Monday, February 28, 2011

Analysis of the Bisping Situation - Does Zuffa Have the Right to Fine Bisping?

If you follow me on Twitter, you are likely aware that during the Rivera Bisping fight I expressed my opinion (what I think is now the majority view) that the Bisping knee at UFC 127 was intentional.  I thought the knee was clearly set up and Rivera had both knees down and was not in the process of standing.

After the fight, Bisping also appeared to spit in the direction of Rivera's team.

Kevin Iole weighed in on the UFC 127 situation as as well as Dana White's statement today that Bisping will face disciplinary action for his behavior, i.e. a potential fine or suspension.  I like Kevin's take on the situation and am providing the video below.


YAHOO!'S Iole on Bisping's behavior at UFC 127 from Steve Cofield on Vimeo.

One interesting legal question is the source of authority for Zuffa to levy a potential fine. 

Notably, the relationship between the fighters and the promotion is contractual (and different fighters have different deals) and so the contract must provide the authority to fine Bisping.  I think it is far less likely that the contract has a fine provision that say a provision giving Zuffa the right to cut Bisping for inappropriate conduct. 

In any event, it will be interesting to here how this shakes out.

Fight Lawyer

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Letter in Support of NYSAC Chair Melvina Lathan -- A Time to Focus On The Economics of MMA in New York

I just came across this letter to Governor Cuomo over at The Sweet Science making the case for removing the provision in the Governor's Executive Budget that contemplates eliminating the salary for the chair of the NYSAC, Melvina Lathan.

In the interest of full disclosure, Melvina is a friend and so I am obviously biased.

That said, regardless of whether I personally knew her, I think any proposal to cut her salary is ill-advised, inter alia, for the reasons set forth in Michael Wood's letter.

Notably, in his letter Woods recognizes that Melvina would be critical if MMA is legalized in New York and I agree:

Also, many of us hope and believe that mixed martial arts will finally be welcomed to NY. Dana White’s UFC will pack Madison Square Garden to the gills three or so times a year, and Governor, Lathan knows the MMA world as well. All fight sports are not created equal, and she would be able to traffic in MMA flawlessly, and it is no easy task finding capable regulators who can move with equal ease in the boxing and MMA worlds. Lathan can
In fact, I caught up with Melvina at the recent Strikeforce event in New Jersey -- she was doing research on New Jersey's top notch regulation of MMA with the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board and Nick Lembo.  So I certainly agree that if MMA comes to New York having Melvina as Chair is very important.

That said, I also think there is another important argument that can (and should) be made in response the Governor's proposal.  While I normally try not to focus on the economics of legalizing MMA -- as opposed to focusing on the fact that MMA is a highly evolved sport with incredible athletes -- perhaps now is a good time to stress the economics. 

Indeed, if Cuomo aims to cut the Chair's salary to save the State $154,000 a year, perhaps he should pay some attention to the numbers because bringing legalized MMA to New York will well exceed that amount in direct revenue to the State, not to mention the economic impact.

I don't think money should drive the debate, but when it comes to the budget I do think legitimate sources of revenue should not be ignored if detrimental cuts can directly be avoided through legalization.

Fight Lawyer

Friday, February 18, 2011

MMA In New York Documentary (Parts 1 and 2) By Kahleem Poole

I am way behind on this, but for those of you who have not yet checked out Kahleem Poole's work in general and, in particular, his first two videos documenting martial arts in New York, you are missing out.  Kahleem is extremely talented.

Kahleem attended the New York Mixed Martial Arts Initiative's first fundraiser event (eventually there will be an episode that includes the non-profit) and displayed his first video to give the attendees some background about martial arts and mixed martial arts. 

I think the videos do a really nice job of presenting martial arts and MMA as an art form; helping to chip away at the public misperceptions concerning MMA.

