Monday, January 30, 2012

NYS Admits Amateur MMA is Not Banned in New York

Anyone existing in the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) community in New York State long enough to know what the "Dark Ages" of the late 1990's - early 2000's is, will clearly understand how important this admission is by the State's Attorney General in response to the Zuffa spearheaded Federal suit to overturn the ban.

For those who don't know, debate over amateur MMA has raged on since 1997 when NYS banned live professional MMA. While the law specifically stated that live professional MMA was illegal, amateur had never been addressed in the statute.  However, this did not stop NYS and its draconian athletic commission at the time from proceeding to use a napalm approach to wiping out any and all MMA in NYS.  In reality, they shut down any event that could be considered MMA or might open the door for MMA - amateur or professional.

The end result has been continued confusion and debate over whether amateur MMA is illegal in NYS, and if it was not, why had NYS been doing anything they could to shut amateur shows down. Promoters during the past 15 years have prohibited themselves from promoting lawful amateur events due of the fear of being shut down - unlawfully. Still, other promoters believed, due to NYS's past actions, that amateur MMA was also illegal. This confusion was clearly addressed in Zuffa's suit. For a window into the past and how the ban affected NY area martial arts, check the link at the end of this post.

The other effect this hard line crackdown had in NYS was to bolster the growth of "underground" or more accurately, unsanctioned MMA events. This very history is well documented in Jim Genia's book "Raw Combat: The Underground World of Mixed Martial Arts."

So, the following excerpt from NYS's motion to dismiss Zuffa's suit, first noted by Genia, will come as welcome news to many New Yorkers:

“Plaintiffs also object to NY Unconsol. Law Sec. 8905-a, because, while it prohibits ‘live professional MMA,’ it is silent as to amateur MMA contests, which ‘undoubtedly occur every day’.  They further claim the statue is ‘vague’ as it is unclear whether the ban applies to amateur MMA exhibitions.  To the extent that it does not ban amateur MMA exhibitions, Plaintiffs assert that the disparate treatment of professional and amateur MMA activities violates the equal protection clause.  This claim, too, is meritless.  The statute’s provision on its face explicitly speaks to ‘professional’ combative sports and does not address amateur sports.  Moreover, while the legislature, in another statute, regulates amateur boxing and wrestling, the legislature has not enacted a provision expressly addressing any amateur martial arts activity.  Accordingly, the statute does not treat amateur MMA bouts any differently from amateur bouts involving traditional martial arts.  And, to the extent that the legislature, with regard to traditional and mixed martial arts, has drawn a distinction between amateur and professional bouts, it hardly needs saying that a rational basis exists for such a distinction.  Moreover, Plaintiffs, themselves, aver in the Complaint that it was not until the statute was enacted that amateur MMA contests began to proliferate.  Plainly, the legislature had a rational basis for explicitly banning professional MMA bouts, but not to address amateur contests.”

Some forgotten New York martial art history:

2002: Lou Neglia kickboxing show shut down

2003: Discussion regarding how the Ban affected Chinese martial arts (San Shou)

2003: Discussion on the state of banned martial arts in NY

2004: IKF News, scroll down to NY news where the ban is disucssed

2009: Jim Genia discusses the dark ages and predicts the admission made by NYS this week that amateur MMA is legal

Friday, January 27, 2012

Update: NYS Responds to Zuffa lawsuit

New York Attorney General and District Attorney for the County of New York motions to dismiss counts IV and V of Zuffa et al.'s complaint. You can check of The Fight Lawyer's blog to read both briefs in support of the motions to dismiss Counts IV (equal protections) and V (Constitutional irrationality) of Zuffa et al.'s complaint.

Prior posts on the topic:

December 19, 2011: UPDATE: New York has yet to respond to Zuffa MMA lawsuit.

November 17, 2011: UFC spearheaded lawsuit: Can a Zuffa change its spots for the benefit of New York MMA?

Watch to learn more about the rationale behind the complaint:

Jeff Wagenheim of addresses the latest Union attack on Zuffa

For a solid critical look at the current round of UFC/Cullinary Union bickering, check out Jeff Wagenheim's latest story on

"...when a union takes aim at the UFC while hiding behind children and gays, its campaign comes across as nothing more than a spitefully opportunistic sneak attack."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Save the Date: 2012 Rally for legal MMA!

The Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY brings you the
2012 NYC Rally for Legal Live Mixed Martial Arts!

