Monday, February 21, 2011

NY MMA NOW! on NBC's "All Night with Joey Reynolds"

On Friday, February 4th, Co-founders of the Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York, Stephen Koepfer (Head Coach/New York Combat Sambo) and Eddie Goldman (Journalist/No Holds Barred)  appeared on "All Night with Joey Reynolds" on NBC New York Non Stop. Also appearing with Eddie and Stephen were Bradley Desir (New York Combat Sambo/MMA fighter) and Tyga Maclin (New York Combat Sambo's wrestling coach).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Correcting the Record: Alex Wolf of PressBox

In his article, MMA Legalization Faces Long Road In Empire State, Alex Wolf describes the long road ahead in the battle for legal and regulated mixed martial arts in New York State. He accurately describes recent efforts including the UFC's press conference at Madison Square Garden and our historic February 8th rally in lower Manhattan (though he fails to mention who organized the rally). Wolf goes on to note that the long battle for MMA in NY has become increasingly challenging since Governor Cuomo has not included it in his 2011-12 budget proposal, surprisingly snubbing New York MMA athletes, coaches, fans, and the UFC despite happily taking nearly $75,000 of campaign lobby dollars from Zuffa.

But, that's where the facts end and the fiction begins.

Wolf goes on to write:

In 2010, the New York state Senate included a provision in the budget to legalize and tax MMA fights, but the provision was removed immediately after the death of a fighter during a professional bout in South Carolina. The potential for grievous injury disturbed lawmakers in New York, who were quickly able to reverse any momentum that would have helped  legalize MMA.
This statement, while being factually incorrect, also makes a giant leap in terms of attributing the failure of last year's MMA legislation to the June 28th death of Michael Kirkham. The truth of the matter is that the Governor Patterson did include the legalization of mixed martial arts in his 2010-11 budget proposal. Furthermore, contrary to Wolf's assertion, 12 days prior to the unfortunate death of Michael Kirkham, The NY senate did pass legislation to legalize MMA on June 16th, 2010.

It was the New York assembly where MMA legislation hit its 2010 road block. After passing through the sports and tourism committee with a vast majority of support, the bill failed to make it to the general floor for a vote. According to former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin, co-sponsor of the bill and guest on Cage Radio, it was the vocal minority who spoke up in the assembly democratic conference where bills are reviewed. The assembly democratic conference is often used as a barometer by the assembly leadership (Speaker Sheldon Silver) to determine priority and importance of impending legislation.

According to Benjamin, the lack of assemblypersons willing to speak favorably in conference on the topic indicated to leadership that the assembly was not ready to legalize MMA in New York. As a result, on June 28th MMA was stripped from the assembly's budget language. While this was coincidentally the same day the Kirkham passed away, there has never been any indication that news regarding his unfortunate death made its way to Albany to affect the assembly leadership's decision. To suggest otherwise is quite a stretch.

Steven Englebright, co-sponsor of last year's bill and chair of the sports and tourism committee at that time stated that the MMA language was removed by the ways and means committee because assembly democrats could not agree on whether to include it. Regarding the topic of MMA in NY, he further stated "We did not vote against mixed martial arts, we just didn't have it before us to vote on."

In his article Wolf goes on to suggest:
Supporters of legalization will need to provide a comprehensive and accessible report to refute claims about the risk of fatalities and life-altering injuries for fighters. In Maryland, supporters demonstrated that the number of deaths from boxing and kickboxing dwarfs the number from MMA.
As if we have not been doing this for years. I find it infuriating that Wolf invokes the name of Michael Kirkham, yet fails to mention in any significant journalistic way how rare deaths in mixed martial arts actually are. Wolf, neglects the issue in his own soap box and suggests we do it for him instead.

Well, we in New York have done it and will continue to do it. Wolf fails to mention that Kirkham's death was only the second MMA related fatality in the United States, and only the third in the history of the sport. Furthermore, the first MMA related fatality was in fact not an MMA fatality. It was in an unregulated no holds barred (NHB) bout in the Ukraine. While MMA has its roots in NHB, they are two different animals. It is equally important to note that there has never been an MMA related death in any regulated A level mixed martial arts organization (in UFC, Strikeforce, Bellator, Elite XC, or M1-Global).

Yes, it may be a long road to legalization in New York, but it is poorly researched press pieces like this one that will make the road longer.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ringside Reports: Boxing's press notes idiocy of illegal MMA in NY

UFC Illegal: The New York Idiocy. By Sean Farrell

This article, while being quite UFC centric, presents a well thought out argument in favor of MMA in NY. I suggest you read the piece with the following in mind:

MMA is bigger than the UFC. If you multiply the financial figures cited in the article to include Strikeforce, M1, Bellator, all the B level pro shows like Ring of Combat, King of the Cage, local shows, amateur shows, and the MMA community as a whole...the numbers would easily be in the hundreds of millions.

