Mixed martial arts remains illegal in New York State, but the UFC took a bold step Monday by announcing a scheduled event at Madison Square Garden on April 23, 2016.
This event is pending either passage of legislation to legalize the sport -- a seven-year hurdle for MMA promoters -- or a federal judge issuing an injunction against the state.
The UFC said it plans to ask a federal judge this week to issue a preliminary injunction against state officials who are enforcing what the fight promotion calls an unconstitutional law. If that injunction is not granted, the planned fight card at the Garden would not take place.
"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," UFC Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein said in a statement. "Professional MMA is legal around the world and it is about time New York followed suit."
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.
On Monday, the UFC also filed a new federal complaint to reiterate its claim that New York's ban on MMA is unconstitutional. That complaint calls the ban "a criminal law that 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."
Last month, the UFC also filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, after it initially had its claims that New York's ban violates fighters' and fans' First Amendment rights tossed out by a judge.
The State Senate has passed a bill to legalize the sport for six consecutive years, but each year, it has stalled in the State Assembly.