Here are the first two videos in the series:





Fight Lawyer

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New York MMA: An underground story

Just got through the above-referenced article by Josh Gross over at ESPN.com and highly recommend it for anyone interested in getting up to speed on one of the "underground," i.e., unregulated, fight promotions, the Underground Combat League, in New York.

You may recall an earlier CNN video describing the same promotion:



In his article Josh quotes two guys who are both very knowledgeable about this topic, including Jim Genia, "a journalist who has covered the local New York fight scene closely since 2001" and who "covers Underground Combat League in his forthcoming book, 'Raw Combat'" and Nick Lembo, Deputy Attorney General for the State of New Jersey and Counsel to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board.  

Fight Lawyer

Monday, February 14, 2011

MMA Fan Uses What He Has Learned From Watching MMA to End Alleged Subway Stabbing Spree

Always good to see some positive national recognition for MMA -- and it only helps that an MMA fan saved the day in New York where MMA is still illegal.  Joe Lozito states in the interview with GMA that MMA has the best athletes in the world.



Update:  Here is Joe Lozito on Fox today being interviewed by Brian Kilmeade. 

Lozito tells Kilmeade that he goes all the way back and has been watching MMA since the early UFC days when Kilmeade was involved--Kilmeade tells Lozito he was there for UFC 1-4.




Fight Lawyer

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Predictions for Tonight's Strikeforce Card

Had a tough time with a bunch of these picks--predominately with the undercards. 

I will be in attendance tonight and looking forward to a good show with 9 athletes from New York or New Jersey. 

Here are my predictions courtesy of Tapology.com.

My Strikeforce Predictions

Fight Lawyer

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Google And Zuffa Copyright "Fight" Continues

As you may recall from my earlier article back in November, Zuffa Takes the Piracy Fight to Google, Zuffa continued its battle against piracy by sending a Digital Millennium Copyright notification to Google. 

As set forth in my earlier article, Zuffa was attempting to get Google to stop having its search engine return results for a number of allegedly infringing websites. 

The takedown notice sent to Google provided a list of specific URLs that Zuffa alleged led to works that infringed on its intellectual property because that was required by Google as set forth in its DMCA instructions. 

Specifically, the Google instructions provided:

FOR WEB SEARCH, YOU MUST IDENTIFY EACH SEARCH RESULT THAT DIRECTLY LINKS TO A WEB PAGE THAT ALLEGEDLY CONTAINS INFRINGING MATERIAL. This requires you to provide (a) the search query that you used, and (b) the URL for each allegedly infringing search result.
 *                              *                       *             
Please note that in addition to being forwarded to the person who provided the allegedly infringing content, a copy of this legal notice will be sent to a third-party which may publish and/or annotate it. As such, your letter (with your personal information removed) will be forwarded to Chilling Effects (http://www.chillingeffects.org). You can see an example of such a publication at http://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca512/notice.cgi?NoticeID=861. A link to your published letter will be displayed in Google’s search results in place of the removed content.
Thus, I noted back in November that the obvious downside of such a takedown notice setting forth the specific websites where alleged infringement is occurring is that a list like that could become public (at Chilling Effects) providing a roadmap to those seeking illegal streams.

It appears that Zuffa has now attempted to step up its game in an effort to prevent Google from forwarding the DMCA takedown notices to Chilling Effects (hat tip Rights of Writers). 

Specifically, Zuffa has now included language in its DMCA takedown notice providing that retransmission of the legal notice to Chilling Effects will itself be a violation of the Copyright Act. 

In other words, Zuffa's third-party agent, MiMTiD Corp., is claiming that the takedown notice itself is copyrightable material and retransmission by Google to Chilling Effects would run afoul of the Copyright Act.

