Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Some of the Parts, But Not the Sum of the Parts

A Quick Look at the State of Boxing, Wrestling, and Martial Arts in New York State in the Absence of the Legalization of Mixed Martial Arts and Whether Mixed Martial Arts Fits in With These Disciplines Under Existing or Proposed Law

By Paul Stuart Haberman, Esq.

Boxing. Wrestling. Judo. Tae Kwon Do. Karate. Kenpo. The practitioners of the aforementioned disciplines are permitted to participate in matches or exhibitions in New York State under the guidance of either a licensed promoter or a specific organization. What these six disciplines also have in common are that each of them are among the core disciplines that make up the sport known as mixed martial arts (hereinafter “MMA”). MMA is also made up of such other disciplines as Sambo, Muay Thai, Shoot Fighting, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, each of which are widely taught at gyms and martial arts academies throughout New York. Unlike its component parts, however, MMA is currently outlawed in New York. That is because, like an increasing minority of its brethren across the United States, the New York State Assembly continues to hold firm in its position that MMA is little more than “human cockfighting.” The question is whether, under the existing laws concerning the aforementioned disciplines in New York State or their proposed amendments, the “human cockfighting” claim is anything more than an outmoded misnomer for a largely reformed and increasingly popular sport.

MMA Under Existing New York Law

Pursuant to Section 8905-a of the Unconsolidated Laws of the State of New York (hereinafter “Section 8905-a”), MMA is currently regarded as a “combative sport.” A “combative sport” is defined as “any professional match or exhibition other than boxing, sparring, wrestling or martial arts wherein the contestants deliver, or are not forbidden by the applicable laws thereof from delivering kicks, punches or blows of any kind to the body of an opponent or opponents.” Despite the exception seemingly carved out for martial arts in the explicit text of the above provision, only specific organizations that promote judo, tae kwon do, karate, and kenpo are actually permitted to stage martial arts events in New York. The New York State Athletic Commission (hereinafter the “Commission”), however, “is authorized to promulgate regulations which would establish a process to allow for the inclusion or removal of martial arts organizations” from its list of approved martial arts organizations. When deciding whether or not to include or remove such an organization, the Commission is mandated to consider, among others, the following factors:

“(a) is the organization’s primary purpose to provide instruction in self defense techniques;

(b) does the organization require the use of hand feet and groin protection during any competition or bout; and

(c) does the organization have an established set of rules that require the immediate termination of any competition or bout when any participate has received severe punishment or is in danger of suffering serious physical injury.”

If a given discipline and its organization fail to satisfy the above factors and other criteria that may be utilized on a case-by-case analysis, it is deemed a “combative sport,” shall not “be conducted, held or given within the state of New York[,]” and may not “be approved by the commission for such matches or exhibitions.” Employing the above factors, an analysis of MMA, using the Ultimate Fighting Championship (hereinafter the “UFC”) as the sample organization, follows. It should be noted, however, as will be discussed more below, that MMA should not necessarily be subjected to the existing restrictions of Section 8905-a in the first instance...

See full article at: this link.

Paul Stuart Haberman, Esq. is an attorney at the New York law firm of Heidell, Pittoni, Murphy & Bach, LLP. He is also a New York State licensed boxing manager and the Chairman of the Sports Law Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association. ©


Post a Comment