Furthermore, while the article states that no fighter has ever died in a sanctioned UFC bout, I believe no MMA fighter has died in any A level sanctioned shows including Strikeforce, Bellator, UFC, or M1. The bottom line, which is often missed in my opinion is that at it's core, MMA is a professional sport and needs regulation...plain and simple.

I would also add that while the author suggests that MMA should be legalized so the "everyday" person can train MMA, I need to remind everyone that everyday people already can and do already train MMA in NY...that is not illegal. But, those of us who fight have a tough time because MMA bouts are illegal. Similarly, the everyday people who train with us and support us are rarely able to see us fight as a result. And when we do fight, we are always the out-of-towner being rooted against by the locals we fight in front of.

Join Our Coalition!

If you are a New Yorker and own an MMA gym, run an MMA oriented business, train MMA, or are just a fan take a few moments to join our coalition. All you need to do is post a reply to this thread with your name, where you reside in NY, your business or gym, and why you support the Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY. We will start a new page here listing all our Coalition members!

Membership costs nothing! The Coalition is a non-partisan volunteer group dedicated to getting MMA legalized in New York State. You can be a part of making history. If you support our mission and want to be a part of it, reply to this thread! Subscribe to this blog and get on our mailing list by e-mailing

If you want to go one step further, download our NY MMA NOW! logo and post it on your own website with a link to this blog.

Let's get the word out. This is not a petition. This is a statement that you support MMA in NY and will help the coalition get the job done!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Assemblyman Still Hopeful for MMA in New York

Madison Square Garden will have to wait, at least for now.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not include mixed martial arts in the budget he presented to state legislators on Feb. 1. However, State Assemblyman Dean Murray, who spoke in favor of sanctioning the sport when the UFC held a press conference at the historic arena on Jan. 13, said its exclusion may not be as great an obstacle as it would seem.

“Would we have preferred it being in there? Sure. What happens is this is the initial salvo by the governor, putting out his expectations,” said Murray. “And we go back, we hold the budget hearings and that’s when we end up having revenue enhancers. That’s when it gets introduced and negotiated into what could be the final budget. I’m still thinking this might be worked into the final budget that we end up passing.”

According to Murray, the final budget is supposed to pass April 1. If that deadline is not met, it should be “within the next few months.”

Read Tristen Critchfield's full story at Sherdog

The Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY has had the pleasure of working with Assemblyman Murray on this issue. Take some time to listen to the audio of our round table meeting two weeks ago at which Assemblyman Murray participated.

Assemblyman Bob Reilly linked to campaign contributions from national hotel union at war with Fertittas and Station Casinos

New York State Assemblyman Bob Reilly has been a strong adversary to the legalization of mixed martial arts (MMA) in the state of New York.

For years, Reilly has been against the sport, saying the idea of legalizing MMA to help "The Empire State" financially is "a pretty horrific type of attitude and position to have." Reilly has also claimed to be opposed to MMA because of its "brutality," but there may be more to the story.

Hotel union "Unite Here" has engaged in an ongoing feud with the co-owners of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Station Casinos, owned by the Fertitta brothers Lorenzo and Frank, has been targeted by the union because it wants the staff at the Las Vegas chain of casinos to unionize and has accused Station of using threats against their staff members as a preventative measure.

In a move seen by many MMA fans as sour grapes, Unite Here has refused to support the UFC's road to legalization in New York. In fact, they have continued to lobby against it.

So, what does this have to do with Assemblyman Reilly?

In 2006, Reilly had 211 identified contributions. The second largest personal contribution came from Unite Here. Yes, the same Unite Here that currently has nine affiliates/local unions in the state of New York.

Sound fishy to you?

Read the full story by Fernando Quiles Jr. at SB Nation

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rosario Dawson speaks the word on MMA!

February 8th rally makes history!

On February 8th, 2011, the Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York held its first public rally in lower Manhattan across the street from New York City's city hall. As the rally gathered in front of Sheldon Silver's district office at 250 Broadway it became clear that the day would be a successful one. The MMA media was there in full force as well as some mainstream media outlets and several film makers...

Get our full report here as well as media coverage, photos, and video from the rally heard around the MMA world

Sunday, February 6, 2011

MMA founding father Fred Ettish endorses coalition!


To whom it may concern,

Please consider this letter of support in the cause for legalizing the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in the State of New York.

Allow me first give you a brief background on myself.  My name is Fred Ettish, I am 55 years old, and have been involved in the martial arts since 1969.  I became directly involved in Mixed Martial Arts in March of 1994 as a participant in the Ultimate Fighting Championship 2 at that time.  Since then, I have continued my pursuit of the many benefits and blessings that the martial arts have to offer, including the sport of MMA.  I have sought out and trained with many of the leading practitioners of the sport; coached, trained, cornered, and mentored fighters; refereed, judged, and commentated for several promotions; and remained an avid fan and supporter throughout the growth and evolution of MMA.