For reference, Zuffa has now included the following language in its DMCA takedown notice:

IMPORTANT NOTICE: None of the information contained in this legal notice is to be transmitted and/or released to any third party, including but not limited to Chilling Effects (chillingeffects.org), without the express written permission of the the copyright owner and or his agent. As stated in Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and in the normal course of processing and notifying the infringing counter party, recipient must only include information specific to that counter party's infringement and must not include this entire notice. Any re-transmission in whole or in part of this legal notice by the intended recipient will be a direct violation of U.S. and International Copyright Law and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law by the copyright owner.
Please also note that with the express permission of the copyright owner, in addition to being forwarded to certain members of the United States Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice, MiMTiD will send this legal notice to a third-party that aggregates repeat infringer data gathered by different agencies and infringement mitigation service companies around the globe and provides centralized access to that data to be used by global policy makers and law enforcement agencies to create and enforce copyright law. As such, this legal notice will included in The Chilling Report (http://www.chillingreport.com). To obtain secure access to the Chilling Report please email The Chilling Report at [redacted]chillingreport.com or call [redacted].
(emphasis added).

In an article by Mike Masnick over at Tech Dirt, Is It Copyright Infringement To Pass A DMCA Notice On To ChillingEffects?, he takes a closer look at the issue.

Notably, and not surprisingly, notwithstanding the above-referenced language, Zuffa's February 6, 2011 letter is still publicly available at Chilling Effects

While Mike Masnick does not address this issue specifically, I should note that Google could certainly argue that by submitting the takedown notice (given the DMCA instructions above) the party IS consenting in writing to retransmission to Chilling Effects. 

Remember, the new Zuffa language provides only that the takedown notice should not be "released to any third party, including but not limited to Chilling Effects (chillingeffects.org), without the express written permission of the the copyright owner and or his agent."

Also worth noting that Google has apparently changed its takedown notice procedure and now allows a party to submit the request on-line with an electronic signature.  Notably, the electronic form also provides the following language above the signature line: 
It is also our policy to document all notices of alleged infringement on which we act, including by sending a copy of the notice to one or more third parties or making it available to the public. You can see an example of such a publication at http://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca512/notice.cgi?NoticeID=861. . . . Please note that a copy of each legal notice we receive is sent to a third-party which may publish and/or annotate it. As such, your letter (with your personal information removed) will be forwarded to Chilling Effects (http://www.chillingeffects.org) for publication.You can see an example of such a publication at http://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca512/notice.cgi?NoticeID=861. A link to your published letter will be displayed in Google's search results in place of the removed content

Zuffa would presumably argue that it has not consented to retransmission because Google is imposing an additional requirement that is not provided in the DMCA or the Copyright Act.

I will continue to monitor.

Fight Lawyer

Monday, February 7, 2011

Good Day Up In Albany with Frank Shamrock and the Team from "Ungloved"

Long day today. 

Frank Shamrock picked me up at 6:45 a.m. and we hit the road on our way up to Albany. 

We met up with Frank's "Ungloved" production team and had a few very good meetings, including with Assemblyman Murray, Senator Griffo, Assemblyman Englebright, and Assemblyman Bing. 




We attempted to get time with both Assemblyman Reilly and Senator Liz Krueger (both opposed to MMA) and we were denied.

The great Jeff Blatnick joined us for a strategy session and then for the meeting with Assemblyman Bing.

Perhaps the best part of the day was the invite from Assemblyman Murray, who introduced Frank to the full Assembly, which provided for some great photo opportunities and some additional key meetings with other members of the Assembly who were less knowledgeable about efforts to Legalize MMA.


Frank was well received in the Assembly.  Indeed, here he is talking boxing and martial arts with Assemblyman Lopez.


Overall, a great, productive day in Albany.

Fight Lawyer

Sunday, February 6, 2011

New Yorker Jon Jones Learns He Will Fight For The UFC Title In New Jersey on the Same Day He Published An Essay In Favor of Legaization in New York

On the same day that New Yorker Jon 'Bones' Jones would convincingly defeat "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 8 winner Ryan Bader and be told that he would get a title shot next month in New Jersey, he would also be published as a "guest essayist" for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.com in a piece titled, "Legalize mixed martial arts in New York." 

