The UFC has hired a heavyweight to fight its battles.
The Las Vegas-based mixed-martial-arts (MMA) outfit has secured the services of Paul Clement, President George W. Bush’s solicitor general, in its court battle to legalize cage fighting in New York. Clement has argued more cases before the U.S. Supreme Court this young century than any other lawyer, representing the federal government’s interests in the Gonzales v. Carhart abortion case and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld terrorist detainee case, and taking on the federal government in the landmark Obamacare case, NFIB v. Sebelius.
“I am delighted to be representing the UFC in this important challenge to New York’s outdated and unconstitutional law,” Clement said in a release from the promotion. “Even New York officials are confused about the scope of this hopelessly unclear law, and by targeting professional MMA matches and exhibitions, the law raises First Amendment problems of the first order.”
A footnote figure from the previous administration, Judge Kimba Wood of Nannygate infamy, ruled against the UFC on standing grounds last month in a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban. New York remains the lone holdout against legalizing professional MMA among the fifty states. The federal corruption indictment earlier this year of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the legislator steadfastly committed to keeping MMA out of the Empire State, gives UFC fighters hope for the future as it validates much said about the ban in the past.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” UFC lightweight Al Iaquinta told Breitbart Sports earlier this month about fighting in his home state in the wake of Silver’s resignation as speaker. “It would be a dream, a dream come true.”
While Long Islander Iaquinta remains hopeful, Urijah Faber, a “California Kid” seemingly without much skin in this fight, struck a more indignant tone when Breitbart Sports spoke to him last year at the Big Apple arena once regarded as the fight capital of the world.
“The reason MMA is not sanctioned in New York is because there is a lot of money from the culinary unions who have an old grudge with the Fertittas about Station Casinos not using the culinary unions in Las Vegas,” Faber said in Madison Square Garden. “It’s corrupt. It’s wrong. It’s something that everyone should be ashamed of if you’re a part of it.”
The dispute between the unions and the UFC owners spilled over into New York to such a degree that organized labor from Nevada hired a lobbyist in New York to stop MMA. With the former assembly speaker tightly allied with unions, an opportunity for an up-or-down vote on the matter has been heretofore nonexistent. Opponents of MMA publicly cite the brutality of the sport. But a union grievance thousands of miles away strangely more heavily colors the debate.
“Station Casinos is one of the largest nonunion casino operators in Las Vegas,” UFC chief operating officer Lawrence Epstein told Breitbart Sports last year about the gaming entities controlled by UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta. “The union here in Las Vegas has been trying to organize in Station for twenty years. They have been unsuccessful. Workers at Station Casinos don’t want the unions representing them. [The unions] are trying to harass Frank and Lorenzo in anything they do in hopes that they’ll give up and let them unionize.”
Caught up in a fight only ostensibly related to their fights, New York MMA practitioners discussing the ban with Breitbart Sports appear genuinely confused, and deeply downhearted, over the prohibition of their profession by their state.
“It’s sad,” UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman told Breitbart Sports last year. “I have a lot of pride being from New York, born and raised there–still train there. It’s where I raise my kids. For me not being able to compete and give my fans the show they want to see is heartbreaking. I want it to get it legalized as fast as possible.”
And Paul Clement, who knows the intersection of sports and organized labor through advising players during the NBA and NFL lockouts and knows victory in federal cases about as much as any other lawyer in America, appears to the UFC as the right man “to get it legalized as fast as possible.”