to make the event legal. However, due to the state’s laws, the event’s legality still remains vague.

“New York’s Combative Sport Law arguably allows the UFC to hold professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) events in New York, however, the state interprets the law otherwise,” Magraken said.

“The difficulty is the state’s interpretation of the law has fluctuated over time, is inconsistent, and appears to go against the plain language of the legislation."

Additionally, the suit calls into question the state’s liquor law.

“The litigation also targets the Liquor Law because the New York State Liquor Authority has interpreted the Liquor Law as barring venues with liquor licenses from hosting professional MMA events,” Magraken said.

Magraken says that the suit will add much-needed clarity to professional MMA’s legality in New York.

“New York’s Combative Sports Law is unconstitutionally vague as applied to professional MMA, and they are seeking a declaration stating the same, along with an injunction preventing the state from enforcing the CSL against UFC professional events,” Magraken said.

“If this declaration is granted, the road will be paved for the UFC and other promoters to host professional MMA events in the state, provided they use the services of an outside 'exempt organization' sanctioning body.”

On the other hand, if the litigation fails, professional MMA will be made illegal in the state of New York. Despite the lack of similar lawsuits in other jurisdictions, Magraken predicts that the litigation will succeed.

“[Success] is a more likely outcome, given that legislation to overhaul New York’s CSL was on the cusp of passing earlier this year,” he said.

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