After his hand was raised in victory on February 5, Jones was informed that because of an injury that Rashad Evans had suffered in training, he was being given the opportunity -- on very short notice -- to take on light heavyweight champion Shogun Rua for a shot at his title in March at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. 

In his essay on February 5, Jones, a UFC fighter on a meteoric rise, writes that he was "born in Rochester, raised in Endicott, Broome County, and won the New York state high school wrestling championship in Albany in 2005.  As a mixed martial arts athlete with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, I would love to compete in front of the same friends and family in my professional career. Unfortunately, I can't. New York is one of four states that doesn't allow MMA."

Notably, Prudential Center is a mere 15 or so miles across the Hudson River from Madison Square Garden in New York City. 

For most people, including those who don't really follow the sport, this short distance is in no way meaningful because they see the massive UFC billboards in Times Square (virtually monthly) and most likely know (indeed, can't miss the fact) that MMA airs live on, inter alia, CBS, Spike, Showtime, HDNet, and pay-per-view. 

They are, therefore, understandably unaware that there is a specific, antiquated law banning mixed martial arts in New York, while it thrives in Jersey which is less than 15 miles away along with 43 other states. 

So, notwithstanding the fact that I can turn on my television and watch MMA on a near-daily basis and notwithstanding the fact that I can take a short train ride from Penn Station (which is located basically underneath Madison Square Garden) to Prudential Center for a live event, I cannot go to Madison Square Garden to watch athletes, like Jones, compete before fellow New Yorkers. 

Instead, I am forced to spend my money elsewhere; supporting New Jersey, while New York desperately contends with a $10 billion budget gap.

At the time Jones wrote his essay, he did not know that he would be fighting next month in New Jersey and that he would get his chance to compete before his friends and family.  But is that really good enough? 

Don't get me wrong, New Jersey is certainly better than Nevada, but it is not New York and why should Jones, or New Yorkers, have to settle for the next best thing. 

MMA has established itself as a sport that is simply traditional martial arts (and Olympic sports) rolled into one with (1) significant, developed body of rules; (2) clear and strict medical requirements, including that ambulances and doctors are available at the event; (3) referees that are knowledgeable about the sport; and (4) incredible athletes like Jones. 

As I have written repeatedly, we must take these facts and educate our elected representatives in Albany.  The question becomes how.    

As I wrote in an earlier article at MMAPayout, "A History Lesson (or History’s Lesson) on Mixed Martial Arts in New York," the media had a large impact on the complete reversal in Albany in 1997 that led to the current ban on MMA.  I concluded that the best way to get the ban lifted was to engage the media with legitimate information from local individuals involved in the sport and local stories about how the sport (and the ban) is impacting New Yorkers. 

Jon 'Bones' Jones is a now-critical piece of the puzzle in my view -- with a great media presence and personality -- and can help to educate up in Albany and bring this great sport to our great State.

Fight Lawyer

Saturday, February 5, 2011

UFC 126 Predictions

Figure I can't do much worse than the last few cards, so here goes:

My UFC 126 Predictions

Fight Lawyer

Friday, February 4, 2011

Audio From New York Mixed Martial Arts Legalization Roundtable

Below you will find the audio from yesterday's New York Mixed Martial Arts Legalization Roundtable referenced in my earlier post courtesy of No Holds Barred (it is not perfect given the number of participants and logistics, but you will get most of it). 

Pay particular attention to Assemblyman Murray's optimistic statements concerning the prospect of MMA being legalized this year.



Fight Lawyer

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New York Mixed Martial Arts Legalization Roundtable & Sports Law Committee Meeting

Today I participated in a constructive roundtable discussion about efforts to legalize MMA in New York held at New York Combat Sambo.

The event was organized by the Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York and included a number of reporters and local gym owners (from Queens, Manhattan, and Westchester) along with Assemblyman Dean Murray, his Chief of Staff, and a staffer for Senator Zeldin, one of the co-sponsors of the bill in the Senate to legalize MMA in New York.

