Sunday, November 16, 2014

Good Intentions Don't Save Lives: Another Death In Amateur Combat Sports

*APRIL 27, 2015 UPDATE: Since writing this post, another amateur MMA fighter has died subsequent to a poorly regulated event. This bring us to 5 known amateur combat sports related deaths nationally in the past four years.

Sadly, there has been another death in the world of amateur combat sports. 

I have commented often in this blog regarding the medieval level of regulation in amateur MMA nationally; that unlike our sport's professional counterpart, our amateur athletes are severely neglected by our state, tribal and third party regulating bodies. This neglect on rare and tragic occasions can lead to death. While the tragic passing of 24 year old Dennis Munson, Jr. subsequent to his debut amateur fight may have happened in a kickboxing ring, the multitude of avoidable errors that set the stage for his premature passing are not uncommon in the world of amateur Mixed Martial Arts. In Milwaukee, like amateur MMA in New York and a multitude of other states, kickboxing is unregulated* by the state athletic commission.

From John Diedrich's story - Milwaukee Kickboxer Dennis Munson Jr.'s Dies Following Cascade of Errors By Fight Officials - in Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel, we see the familiar ground often laid at amateur MMA events:
So on the night Munson stepped into the ring for the first time, there was no state commissioner or inspectors and no second ringside doctor. Munson and the other kickboxers had not received full physicals by a doctor...
On the night Munson died, the officials failed to intervene at key moments as he exhibited what a dozen independent experts who reviewed a video of the fight say were obvious signs of distress. Several said the fight should have been stopped. 
Even after Munson collapsed, care was delayed by a disagreement over treatment, hang-ups exiting the building and confusion about ambulance care. Skilled paramedics were waved off and Munson was taken to a nearby regular hospital, instead of Milwaukee's Level One trauma center.
Scott Joffe, one of the event's promoters is quoted in Diedrich's story as saying:
"I think everyone did what they could at the time for Dennis....This is just a tragic situation," Joffe said. "Everything we do is done with fighter safety in mind. He looked like an exhausted fighter."
Yes, it is horribly tragic. No promoter wants blood on his hands and Joffe will certainly have to live with the albatross of this death weighing on his shoulders for a lifetime; as will Munson's opponent. Nevertheless, it seems from this report, that contrary to Joffe's intentions, not everything was done with fighter safety in mind. One of the real unspoken tragedies in unregulated amateur combat sports is the phrase "we do everything with fighter safety in mind." This is clearly not the case. As a coach, ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions) trained MMA official and advocate for regulated amateur combat sport, I consistently hear promoters of unregulated events claim that all is being done for fighter safety. To put it bluntly: horseshit.

Here is a very well done breakdown of the fight by top industry experts:

I have been to unregulated events (MMA and kickboxing) with no doctor present; where fighter inspection is minimal or non-existent; where blood work is not required; where there is no pre or post fight physical by a physician; where referees oversee their own fighters in the ring; where judges judge their own fighters in the ring; where medical staff is not ringside when bouts begin; where layers of dirt from street shoes gather in the ring resulting in horrid post takedown skin burns; where fighters step on water bottles left in the cage; where fighters are allowed to use gloves not provided or inspected by the promoter; where a referee prompts a fighter who has just been KO's to stand up; where chokes have been held too long; where rules are blatantly broken by fighters with no response from event officials; where kickboxing officials attempt to regulate MMA without knowledge of the rules; where medical staff was not cageside at the time of injuries; blatantly uneven mis-matches are allowed to go on; and on and on and on. In all these cases promoters will routinely...even proudly...claim that everything they do is in the best interest of fighter safety. These examples are not from hidden "underground" fights. These are all from events "regulated" by third part bodies.

In New York, as noted by journalist Jim Genia in a recent article for Deadspin - "HIV, Hepatitis C, And More: New York's Amateur MMA Scene is a Disaster" - the risks our amateur combat athletes face is not limited to death in the ring or cage.

Don't get me wrong. There are many people doing all the right things for our amateur athletes. But, there are just many doing all the wrong things. The irony is that all promoters claim to be doing the right things and acting in the interest of fighter safety. Consequently, any coach who intends to put a fighter in an unregulated bout must assume promoters are not; and better do his research. Make sure what needs to be done is being done for your fighters. Are promoters intentionally cutting corners? Maybe yes, maybe no. Are they acting out of ignorance believing that they are doing all they can? In some cases yes. However, in the end it does not matter because the result is the same. And in the case of Dennis Munson, Jr., all the right intentions did not save his life. As the old saying goes: "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

In July of 2012 I wrote about the death of amateur MMA fighter Dustin Jenson subsequent to an unregulated South Dakota MMA bout (see: Will the Dustin Jenson Tragedy Teach Us Something). Again, Jenson's death was completely avoidable in my estimation. Yet, multiple errors coupled with extremely poor judgement, led to the premature death of a young fighter. Like Joffe with Munson, the promoter of Jenson's fight may have felt he was doing the right things with regard to the safety of the fighters. He was not...and he happened to be Jenson's coach.

