After a long stretch of paper litigation in the “Battle for New York MMA,” the last round of briefing has been completed for both Zuffa and the State of New York. Both parties have filled motions for summary judgment and reply briefs in Zuffa’s quest to legalize MMA in the state.
Motions for Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is a finding by the court for one party against another party without going through a full trial. The judgment can be issued for the case as a whole or for specific causes of action in the case. In order for a court to grant summary judgment the motioning party must prove there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that they are entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. New York is filling to dismiss Zuffa’s case as a whole and has so far succeeded in convincing the court to reject six of the party’s seven claims.
The two parties are going about very different ways of trying to reach summary judgment in their favor.
Zuffa’s Summary Judgment Motion: Vagueness
Zuffa LLC is the parent company of the UFC promotion, and they have an obvious vested interest in the legalization of MMA in the state. The remaining legal claim for Zuffa is that the statute (Section 8905-a) banning MMA is unconstitutionally vague. The law has been interpreted to state that an “Exempt Organization” could sanction an MMA event, but this has been heavily contested.
One of the key prongs of Zuffa’s motion stems from oral argument in which the New York Attorney General previously admitted that the law read in favor of sanctioning under and “Exempt Organization.” He later recanted this interpretation. Zuffa asserts that this evidence demonstrates that there could be a number of interpretations and thus it cannot be enforced due to vagueness.
The Zuffa motion asserts that there are two prongs to which can be used to determine if a statute is legally vague:
(a) Lack of notice
(b) Arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement
The motion then claims that standards for lack of notice are met under the ruling of Hayes v N.Y. Att’y Grievance Comm, 672 F .3d 158, 168 (2nd Cir.2012), which states a requirement that the language of the statute “gives the person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited.”
State of New York’s Summary Judgment Motion: Injury
The summary judgment motion brought by New York hinges on the proof of actual “damages.” If there is no injury or damage to the plaintiffs, the court may determine that they do not have “standing” to bring forth the case and dismiss all non-injured parties to the case. Some of the named plaintiffs include professional fighters and New York natives Gina Carano, Matt Hamill, Frankie Edgar, Brian Stann and Jon Jones.
The “Exempt Organization” that carries potential power to sanction MMA events in the state is the World Kickboxing Association (WKA). If Zuffa or any of the other plaintiffs could prove that they had a contractual agreement with the WKA for an MMA bout and it was subsequently terminated due to the statute, this could be viewed as an “injury” and thus the case could continue. So far Zuffa has not been able to produce evidence of any such agreement.
The Potential Aftermath of the Decision
It could take months for the court to make a decision. If summary judgment were granted for Zuffa, the law banning MMA in the state would become unconstitutional. This doesn’t necessarily mean that next UFC event will be at Madison Square Garden. It is likely that the state will file for a preliminary injunction, which would basically prevent any professional MMA events from taking place until they can get an appeal heard.
If the court finds for the State of New York it may be back to the drawing board for MMA proponents. Zuffa could appeal to the circuit court, but this is going to be another, potentially longer, drawn out journey down the same road.
Another factor that should be considered is potential legislation. For years, Zuffa has been petitioning the New York legislature to legalize MMA and though progress has been made, the bills continually get held up in one or both of the houses before they can reach the floor for a vote prior to the closing of the legislative session. While the litigation is taken place, there is potential for new legislation to be drafted and it could certainly go either way.