Unfortunately, there was no representation from any of the major promotions, which were tentatively scheduled to be there, but the roundtable was still very productive.

Jim Genia has a good summary of the discussion, in particular the comments from Assemblyman Murray at his MMA Journalist Blog.  In part his post provides:
Murray was the voice of optimism.  'This is the year,' he said.  'If we're going to do it, it's going to be this year.'  He went on to talk about how attitudes toward the sport have shifted among other Assembly members (shifted positively), and he played down the impact of Governor Cuomo's budget proposal (and its lack of MMA legislation), stating that what the governor submitted was merely a proposal and a wealth of budget hearings and discussions awaited it. 
All-in-all, the meeting was productive and the group discussed different -- perhaps more effective -- ways of presenting the arguments in favor of legalization. 

In addition, the group discussed important ways that local gyms (and their students) could help push the debate in a positive direction.  I look forward to more meetings like this because I think it is a good way to get the grassroots people, e.g. gym owners and constituents, in contact with the politicians to gain a better understanding about what is going on up in Albany and how they can help elected representatives like Assemblyman Murray advance the cause.

This evening I also participated in another Sports Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association meeting with a discussion about MMA.  Some interesting ideas were presented and the Committee is still "grappling" with the issue and taking a position.

Heading to Albany on Monday with Frank Shamrock to meet with some of the elected representatives to discuss education about the sport and the path towards legalization.

That's it for now.


Fight Lawyer

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Bad Day For Mixed Martial Arts In New York

Getting anything done in Albany is difficult and leads to frustration and efforts to legalize MMA are no exception.  As I stated recently during an interview with TapouT Radio, I believed the odds of MMA being legalized in New York State this year would go up dramatically if Governor Cuomo, like Governor Patterson last year, included a provision in his Executive Budget lifting the ban on MMA.

Unfortunately, today we learned that Cuomo would take no such step.  Indeed, there is no provision in the 2011-2012 Executive Budget permitting MMA in New York.  Moreover, and perhaps more troubling, the Governor's Executive Budget proposes "[e]liminat[ing] the salary for the Chair of the State Athletic Commission."

I am not really sure what to make of this proposal, but it seems like a bad sign for all combative sports, not just MMA, and may shed some light on the Governor's view of the "economics" of these sports in New York in general.  I have previously written about why I believe "economics" cannot be the focus of the debate to legalize in New York.  As Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget makes clear, he is tackling a $10 Billion dollar budget deficit and MMA with an estimated $23 million in "economic impact" is simply not compelling.

As you may recall from my earlier post, "Zuffa's Support of Cuomo -- Does It Really Mean Anything?," the New York Post reported (in fact, Zach Arnold at Fight Opinion first reported) that "Las Vegas firm Zuffa Entertainmen [sic] has pumped $74,600 into Cuomo's campaign coffers -- and hopes the Democrat will use his political muscle to bend the Legislature into approving the controversial cage fights in New York."

As I reported back then (and as recently as a few weeks ago when the UFC conducted its press conference at Madison Square Garden), Governor Cuomo has never taken a position on the issue of legalization and so I did not read too much into the campaign contribution by Zuffa.
 
Bottom line, we still do not really know where Governor Cuomo stands on the issue but his failure to include a provision permitting MMA is not a good sign in my view.  That said, I do not read the absence of the provision from the budget as an indication that Governor Cuomo would necessarily vote against the bill if it passed through the normal legislative channels, i.e. the Senate and the Assembly.  Keep in mind, Governor Cuomo is currently facing a $10 billion deficit and is planning on cutting nearly 10,000 state workers in an effort to cut costs.  MMA with an estimated $1.3 million in direct revenue to New York and $23 million in "economic impact" is clearly not going to be a budget priority.
 
Accordingly, there is still hope this legislative session and we should continue to fight to educate the legislators about MMA as a sport as I have previously written.   
 
Fight Lawyer