The venue was cavernous, and as armories go, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see platoons of soldiers in uniform, standing at attention in tight formation. But in lieu of soldiers there were folding chairs, emanating out in orderly rows from a cage erected in the center of the main hall. And therein was the surprise, as above-the-board MMA events – though steadily increasing in frequency – are still somewhat of an oddity in New York, a state where for years holding such events were considered the legal equivalent of running a crack den or house of ill repute. Yet the times they are a-changing, and so on a Thursday night in Manhattan, Victory Combat Sports returned to the Big Apple after their May debut and set up shop in the 69th Regiment Armory, offering up to the thousand-plus fans in attendance good food (seriously, pork belly sandwiches with Sriracha mayo, and nary a faded hot dog or stale pretzel in sight), free tattoos (!), and nine fights of the amateur MMA variety.
The fighters hailed from such distant locales as Puerto Rico, Arkansas and South Carolina, and from such nearby gyms as the Renzo Gracie Academy, Elite Plus MMA and C3 Athletics. None had more than six bouts on their resume, while many were stepping into the cage for the first time. Regardless of (or oblivious to) that fact, the crowd cheered them on all the same, the crowd consisting of ranting and raving family, bankers in suits getting their buzz on before returning to Credit Suisse down the block, and general, run-of-the-mill fight fans. All were there for the same reason – to see blood spilled and skill displayed and sweet ultra-violence inflicted – and the first bout alone was indication enough that everyone was going to get what they came for.
There was more where that came from, too, presented to the audience on a platter by the likes of Fady Madani, the Syrian behemoth who easily withered his foe with punches in the opening seconds of their fight, and Jairo Israel Muchuca, the underground fight veteran who plastered his opponent with leather and left him on his back, staring up at the rafters. The crowd loved it, and showed their appreciation as Madani raised his fists to the sky and Muchuca grinned and hugged his victim and stood elated.
There were smooth submissions, like the armbar from the guard that Asylum Fight Gym’s Ethan Gomes deftly applied to Jonathan Cage Noah…
…And there were hard-fought wars of attrition, like the one waged between Connecticut native Dan Dubuque and Virginian Robert Bane.
Of course, those bouts were mere appetizers to the main course, which were a trio of dishes consisting of title fights – the most compelling of the bunch being the female bout. That flyweight contest saw Krav Maga rep Ashley Miller – the hometown favorite with a loud and boisterous cheering section (did they call her “Glitterbug”?) – taking on Ashley Greenway, who trekked up from North Carolina to scrap but who could have fit right in at CBGB’s during a Ramones set.
A fast and furious exchange on the feet that may or may not have left Miller with a broken nose (it was certainly leaking like a faucet after that), and then an inexorable battle for control of Miller’s arm…
…and it was soon all over, and Greenway was strutting around the cage, the new champ.
There were other champs crowned, like jiu-jitsu stud Marcus Surin, who pretty much owned Jose Ordiex on the ground and put away the Puerto Rican fighter with a guillotine.
Finally, there was Alex Loving, who had earned his stripes winning a tournament in Virginia, and at Victory III edged out Kenny Smith for the unanimous decision.
Then it was all over, an MMA show in Manhattan at 10pm on a Thursday night – the rarest of combat sport treats – and while everyone filtered out of the 69th Regiment Armory and into the night, men in shirts emblazoned with the word “staff” began disassembling the cage. Over by the tattoo artist’s tent, Greenway sat with her new belt on the floor beside her, all smiles as she took advantage of the free ink and got work done on her shin (was it her hundredth tattoo? Her thousandth?).
Since New York State opened up the amateur MMA floodgates in early 2012, there have thus far been seven large-scale fight shows within the Five Boroughs. Victory III certainly raised the bar on how awesome they can be.