Thursday, August 23, 2012

Small Victory for NYS in the Battle for Regulated MMA

If you have been following this blog you are aware that the ban on live professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in New York State (NYS) is the target of a federal lawsuit spearheaded by Zuffa, LLC (parent company of the UFC) and many other plaintiffs including Jon Jones, Frankie Edgar, Gina Carano, Joe Lozito, and several other professional & amateur fighters, coaches, and fans.
Since Zuffa et al.’s legal team filed the initial complaint last November, there has been a volley of motions and counter arguments all for the eyes of Judge Kimba Wood of the United States District Court (NYS Southern District) who will determine the future of the case. The majority of which have revolved around NYS’s motion to dismiss counts 4 & 5 of the complaint and maintain the ban on live professional MMA in NY.
While most of the media has targeted Zuffa et al.’s assertion that the ban on live professional MMA violates freedom of expression guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, there are several more critical assertions made in the complaint. The complaint asserts that NYS’s ban violates the U.S. Constitution on 7 counts:
Count 1 – The ban is unconstitutional as applied to plaintiffs (1st Amendment)
Meaning: The ban violated guaranteed freedom of expression.

Count 2 – The ban is unconstitutionally overbroad and facially invalid (1st Amendment)
Meaning: The ban is so broadly written that it violates several constitutionally protected rights in addition to freedom of expression.

Count 3 – The ban is unconstitutionally vague (Due Process)
Meaning: The law is so unclearly written that a person of ordinary intelligence cannot know what is prohibited after reading it.

Count 4 – The ban violates plaintiffs’ rights to equal protections of the law (14th Amendment)
Meaning: The law arbitrarily singles out and prohibits MMA while NYS allows equally or more dangerous sports to be legally practiced.

Count 5 – The ban is unconstitutionally irrational (Due Process)
Meaning: The government is intruding on liberty without rational reason.

Count 6 – The ban unconstitutionally restricts interstate commerce (Commerce Clause)

Count 7 – The 2001 liquor law is unconstitutional as applied to the plaintiffs (1st Amendment)
Meaning: In 2001 the NY Alcoholic Beverage Control Law was amended to ban alcohol-serving venues from hosting MMA (both professional and amateur), but not other combative sports such as boxing. This is how the state was able to shut down many amateur MMA shows.

On August 17th, The Fight Lawyer reported that Judge Wood ruled in favor of NYS's motion and ordered a dismissal of counts 4 & 5 of the Zuffa et al. complaint.  While this is a small victory for NYS, the process is far from over. The remaining (some argue more legitimate) counts have yet to be addressed.
To get a more detailed understanding of what all this means, I encourage everyone to read the actual court documents listed here:

Here is a timeline of this blog’s coverage of the suit:
11/17/11 - UFC Spearheaded Lawsuit: Can Zuffa Change its Spots for the Benefit NY MMA?
12/19/11 - New York has Yet to Respond to Zuffa MMA Lawsuit
1/27/12 -   NYS Responds to Zuffa Lawsuit
1/30/12 -   NYS Admits Amateur MMA is not Banned in NY
2/1/12 -     NYS Moves to Uphold Ban on Live Professional MMA 
2/18/12 -   Zuffa et al. Responds to NYS Motion to Dismiss MMA Ban Suit
3/2/12 -     The Continuing Saga: New York's Latest Response to Zuffa et al.'s Federal Suit

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NY Newsday: Mixed martial arts gains following on Long Island

The combat sport of choke holds, jabs and uppercuts, armbars and double-leg takedowns is captivating a new audience, feeding Long Island's growing business of mixed martial arts training.

Reality TV shows such as FX's "The Ultimate Fighter" and MTV's "Caged," along with the success of the Island's homegrown fighters, have fueled growth of the area's MMA schools, owners said. Participation among the core audience of 18- to 34-year-old men has increased, and expanded to include women as well as men in their 40s and 50s -- doctors, lawyers and housewives, among others. All are looking for a more challenging workout and empowerment from a sport that incorporates boxing, kickboxing, and wrestling techniques drawn from different martial arts....


Amateur MMA: When will we come out from the dark ages?

Last June I commented on the tragic death of South Dakota amateur MMA fighter Dustin Jenson.  In that commentary I ask if we, the MMA community will learn from this tragedy. If we, as a community will look at amateur MMA with a critical eye for the safety of our young athletes. If we will acknowledge our need for regulation, education and oversight.

Sadly, less than three months since Jenson's premature death, another tragedy has struck. This time in South Carolina; the second such death in South Carolina since MMA was legalized. Thirty year old father of five Tyrone Mims died of apparent heart failure subsequent to his MMA debut. At this time the cause of death has not been established by the coroner. Exam results are still many weeks away.

Unlike South Dakota where MMA is not regulated by an athletic commission, South Carolina does have a state commission that regulates the amateur version of our sport. And, unlike South Dakota, the South Carolina commission lived up to the standards set by state law; that Mims obtain an annual physical and eye exam as well as HIV, Hepatitis B & C blood tests. Mims was also examined pre and post fight by the ringside physician.

As in all contact sports, there is always going to be risk. Death is actually very rare in MMA. Mims is the fourth known domestic MMA related death since 1993. While we do not yet know the cause of Mims' heart failure (which no amount of pre-fight exam may have prevented), the question still needs to be asked: Are we doing enough for our amateurs? Professional regulation has been standardized, overseen, examined, and continually tightened in the twenty years since MMA was born. Amateurs? We are still in the dark ages; with some athletic commissions barely even acknowledging that it exists.

Here is what Dana White had to say about amateur MMA in a 2009 interview:

But, when it comes to amateur MMA, there are other concerns. Take for example this April 20th commission sanctioned amateur bout in Massachusets:

Originally reported by Steven Marrocco of MMA Junkie, the bout shows a clear mis-judgement on the part of all parties involved. Most concerning are the ringside doctor and referee who allowed the bout to continue; the people upon whom we coaches and fighters depend upon to monitor our safety if we can't do it ourselves. There is a subsequent investigation pending with regard to this bout; justifiably so. However, we must again ask ourselves: Are we doing enough to protect our amateurs?

The problems with amateur MMA constitute a laundry list of concerns*. This editorial only scratches the surface. I am publicly asking the Association of Boxing Commissions to take a long hard look at amateur MMA. We need a national standard that looks after our young athletes.

Stephen Koepfer
Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY

*To learn more about this topic, please check Episode 12 of the HIYAA Martial Arts Podcast where I sit in and discuss the current state of MMA