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012 (rain date March 13, 2012)

11:30am - 1:30pm

Governor Andrew Cuomo's NYC Office
633 Third Avenue, NY, NY, 10017. Between 40th - 41st Streets.

Stay tuned to our Rally page for continued updates!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gina Carano on New York Mixed Martial Arts

On January 18th, noted female Mixed Martial Artist and former Strikeforce Champion Gina Carano appeared on Darce Side Radio. While she appeared to talk about her new film "Haywire", she took a few moments to speak on the issue of the ban on live MMA in New York State. For those not aware, Carano is one of several plaintiffs in the current Federal lawsuit against New Yrok State to lift the ban on live MMA.
...Honestly, it is absolutely insane to me I sit here in New York...they have not legalized it yet. Every other form of competition in martial arts until you put them all together is legal, but for some reason [MMA] is not legal...I think that has more to do with politics than actual mixed martial arts itself.

...We as fighters need to have a voice and I am really honored to be a part of it. So hopefully one day we will all be watching [MMA] in Madison Square Garden.

...[The New York fans] love it, they absolutely lov it here. I would have moved to New York if it were legal. It is an amazing place to be.
Listen to the full episode of Darce Side Radio with Gina Carano, Pat Barry, and Dave Camarillo here

NY MMA Social Networking Campaign!

In 2012 it will be imperative that we get Governor Andrew Cuomo on board and supportive of legal live Mixed Martial Arts in New York. While some Assemblyman may have the power to circumvent the will of the people and hold us back, they may not want to stand against a supportive Governor. We can't all make the trip to the Governor's office in Albany or Manhattan but, we can all still let him know what we want in massive numbers!

Let Governor Cuomo know on his Facebook Wall that you want MMA in NY! If you are on Twitter, you can tweet Governor Cuomo @NYGovCuomo.

Let's flood Cuomo's Facebook and Twitter with polite requests for MMA in NY. It takes just a few minutes and can have a HUGE impact. Don't delay.

If you don't use social networking websites (and if you do), Assemblyman Dean Murray has been collecting signatures for a petition to Governor Cuomo requesting legal live MMA in NY. Please take some time to visit Assemblyman Murray's website, print out the petition, have all your friends sign it, and send it in!

For all you non-New Yorkers who want to help, you can speak up as well! You all represent to fans, tourists and businesses that will visit and come to NY if we get legalized MMA.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Beth Hurrle of Gal's Guide to MMA: rebuttal to NCDSV

On January 10, 2012 the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence (NCDSV) released a letter to the NYS Assembly urging them to "to uphold the ban on cage fighting" in New York State. The letter addresses the unfortunate behavior of Dana White, President of the UFC and several fighters contracted to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC); suggesting that these incidents "contribute to a culture of violence against women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people" and noting the effect these incidents may have on child viewers. I am very honored to have the opportunity to post a response from Beth Hurrle, co-founder of The Gal's Guide to MMA

Stephen Koepfer
Founder, Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY

I think it’s reprehensible that the Culinary Workers Union has gotten The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence involved in their personal campaign against the Fertitta brothers via UFC.  The NCDSV chooses to recycle old arguments against the UFC instead of providing any factual evidence that UFC leads to violence against women and the LGBT community.  The letter is an obvious attack against UFC, not MMA.  However, the backlash could affect everyone who participates in the sport.
I am trying to understand how a group that tries to stop violence can speak out against a sport that take active steps to help kids protect themselves against bullying.  They also completely ignore the countless women who have taken martial arts classes after being the victim of violence or to keep themselves from being victims of violence.  People who practice mixed martial arts learn respect, self control and discipline.  These are not virtues that you can associate with a man who beats and sexually assaults women.

Nowhere can I find their objections to other sports.  How can they ignore such high profile cases of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, and homophobia in other sports?  Because UFC provides such unprecedented access to the fighters, they are bound to be more apt to have negative comments brought out into the spotlight.  However, following some recent high profile incidents, some fighters have shown true remorse and taken actions to increase their sensitivity to issues they may have been ignorant of.  Pretending other sports athletes don’t say or act in degrading ways towards women and the LGBT community because we haven’t heard it is ignorant and ridiculous.

Domestic and sexual violence is a worldwide concern.  The NCDSV has used it to promote the political agenda of a group of men and women who are involved in a culinary union.  They’ve cheapened their name and their cause by aligning themselves with a self-serving smear campaign against a company whose casino hiring practices they don’t agree with.  

