By Jim Genia
I know what you’re thinking — how did we screw up this time? Well you can all exhale, because Zuffa isn’t actually suing CagePotato. Instead, the UFC brass has cited a recent CagePotato article on page 7 of the amended complaint to their lawsuit against the State of New York; click here for a screen-shot. So this is actually a happy occasion, and perhaps a sign that the relationship between CP and the world’s largest MMA promoter is beginning to thaw. (We’ll let you know when our new press credentials arrive in the mail.)
If you’ll recall, the Zuffa vs. New York lawsuit was originally filed last November, and it alleges that the State’s failure to sanction MMA is a violation of various portions of the U.S. Constitution. Thus far, a lot of legal wrangling (i.e., motions to dismiss, responses, dirty looks and curses muttered under the breath) has gone down but nothing major has been decided. So what do you, the casual MMA fan, need to know to be able to drop some knowledge on the subject when you find yourself talking shop at a cocktail party?
Just this: The amended complaint focuses more on how the New York State Athletic Commission allows some events but not others, that the Commission is confused as hell when it comes to the law banning professional MMA, that amateur and underground shows in New York are a freakin’ free for all, and that the law is insanely vague. Most notable is that the First Amendment claim found in the original complaint – that pro MMA events are a form of free speech – is still in there.
There you go, those are the news tidbits, condensed into bite-sized, easily-digestible form. However, if you’re the kind of discerning MMA nerd who needs more detail, here’s a comprehensive list of how the amended complaint now differs from the original complaint:
- The original complaint was 124 pages long; the new one tips the scales at 178 pages.
- Don Lilly, a promoter in Upstate New York, has been added as a plaintiff. He joins Zuffa, UFC champ Jon Jones, former female fighter Gina Carano, former champ Frankie Edgar, UFC fighters Matt Hamill and Brian Stann, MMA website owners Danielle Hobeika and Donna Hurrle, MMA coaches Steve Kardian and Erik Owings, fans Chris Reitz and Jennifer Santiago, and civilian hero Joe Lozito as parties aggrieved by the ban.
- Attorney General for the City of New York Cyrus Vance has been removed as a defendant. Now only State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman remains.
- The original complaint listed seven causes of action (a.k.a. arguments) as to why the law banning pro MMA is bad. They’re all still there. As a reminder, they are: 1) The law is unconstitutional because there’s a message in live MMA fights and the ban violates the “Freedom of Speech Clause”; 2) The law is way too broad in how it can be interpreted; 3) The law is way too vague and no one can figure out what it means exactly; 4) the law violates the “Equal Protection” Clause in that it discriminates against MMA while letting every other damn sport (example: professional bull riding and actual jousting) go on; 5) the law violates the “Due Process Clause” because it’s arbitrary and irrational; 6) the law restricts interstate commerce; and, 7) that law banning liquor at all MMA events has got to go. The various causes of action, though, have been fleshed out a little bit – especially in light of what the State has since admitted (see below).
- Since the first filing of the lawsuit, the State has admitted that amateur MMA isn’t really banned by the law. In the amended complaint, Zuffa’s attorneys take the athletic commission to task for being wishy-washy on the subject throughout the years. Says the complaint: “This recent position on amateur sports, however, is hardly the position that State officials had maintained over the course of the Ban’s fifteen-year history. Instead, there has been a pattern of shifting and incoherent flip-flopping.” What follows are examples, including the pro MMA bouts that were allowed on promoter Lou Neglia’s kickboxing shows, the amateur events that were snuffed out, the storm of cease and desist letters that drove promoters out of state and gave rise to the underground scene, and the hassles aforementioned promoter Don Lilly had to face to put on his recent amateur event.
- Another thing the amended complaint addresses is the State’s suggestion that the World Kickboxing Association – an outside sanctioning body currently permitted to oversee pro kickboxing shows in New York – can sanction MMA events, including ones done by the UFC. As per the complaint, the WKA is okay as sanctioning bodies go, but when compared to, say, how things are done by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board…fugeddaboutit. State-run commissions are, obviously, more stringent (and therefore safer).
There are other subtle differences between the original lawsuit and the amended complaint, but that’s the crux of it. Will this ultimately make any difference in the grand scheme of things? In other words, will this somehow ensure that the court changes the law before the legislature does? There’s no way to answer that question with access to a crystal ball. But I will say this: It can’t hurt.