The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has upped its game against New York State as it enters the final stages of a four-year contest with a new lawsuit aiming to overturn the 1997 state ban on live professional mixed martial arts.
Although mixed martial arts has grown popular in the United States, with many viewers prepared to pay to view the sport; New York State put a ban on live professional fights after criticizing that the sport displays and promotes too much violence.
The lawsuit was filed by the UFC to the U.S district Court of the Southern District of New York on Tuesday. It claims that by banning the sport because of the violent message it conveys, it is violating the First Amendment, equal protection and due process.
In a 107-page document, the UFC rejects that the sport promotes violence. The lawsuit states: Live professional M.M.A. is clearly intended and understood as public entertainment and, as such, is expressive activity protected by the First Amendment.
All the disciples that are used in mixed martial arts are permitted for live performance in New York, according to Lorenzo Feritta, the chairman of UFC's parent company Zuffa. It is only their combination that is illegal. Denying fighters the chance to exhibit their training and skills before a live audience and denying thousands of New Yorkers the ability to watch their favorite fighters perform live is not only an injustice to them, but to the local markets that would reap tremendous economic benefits from hosting competitions, he said in a press statement.
Lorenzo explains that the UFC went to great lengths to impose health and safety regulations to M.M.A making it as safe as or even safer than many other sports activities. The sport allows fighters to honorably tap out with fewer hits, he said.
UFC regret that they have been forced to take such great measures in this case, but after taking many legislative efforts they believe this is the last resort.
This rationale is a patent violation of the First Amendment. In live events, fighters showcase their talents, communicate their convictions, show respect for their opponents and the art and tradition of MMA, and convey the importance of discipline, training and hard work. They also entertain their fans. Not only does the law prohibit live events, but as it is written it purports to ban other speech including media broadcasts and coverage of professional MMA, said Barry Friedman co-counsel with Morrison and Forester LLP for the plaintiffs.
Friedman finds it ironic that a state like New York, home of free expression, the global media and the art world could deny someone his or her fundamental freedom of expression.
The UFC was launched in 1993 as a profession mixed martial arts organization. Their goal was to find the Ultimate Fighting Champion with a concept to have a tournament of the best athletes skilled in the various disciplines of all martial arts, including karate, jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, grappling, wrestling, sumo and other combat sports. The winner of the tournament would be crowned the champion.