I began in the sport of MMA when it was derided as "human cockfighting", "barbaric", "savage", etc., and when people still thought that death in a MMA (then "no holds barred/NHB") match was quite likely.  All of those things have been proven false over the years.  Everything starts from something, and I will grant you that at it's inception in this country, MMA/NHB was very raw, unrefined, and unencumbered by more than just a few rules.  There were no rounds, no gloves, no divisions by weight class, etc.  From that the sport has morphed into a much more refined, athletic combat sport.  Although I do not have quantifiable data immediately at hand, I believe that there are less injuries, especially serious injuries, and deaths in our sport than in most any other.  That is due to the safeguards that have been put into place, and the realities of how MMA is practiced.  

If one takes the time to look closely at MMA on it's elite level, the skill, dedication, fortitude, athletic excellence, and demeanor of the the best of the best is truly amazing.  To rise to the top, one has to have technical excellence in striking arts such as Boxing, Thai Boxing, Karate, etc., grappling arts such as Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, and Judo, or any other related arts.  The physical conditioning required is second to none.  One needs physical strength, muscle endurance, cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility, explosive power, and incredible stamina in all areas at the same time.  All of these skills and attributes have to be seamlessly molded together in an intense, fast - paced, and rapidly changing environment.  

Another much overlooked attribute of MMA is what it does for the practitioner's internal qualities.  The most important battle is to not only overcome the challenges your opponent offers physically, but to overcome the fears and obstacles of ones' self.   Incredible stress, fear, anxiety, and adversity must be faced and defeated. He/she must make instantaneous decisions and reactions under some of the most trying and challenging of situations.  I do not like to use the term "warrior", as overuse cheapens such a magnificent title, but in many cases these combat athletes approach warriorhood.  A warrior is not just a fighter, but one who fights with honor, respect, dignity and integrity to him/herself, the opponent, their schools, their teachers, their families, the fans, and society.  Now I will readily admit that there are cases where we fall short, but everyone in every walk of life does.  In MMA you will find people who strive to uphold those principles and represent themselves in these ways as much as possible.

I truly hope that you will strongly consider adding your great state to the long list of those who have legalized Mixed Martial Arts, form a qualified commission from people knowledgeable of the sport to regulate and monitor it, and give your citizens the opportunity to enjoy our great sport as practitioners and fans.

Thank you for any consideration.

Respectfully Submitted,

Fred Ettish
N. Kansas City, MO 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

New York moves to legalize mixed martial arts

Published: June 3, 2009 3:43 PM

Mixed martial arts supporters just won the first round in a fight to legalize the sport in the state of New York.
The state Assembly's Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Sports Development voted 14-6 Wednesday to pass a bill that would enable the state's athletic commission to regulate the sport. The bill will now move to the full Assembly for a vote before the end of the current legislative...

Read the entire article here:
New York Moves to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts

Jon Jones steps up to the pulpit!

UFC fighter and New Yorker Jon Jones steps up to the pulpit to defend the professional sport of mixed martial arts:
I was born in Rochester, raised in Endicott, Broome County, and won the New York state high school wrestling championship in Albany in 2005. As a mixed martial arts athlete with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, I would love to compete in front of the same friends and family in my professional career.
Unfortunately, I can't. New York is one of four states that doesn't allow MMA. Critics of MMA have claimed different reasons for opposing regulation. But as our millions of fans and anyone who has been paying attention knows, these claims don't hold up...
Read the entire essay here:
Democrat & Chronicle: Legalize mixed martial arts in New York. By Jon Jones

Friday, February 4, 2011

An easy way to let Cuomo know you want MMA in NY!

This is the link to Governor Cuomo's NYS Connects web site
This is where you register to receive news updates from Governor Cuomo regarding various topics. He does have mixed martial arts on the list of topics. If Cuomo is flooded with people who register and request MMA news, he will know that this is an issue we care about!

Everyone take a few moments to log on, register, and request MMA updates. Let Cuomo know what you want!

Thanks to Michael Benjamin for the tip!

Grassroots grow around old weeds on the anniversary of MMA's banning in New York

On February 7th, 1997 crew and fighters from UFC 12 stood on a tarmac in Buffalo, New York awaiting flights to Dothan, Alabama. The hasty evacuation left people in a scramble. Hotel rooms were abandoned and all non-essential gear was left in New York in order to expedite the quick trek to Alabama. MMA had been banned. Governor George Pataki had signed into law the legislation outlawing MMA in New York State. Nearly 14 years to the day that Vitor Belfort was set to make his UFC debut in New York, we are once again planning to watch him make another go at the UFC Title...and MMA is still illegal in New York.

