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UFC’s request for preliminary injunction against NY State denied

Lorenzo Fertitta, chairman and chief executive officer of

Lorenzo Fertitta, chairman and chief executive officer of the UFC, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. Credit: Bloomberg/ Chris Goodney

A federal judge on Monday denied the UFC’s request for a preliminary injunction against New York State that would have allowed for the mixed martial arts promotion to host a fight card in the state.

Judge Kimba M. Wood of the U.S. Southern District Court in Manhattan ruled that the UFC’s request was “denied without prejudice to its renewal” and said a longer ruling would be released soon.

Zuffa LLC, the UFC’s parent company, had filed suit against State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and other state officials last September seeking to prevent the named defendants from enforcing the state’s ban on MMA until a trial could determine their constitutional challenge of the law.

“We are disappointed by the District Court’s denial of our motion for a preliminary injunction and its effort to redirect the litigation to the state courts,” UFC chief operating officer Lawrence Epstein said in a statement.

Last September, the UFC also announced plans to host an event at Madison Square Garden on April 23, pending resolution to the lawsuit.

With that plan essentially scrapped, there still is hope for supporters that MMA will be legalized in 2016. Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo included MMA in his budget proposal. It was the most overt act of support Cuomo has shown for MMA in his time as governor.

The State Senate, which has voted in favor of legalizing MMA for six consecutive years, likely will include MMA in its budget proposal as well. The Senate also is expected to pass the bill again this legislative session.

But the bill has stalled in the State Assembly each of the past six years.

If MMA authorization remains in the final budget that legislators and Cuomo approve — the deadline is March 31 — MMA, as a matter of law, would become legal in New York and would not need to be voted on separately by the Assembly.

“We are very hopeful that the New York State legislature, either through a standalone bill or via the governor’s budget, will approve MMA in New York as soon as possible,” Epstein said.

New York remains the lone state and the only place in North America with a ban on the sport. That law has been in place since 1997. Amateur MMA, however, remains legal in New York, although it is unregulated and unsanctioned by the state’s athletic commission.

“One thing, and one thing only, prevents Madison Square Garden and other New York venues from hosting UFC events that are allowed in the other 49 states in the union — that is the New York law that we believe violates the federal Constitution,” Epstein said. “Today’s decision, while disappointing, only underscores the importance of UFC’s pending appeal to the Second Circuit. UFC will evaluate this decision with an eye to pursuing every effective avenue to bring New Yorkers the same live events available to spectators throughout the United States.”

Epstein and other UFC officials, along with former middleweight champion Chris Weidman of Baldwin, are scheduled to be in Albany and Syracuse on Tuesday and Rochester and Buffalo on Wednesday to lobby on behalf of MMA.

New York Sports