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New York MMA Ban is Lost Opportunity for Fans

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New York Fight Exchange hosted their first amateur MMA event Friday night, “NYFE One: Believe the Hype.” The promotion’s grassroots effort focused on Twitter and Facebook followers spreading the word; hoping that MMA’s worldwide success would overshadow doubts about watching unknown fighters. After all, NYFE operates in a state that outlaws professional mixed martial arts and scarcely sanctions events on an amateur level.

For New Yorkers, the possibility of attending a UFC or Bellator event hinges on the fate of an outdated 16-year-old law.

As Scifighting reported last week, the UFC’s lawsuit overturning the ban took a step forward when federal district judge Kimba Wood denied a motion to dismiss the case. Judge Wood cited major changes in the sport since the law was enacted and said that the wording was too vague. UFC COO Lawrence Epstein shared the sentiment in stating “The inconsistency has cost the UFC considerable time and expense, but more important it has deprived MMA’s countless New York fans of the opportunity to attend and enjoy live professional and amateur MMA events in New York.”

Over 30 states banned MMA in the late 1990’s; New York is the only one still adhering to the decision. This, however, has not stopped local promotions from making their presence felt.

In September, Ithaca-based Gladius Promotions held their sixth event this year. According to ABC 9 Syracuse, the city was expected to bring in about $150,000 from the card, including restaurant and hotel income. Another organization, MMA Platinum Gloves, will hold the first ever amateur MMA tournament in Long Island as they will have three separate events this year.

NYFE and Gladius are sanctioned to hold events because of differences in professional and amateur rules. Whereas major organizations require fighters to sign contracts, amateurs cannot. Rounds are shorter and fighters may be required to wear protective gear. They are not required to undergo any medical testing and, in essence, can fight whenever they like.

The UFC is aware of their brand’s massive potential in New York. Eight UFC Gym locations are scattered throughout, and Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman recently stopped by the Manhattan gym to promote their UFC 168 rematch. If the sport is sanctioned, Dana White guaranteed that he would hold a minimum of four events per year and with the “world’s most famous arena” located in the heart of the city – the possibilities are endless.

The last, and only, UFC event in New York was “UFC 7: The Brawl in Buffalo” in September 1995. Given that White initially filed the lawsuit in November 2001 and a settlement appears unlikely in the near future, the only brawls New Yorkers will see involve amateurs.

NYFE chose Jerome Mickle and Aaron Sifflet to headline their first event. Less than two minutes into the first round, Mickle caught Sifflet’s leg kick, slammed him to the mat and knocked him out with a straight right. It was a sloppy fight, reminiscent of something seen on a UFC undercard. It wasn’t clean, and it wasn’t pretty, but for New York MMA fans, it’s better than nothing.

Courtesy of Jim Genia, below is a video of the Mickle and Sifflet fight.

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Jose Serrano
Born and raised in Santa Ana, California, Jose Serrano has always had a desire to be a journalist. He worked his way from staff writer of the Santa Ana College el Don newspaper to Editor-in-Chief where he led them to nationwide recognition. Individually, Jose gained recognition from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association in 2008 and 2009 for various stories written and pages designed. When he is not writing, Jose find pleasure in watching is beloved Los Angeles Angels. You will also find him reading and taking writing classes. His desire to write about MMA comes from his exposure to it when he was a teenager. As his love for sports continues to grow, so does his need to write about them.