Mixed martial arts promotion sues New York State over ban

By Joseph Ax

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The leading mixed martial arts promotion company on Monday filed a federal lawsuit challenging New York State's law banning its events, the latest effort in a longstanding battle to bring the combat sport to the state.

In a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, Zuffa LLC [ZUFFA.UL], which owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), said the law "is so badly written that neither ordinary persons nor state officials are able to say with any certainty what it permits and what it prohibits" and is therefore unconstitutionally vague.

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New York is the only state that does not sanction mixed martial arts, which has exploded in popularity in recent years. In 49 other states, the sport is legal and regulated by athletic commissions.

The office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, which will litigate the case, declined to comment.

Mixed martial arts involves bouts between fighters who use a variety of combat styles, including kickboxing, judo, wrestling, boxing and karate.

The state legislature passed a ban on "combative sport" in 1997, at a time when mixed martial arts was still in its relative infancy. Matches were advertised as "no holds barred," and promoters boasted that the fights had "no rules."

Since then, however, the sport has undergone major changes, including rules that protect fighters by prohibiting dangerous moves, the lawsuit said.

Earlier this year, the legislature failed to take up a proposed bill that would legalize the sport.

Monday's lawsuit comes six months after U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in New York dismissed a similar 2011 complaint, finding the UFC did not have proper standing to sue because it could not show a specific injury.

At the time, however, Wood said the company could bring a fresh challenge based on events that occurred after the original lawsuit had been filed.

In Monday's lawsuit, the UFC said it had signed a contract to hold an event at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and that the ban was costing it millions of dollars in revenue.

The UFC produces more than 40 live events every year that are broadcast to more than 129 countries and territories, according to its website.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Richard Chang)

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