The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has instituted legal proceedings against New York in attempt overturn the law banning mixed martial arts in the state.
MMA, although legal in the USA’s 49 other states, has been banned in the Big Apple since legislation outlawing “combative sport” was passed in 1996.
The UFC has long sought to overturn the ban, and women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey threw her weight behind the cause in March when she visited Albany, the state capital.
Although Rousey failed to convince lawmakers in the New York State Assembly to support a reforming bill, the promotion has refused to give up.
On Monday the UFC sued in the Manhattan Federal Court, stating that the law in question “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”.
The promotion took yet another step towards hosting a first-ever event in New York City later in the day when Lawrence Epstein, the senior executive vice president and chief operating officer, announced that a card had been planned for early 2016.
“We believe fight fans have waited long enough to experience live UFC events in the state of New York and we are thrilled to announce our first event at Madison Square Garden,” he told the UFC website.
“Professional MMA is legal around of the world and it is about time New York followed suit.”
The Madison Square Garden card has been planned for April 23, 2016. No other details about the event have been released as yet.
In the past, the UFC has sought to circumvent the ban by hosting events in neighbouring New Jersey. However, New York City, and specifically Madison Square Garden, is considered one of the world’s biggest fight destinations.
Mohammed Ali, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard and most of the world’s greatest boxers have all fought in the legendary venue.
Hosting an event at the famous location, in the MMA-starved city could be incredibly lucrative for the organisation and add legitimacy to MMA’s claim of being world’s most popular sports.