Beth Hurrle
Co-Founder, Gal's Guide to MMA

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fighter/instructor Caroline Portugal weighs in on NCDSV anti-MMA memo

By Peter Lampasona for The Fight Nerd

Earlier this week, the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence (NCDSV) released a letter to the New York State Assembly, urging its members to maintain the ban on mixed martial arts in the Empire State in 2012. The letter states that the world’s largest MMA organization, the UFC, “contributes to a culture of violence against women and lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.” Several womens’ and LGBT advocates were approached to weigh in on this new angle of assault on MMA, with the first response and most definitive rebuttal coming from womens’ self defense instructor Caroline Portugal...

Read the entire story and rebuttal here

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rebuttal: The NCDSV has it all wrong

On January 10, 2012 the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence (NCDSV) released a memo to the NYS Assembly urging them to "to uphold the ban on cage fighting" in New York State. The memo, attached below, addresses the unfortunate behavior of Dana White, President of the UFC and several fighters contracted to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC); suggesting that these incidents "contribute to a culture of violence against women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people" and noting the effect these incidents may have on child viewers. The notion that continuing prohibition of live Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in New York , despite the offensive nature of the incidents cited in the memo, is completely incongruent with said concerns and itself upsetting in several ways. Let’s begin with the fact that the sanctioned professional sport is not called cage fighting as described in the memo.

I doubt anyone would argue in favor of the unfortunate, offensive, and possibly damaging decisions a minority of people associated with the UFC have made with regard to their behaviors on camera and social media; mistakes many other athletes, professional wrestlers, politicians, boxers, and public figures have made. Unfortunately, moderation of what public figures say and do is not an easy task. Equally difficult is education and subsequent behavior change. But why is perpetuating the ban on live MMA the wrong way to go?

Primarily, this memo is clearly another attempt by the culinary union and their supporters to take a shot at the Fertitta brothers. For those not in the know, the Fertittas are majority owners of Zuffa, LLC (parent company of the UFC) as well as the non-union Station Casino chain the culinary union is battling in Las Vegas. Recently, the union has used New York MMA as a proxy battle ground in this fight. The UFC has been no better in this regard, similarly sacrificing New York MMA to attack the union on another front. The memo is quite transparent in that it specifically addresses the UFC, not any other promotion or concerns with the sport as a whole.

While concerns regarding UFC’s policies (or lack of) may be valid, to prevent legalization of a sanctioned professional sport in this state over such concerns in outright wrong. These are entirely unrelated debates. MMA is larger than the UFC. In 2010, in New Jersey for example, the New Jersey Athletic Control Board (NJACB) sanctioned 19 professional MMA and 20 amateur MMA shows. Only one was a UFC. In 2011, the NJACB oversaw 350 individual MMA bouts (199 pro, 151 amateur). There was only one UFC in NJ in 2011 including 12 individual bouts. 12 out of 350 NJ MMA bouts were UFC. The professional sport of MMA is one thing, union battles and policy changes in a particular promotional company are another. Both the UFC and the union are to blame for these monumental distractions in the effort to legalize live MMA in New York. Now, the NCDSV has unjustly added to the confusion surrounding our sport.

Importantly, maintaining prohibition of live MMA in New York (which began long before Zuffa, LLC ever existed) as the letter supports, would have little or no affect on the UFC, which does not need New York State to continue its growth and development. Perpetuating the ban on live MMA in New York will offer no solution for the damage done by incidents like those mentioned in the memo. The damage of incidents like these is done via television, pay-per-views, social media and other mass media outlets, which every New Yorker already has access to.  To maintain the live ban on MMA in New York as some sort of punishment of the UFC would not prompt or encourage the policy changes the NCDSV would like to see.

However, continuing the prohibition of live MMA will have an effect in New York.  It will continue to hurt the tax-paying New Yorkers who make a living in this sport as coaches, athletes, promoters, merchandisers, etc.  It would affect the state by depriving us of well needed income during one of the worst financial crises this state has ever seen. And most importantly, it will keep alive an antiquated, out-of-date, and poorly written law that arguably violates the United States Constitution.

The ban on live MMA affects us locally, not the UFC globally. If the unions and the advocacy groups concerned about particular messages the UFC may portray were genuinely interested in making a change, they would be attempting to work with the UFC and other promoters on policy development, not trying to act as hall monitors and stamp out a professionally sanctioned sport.

Stephen Koepfer
Founder, Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY