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Amateur Fighters Competing With HIV, Hepatitis in New York

Amateur Fighters Competing With HIV, Hepatitis in New York

(Full disclosure: I am about to aggregate an article I wrote for Deadspin last week.)

Guess what’s going on in New York? No, the state has not yet lifted its ban on professional MMA, which was enacted in 1997 and survives to this day despite the best efforts of Zuffa-sponsored lobbyists. What’s going in New York is amateur MMA – and according to athletic commission bosses in other states, some of the competitors have HIV, Hepatitis and other bad stuff.

Here’s Nick Lembo of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board on the matter:

“There have been many contestants who have been banned from regulated combative sport in New Jersey because of subdural hematoma, hepatitis C, HIV, detached retinas, and other medical concerns who have competed freely in amateur MMA and kickboxing in New York under the direct supervision of state-approved sanctioning bodies, or at shows without such direct supervision,” he says.

He can’t name these athletes—New Jersey privacy laws and federal HIPAA regulations prevent that—but according to him, dozens of them have fought and bled in New York rings and cages.

How is this possible? Well, since the law bans pro MMA, it also prevents the New York State Athletic Commission from overseeing any combative sports, which creates a gigantic loophole when it comes to amateur versions of the stuff. As such, promoters who hold these perfectly legal amateur events use privately-run sanctioning bodies – some of whom don’t do a very good job screening competitors. And there are promoters who don’t use any form of sanctioning at all (under the law, they don’t have to). The end result is some very tainted blood being spilled in the cage.

Keep in mind that not every promotion or sanctioning organization operating in New York is doing a bad job. There are quite a few good, careful and conscientious one. But all it takes is for one to turn a blind eye to expired paperwork from a lab and voila! There’s blood-borne illness in the cage.