On February 3rd, 2011, just shy of the anniversary of the banning of MMA in NY, the Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York planted grassroots seeds intended to kill the 14 year old weed that strangles the sport in our own back yard. 13 pivotal members of the New York MMA community gathered at NY Combat Sambo for a round table meeting designed to begin planning our final assault (hopefully) on the antiquated prohibitionistic laws that ban MMA in New York State. The fight to legalize MMA in NY is not a new one. Various groups have been independently fighting the battle for over a decade in our state. However, this round table was historic. For the first time, formerly independent parties gathered together at one table to once and for all plan an attack that will bring MMA back to New York.

Notably absent were representatives of Global Strategy Group (UFC's marketing firm), Strikeforce, and M1 who had all planned on attending but, cancelled last minute for various reasons. Nevertheless, it was the roots of the NY MMA community who did force.

Round Table attendees included:

1) Assemblyman Dean Murray (R,C-East Patchogue): Ranking Minority member of the New York State Assembly Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development.
2) Kevin Malloy: Assemblyman Murray's Chief of Staff.
3) Kevin Morello: Office of Senator Lee Zeldin (R, C, I - Long Island). Co sponsor of the Senate MMA bill.
4) Justin Klein: Member of the NY Bar Sports Law Committee and writer for MMA Payout.
5) Peter Lampasona: MMA journalist, US Combat Sport and host of Cage Radio
6) Jim Genia: MMA journalist, Editor at Full Contact Fighter
7) Eddie Goldman: MMA journalist. No Holds Barred
8) Bruce Kivo. MMA journalist. MMA Confidential
9) Steve Katz: Queens gym owner/amateur MMA promoter.
10) Steve Kardian: Westchester gym owner, security expert, and national media consultant.
11) Stephen Koepfer: Manhattan gym owner, President of the American Sambo Association.
12) Paula Romero: MMA insider
13) Kahleem Poole: MMA Documentarian

The round table was a huge success and all parties left feeling confident, motivated, and well prepared to continue fighting this battle. Strategies were developed for our February 8th rally in lower Manhattan; how fans, students, and gyms can get more involved; how to better approach Albany; how to begin to correct the record in the media; and much more. It was made very clear that despite Governor Pataki's lack of support in his recent budget proposal, that this is a fight we can win.

To get you all up to speed, Eddie Goldman has posted the entire audio recording of the round table on No Holds Barred. I encourage EVERYONE to listen in and get to work! You can begin by showing up at our rally on February 8th.

Here is what some of the meeting attendees had to say:

New York Mixed Martial Arts Legalization Roundtable & Sports Law Committee Meeting

Assemblymen Murray and Englebright Say MMA Can Pass in New York with Correct Support

NYC MMA Legalization Roundtable Postscript

In the end, this round table session jump started the grass roots movement we desperately need in the state. Now, it is up to us to keep it going! Start by showing your support on February 8th at our rally!

Stephen Koepfer
Founder, Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY

 Thanks to Jim Genia for the pics!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

UPDATE: Now we have a real fight on our hands!

I have been saying for quite a while that dependence on lobby money alone will not get us legalized Mixed Martial Arts in New York. Many critics of our coalition have suggested that we simply sit back and let Zuffa's (the UFC) lobby dollars pave the way to legalization. I have been told that speaking out makes no difference. This apathetic viewpoint by many New York Mixed Martial Arts fans has been discouraging. However, there have been many others who have joined the fight and have made a commitment to get off their couches, move away from their televisions to ACT and try to make a difference in the battle for New York MMA. This is encouraging!

Today, we sadly learned that filling the wallets of our politicians won't necessarily get us what we want. Despite the best efforts by Zuffa to pad the pockets of our newly elected Governor Cuomo, today we learned that Cuomo appears to have no intention of supporting our sport at this time. Not only is MMA notably missing from his budget, but he proposes eliminating the salary of the Chair of the Athletic Commission. This would not only seriously threaten MMA in NY, but all combat sports.

Good friend of the Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY, Justin Klein, comments on the situation here:
A Bad Day for Mixed Martial Arts in New York

Listen to No Holds Barred with Eddie Goldman as he discusses the severity of this new turn of events!

Here is what the Fight Nerd has to say on the subject:
MMA Absent from New Yrok Governor's New Budget - All Combat Sports in Trouble!

Jim Genia's Blog on the subject

Suddenly, our February 8th rally in lower Manhattan has become much more critical.
Rally details here

Now more than ever, we need to let our legislators know that we want MMA in NY. Be there on February 8th to show your support!

Stephen Koepfer
Founder, Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York