Thursday, May 24, 2012

New York MMA: Think Locally, Not Globally

Hi folks, please take a moment to read my guest editorial over at Bloody Elbow. Thanks to BE for the opportunity!

On June 28, 2002 Lou Neglia promoted Vengeance at the Vanderbilt 14 in Plainview, New York. That show featured the likes of future UFC veteran Pete "Drago" Sell and other fighters who later moved on to fight in the IFC, AFC, MFC, Bodog Fights, and M-1 Global. Neglia's show had the dubious distinction of having been the last sanctioned amateur MMA event held in the state of New York. Since that time New York native Neglia has moved his operation to Atlantic City, New Jersey where he promotes one of the top regional professional MMA shows, Ring of Combat.

In response to an escalating national movement against MMA, New York became the first state to ban professional MMA on January 28, 1997, only months after legalizing it on October 10, 1996. The legislation that banned the sport was sloppily rushed together, and to date is the only time the New York legislature has used an emergency provision to overturn a prior law in less than the required 30 day waiting period. As we all know, state after state followed New York's lead and banned the sport. Since that time in tandem with the sport's maturation, a virtual rewind has occurred as state after state has unbanned and regulated the sport. New York and Connecticut remain the last hold outs among states that have athletic commissions.

If MMA was banned in New York in 1997, how was Neglia able to host Vengeance at the Vanderbilt 14 in 2002? He was able to do it because the hastily crafted law banned professional MMA (and Muay Thai for that matter) but, if overseen by a sanctioning body, allowed for amateur martial arts competition under which amateur MMA falls. However, in 2002 the New York legislature realized its miscalculation; allowing for less regulated amateur MMA to take place while banning the more regulated professional version of the sport. How could they stamp out this horrid atrocity now?! The old dogs in Albany did it by using any means possible to shut down the amateur shows; usually using liquor laws, occupancy laws, or any other means they could muster. Guess what? They succeeded; and in the process set the stage for the meteoric rise of underground & unsanctioned MMA*. There has not been a sanctioned MMA event in New York since Neglia's 2002 show - until May 19, 2012 that is.


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