Legal Thoughts on New York Athletic Commission Breast Implant Controversy

Update – the NYSAC has now, fortunately, reversed this decision and Gonzalez has been cleared to fight


As first reported by Marc Raimondi, the New York State Athletic Commission  pulled Pearl Gonzalez from her UFC 210 bout on Friday morning because she has breast implants.  This occurred after she officially weighed in.

While a prohibition on contestants with breast implants competing is not unique in combative sports regulation, the issue that arises is the NYSAC don’t appear to have such a prohibition on the books for MMA.

The NYSAC has published a “Medical Manual”which is a statement of policy which in part reads as follows –

Due to the concern over rupture, boxers who have breast implants are not eligible to box in New York. Boxers who have had breast reduction surgeries are eligible to box.

The problem is that this clearly applies to boxing, not MMA, and has not been updated since December 2014, a time before MMA was even legal in New York.  The document itself has the following capitalized title “MEDICAL STANDARDS FOR PROFESSIONAL BOXERS” referencing only boxing and not MMA.

The NYSAC’s “History and Physical Examination Record for a Combative Sport Professional” does not ask fighters about breast augmentation when applying for a licence.

Further complicating matters is that New York’s official MMA regulations, which were drafted recently and apply to this event, appear to be completely silent on the issue of the legality of breast augmentation.

Also noteworthy is that Section 212.5(b) of the regulations allow a female MMA contestant to “wear approved chest protection during competition“, a rule designed to perhaps alleviate this risk.

Lastly, Section 206.14 offers fighters the following due process rights

The Commission shall offer the opportunity for a hearing before taking any final action negatively affecting any person’s individual privileges or property granted by a license, permit or other authorization duly issued by the Commission or a contract approved by and filed with the Commission.

Given the above Gonzalez has a strong argument should she choose to protest this controversial last minute decision.   Decisions regarding fighter safety certainly should not be taken lightly.  Administrative fairness, however, is also important and if a regulator chooses to prohibit an athlete from competing they should only do so with consistency and clear legal authority.


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