The UFC’s protracted battle to attempt to get the sport of mixed martial arts legalized in New York took a new turn today when Zuffa announced they would now filed a lawsuit against the state’s officials which challenges, “the constitutionality of the state law banning live professional MMA events and associated activities.”

A major component of the suit filed by Zuffa is that failing to legalize the sport is a violation of the fighter’s fundamental constitutional rights under the first amendment.

“Live professional MMA is clearly intended and understood as public entertainment and, as such, is expressive activity protected by the First Amendment,” the press release states.

“It is ironic that New York – in many ways the home of free expression, the global media and the art world – would deny someone his or her fundamental freedom of expression,”Barry Friedman, a professor of law at New York University who is working on the case for Zuffa told The Wall Street Journal today.

“The ban is contrary to what New York is all about. There is no legal basis for this unconstitutional ban to persist.”

Amongst a number of other arguements put foward are the fact that:

  • UFC as a sport has evolved since the time it was originally banned, and is now fully regulated.
  • Virtually all the other states in The U.S have now legalized MMA.
  • New Yorkers can already watch the UFC and other MMA events on television so why can’t they watch it taking place live in the state?
  • The various components of mixed martial arts are all taking place in New York legally on an individual basis, so it makes no sense that MMA bringing them all together under one roof is then deemed to be illegal.

All in all it’s a bold move by the UFC, and in particular the move to challenge whether this is a violation of athletes first amendment rights is unique so it’ll be interesting to see how this story develops in the coming months.