A UFC event proposed for April 23 at Madison Square Garden in New York City was effectively denied Monday, as a federal judge rejected the company's request for the preliminary injunction necessary to make the event happen.
The UFC has not held a live event in the state of New York since 1995, due to a ban on professional mixed martial arts that has been in place since 1997. The promotion has dedicated significant resources to seeing the ban lifted. New York is the only state that has banned pro MMA.
In September, the UFC filed a federal lawsuit that challenges the anti-MMA law as vague and therefore unconstitutional. It also filed a request for a preliminary injunction, which would prevent state officials from blocking the event April 23.
On Monday, Judge Kimba M. Wood denied the UFC's motion for a preliminary injunction. UFC COO Lawrence Epstein told ESPN.com the promotion can appeal the decision.
However, the UFC will likely be forced to relocate the pay-per-view event, which could include former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones' return from a disciplinary-related suspension.
"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," Epstein said. "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."
The state's ban on MMA can be lifted through the legislative process in 2016. In each of the past six years, the state Senate has passed a bill that would legalize the sport, but that bill has never made it to the Assembly for a vote.
Earlier this year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo showed his support for legalization of the sport by including MMA revenue in his budget proposal. The proposal would place MMA under the jurisdiction of the New York State Athletic Commission.
Epstein said the UFC remains "very hopeful the New York State legislature, either through a stand-alone bill or via the governor's budget, will approve MMA in New York as soon as possible."
In the meantime, the UFC intends to reserve another date at Madison Square Garden, tentatively in November. According to Epstein, the loss of an April 23 event in New York demonstrates "irreparable harm" suffered by the UFC under the unconstitutional law.
"The fact that we are prevented from doing an event in New York is clear evidence of irreparable harm," Epstein said. "The timing of the event is secondary. We are now tentatively looking at a new date at Madison Square Garden in November."