The UFC boldly scheduled a mixed-martial arts (MMA) card for Madison Square Garden next year despite the state’s attorney general dubbing the sport unlawful in New York.
“MMA would really get that place fired up and roaring,” Dennis Bermudez, a featherweight hailing from Saugerties, New York, tells Breitbart Sports. “Being the ‘fight capital of the world’—it doesn’t hold true with MMA not happening there.”
In Bermudez’s six years of professional competition, his trade has taken him to Mexico City, Las Vegas, and beyond. But because his own state outlaws his profession, Bermudez remains innocent of the experience of fighting before a truly hometown crowd. He tells Breitbart Sports he “100 percent” wants a match on that April 23, 2016 card in Madison Square Garden.
But the UFC remains a courtroom victory away from Bermudez enjoying an octagon victory in his home state.
“Tomorrow we’re going to file a preliminary injunction in federal court,” UFC counsel Barry Friedman informed Breitbart Sports on Monday. “That preliminary injunction asks the judge to bar enforcement of the law that purports to make live MMA unlawful so that we can hold the event.”
The UFC lost a federal lawsuit earlier this year in part because Judge Kimba Wood ruled that the promotion lacked standing. Scheduling an event, the UFC hopes, gives them the standing they need to prevail in the current litigation.
“This comes down to money with the culinary unions in Las Vegas,” the #9 ranked featherweight contender contends. ”I think the culinary union is trying to get the Fertitta brothers to unionize all of their hotels in Las Vegas.” Failing to win the unionization attempt in Nevada, organized labor called on their political allies in the Empire State to hassle another enterprise of the UFC’s primary owners.
Bermudez and other fighters find themselves in the middle of a political battle ostensibly about the ethics of fighting but really centered on a distant union grudge regarding hotels owned by the brothers owning the UFC. “They somehow followed the Fertittas to New York,” Bermudez notes. “They’re trying to put a halt to MMA. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with the sport, really.”
“There’s two ways to get to ‘yes’ here,” UFC counsel Barry Friedman points out. “One is through the legislature to pass the law. The other is through the courts to get a judge to declare the law unconstitutional. The UFC has decided to pursue both paths.”
The lawsuit Friedman helped file calls New York’s prohibition “a criminal law that 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. As a consequence, state officials have, over the course of the law’s history, engaged in a series of arbitrary and discriminatory interpretations of the law, making clear beyond peradventure that the discretion they possess…is wholly standardless.”
Specifically, the suit argues that the sport banned by New York legislators in the 1990s does not bear a close resemblance to the heavily-regulated MMA taking place today, points to the hypocrisy of New York sanctioning Glory and K-1 cards that combine karate, boxing, muay thai, and other disciplines as it bans the UFC’s version of mixed-martial arts, and the arbitrary nature of a law that prohibits venues with liquor licenses from hosting pugilistic events but nevertheless allows exceptions for some combat sports (boxing, karate, etc.) but not for other ones (MMA) by apparent whim.
Barry Friedman, counsel to the UFC, calls New York’s law “blatantly unconstitutional” for its vagueness and violations of the First Amendment. Bermudez offers a more layman’s than lawyer’s assessment: “It sucks.”