Since it’s that time of the year when the struggle to get the sport sanctioned in New York becomes a recurring news item, it makes sense to have a weekly update post. So here it is! This week, there were ups and there were downs. Are we closer to having a UFC, Bellator or other pro show take place within the Empire State? Sure, why not.
• UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta, champ Ronda Rousey and middleweight contender Chris Weidman made the trek to Albany, the state’s capital, to drum up support for the Senate bill that would lift the ban on pro MMA bouts. As they’ve done for the past few years, the folks at the Senate passed it.
• Of course, the state Assembly still has to pass their version of the bill – which, traditionally, they haven’t done. However, if they ever do, the Senate and the Assembly bills will be fused into one, and that must be signed by the governor to be officially become law. The good news there is that Governor Andrew Cuomo finally commented on the issue, and he did so in a semi-favorable light.
• Today was supposed to be the day the New York State Attorney General and attorneys for Zuffa met to discuss a settlement of their court case – you remember, the one where Zuffa was suing the state on Constitutional grounds and where the state admitted that third-party sanctioning was a way around the ban? Well, that didn’t go as planned, as the AG’s office cancelled and allegedly changed its position on the law. Ultimately, what Zuffa’s side wanted was a written stipulation that using third-party sanctioning would enable them to hold events in New York. But absent that, the show (or, more aptly, all pro MMA shows) can still go on. After all, the AG’s last public statement that that kind of sanctioning was okay is still their last public statement, and it’s hard to interpret the law as it’s written any other way. In other words, don’t buy into the doom and gloom. We’re still going to have our pro MMA shows, regardless of whether or not the Assembly manages to pass the bill that lifts the ban. It just may not be the UFC that does the first one.
• Regardless of what’s going on with pro MMA, there are amateur MMA shows aplenty, with Elite Cage Challenge 2 going down in Mt. Kisco (a town just north of New York City) on March 17. The first installment of the ECC was in November at a YMCA in Yonkers, and it was a treat. Though the fighters were all amateurs, the only nods in the rules to their status were the three-minute rounds and the shin pads they wore. Otherwise, it was pretty much like what you’d see at a pro show, i.e., violent and fun.
Said promoter Michael Kulp: “We’re keeping the rules the same until the New York State Athletic Commission comes up with their rules. Until that happens, I’m just going to put my own rules out there, what I think is safe for the guys and what best prepares my guys for a real MMA fight.”
Despite the success of the first show, and regardless of how much the climate has changed towards these kinds of events, Kulp unexpectedly ran into problems putting together his March 17 event. “I locked down the Boys and Girls Club [of Northern Westchester] in early January,” he said. “I got a hold of the director that does the contracts – you know, the rental agreements. I sat down with her, explained the show, said it was stuff like the UFC. She understood what it was. I asked, ‘Are you okay with it?’ She said, ‘Yeah. You’re just here renting it out, and I don’t have problem with it.’ I told her I was fully insured, and that I had a sanctioning body, the USMTA (United State Muay Thai Association). So then I get a phone call from [Execute Director Brian Skanes]. He says, ‘I’m sorry, Mike, but I’m going to have to break our contract. I can’t have you holding your event at our venue. You can’t have this kind of sporting event at the Boys and Girls Club.’ I said, ‘Why not? I spoke to your director, I got the okay. I told her what it was all about. And you guys do boxing.’ He said, ‘Well, you know what? Boxing is a real sport. This isn’t really a real sport. It’s human cockfighting.’”
Skanes was unavailable for comment. Kulp, meanwhile, has since secured the gymnasium inside the Saw Mill Club – a private health club – as the ECC 2 venue.