Then, less than three months later, tragedy struck again (see: Amateur MMA: When Will We Come Out From The dark Ages). Tyrone Mims was cut down in his prime subsequent to his amateur MMA debut. This time in South Carolina. The second such death in the state since MMA was legalized. In all fairness, South Carolina's State Athletic Commission was regulating these two tragic bouts. However, we may need to be asking ourselves if we are doing enough.

Just weeks after writing my 2013 editorial regarding the growing national concern over amateur MMA regulation, another fighter was cut down in his prime after his debut bout. Felix Elochukwu Nchikwo died subsequent to competing in an unregulated amateur MMA bout in Michigan. According to news reports, there was no pre-fight physical required and there was no cageside doctor or ambulance present.

The bottom line is this: About half of our state athletic commissions regulate amateur MMA. Of those, many have a hands off policy and farm out their responsibilities to third party sanctioning bodies with little, if any oversight as to the quality of regulation offered by their proxy. This is absolutely unacceptable. Professional MMA, with the exception of New York, is strictly regulated by every state athletic commission. Yet, if we were to look at the numbers, MMA like every other sport has many more amateur than professional fighters. I don't know of any formal study, but my guess is that amateur MMA fighters outnumber professionals at least by 10:1. To neglect the safety of these men and women is criminal.

I am tired of writing these editorials and hearing about the deaths that prompt them. Let's get it together and protect our fighters. We need a national policy. Someone step up and do the right thing.

Stephen Koepfer
Founder, Coalition to legalize MMA in New York

*For the purposes of this editorial "unregulated" is intended to mean lack of regulation and oversight by a state athletic commission.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fighters Source National Tournament Finals in NYC

I had the pleasure of sitting cageside to live tweet the Fighters Source National MMA Tournament Finals at the MMA World Expo in NYC yesterday. Overall it was a great show. How great was it? Check out my tweets, it will be like you were there! Ok, maybe not, but it is still pretty cool.

To learn more about Fighters Source, check out my interview with their CEO Anthony Medina and visit

5th annual MMA World Expo at Javits Center - New York News

This weekend saw the fifth annual MMA World Expo in NYC. Check out Fox News' report:

5th annual MMA World Expo at Javits Center - New York News

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fighters Source® Comes Back to NYC For Their National Tournament Finals

On May 23rd, 2013 Fighters Source® made their fist appearance on the New York amateur MMA scene with their Kings of New York event at the Hammerstein Ballroom. I was pleased to be able to cover the event last year and interview Fighters Source® CEO Anthony Medina leading up to their debut New York show. Over a year has gone by and much has changed. Since that time Fighters Source® has gone national with a well reviewed amateur MMA tournament that culminates with a final event at the 2014 MMA World Expo on July 26th at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.

On June 21st, leading up to the national tournament finals, Fighters Source® joined forces with New York's Golden MMA to host a regional qualifier here in New York City. Check out veteran Journalist Jim Genia's story on the New York regional event.

With only 6 days to go before the Fighters Source® national tournament finals and their third appearance in New York City, I once again have the pleasure of interviewing Anthony Medina about what's in store and how the brand has evolved over the last year.

NYMMANOW:  It has been a year since the Fighters Source® debut in NYC at the Hammerstein Ballroom; which I also covered for NYMMANOW. Please tell us what has gone on with Fighters Source® during that time. What has changed since last year?

MEDINA:  Our complete business model has changed.  We have become a league instead of a single promotion.  The difference between a league and a single promotion is everything.  A single promotion has only their network and database to recruit talent.  A league uses the joint databases of multiple promotions to discover national talent.  A single promotion markets individual fighters. Fighters get injured, grow old, or retire for personal reasons. Their marketing momentum stops right there, then they must be reignited for their next start.  A league markets a team; teams which are consistent, and can be followed by generations. It is true that the athletes of each team may change, but the team itself remains. The marketing continues to multiply season after season.  Single promotion matches are handpicked by a matchmaker. Fans never know when their favorite athlete will compete next.  They are also in the dark as to who he/she will fight next. This is difficult for converting casual fans to avid fans.  A league runs a season and schedule.  Fans know when their fighter/teams compete next. They also know who they will be fighting, and where the event takes place. This makes tracking and predicting, simple for the fans. Single promotion Champions of a single promotion hold their title until a matchmaker gives them an opponent that can beat them.  A league, by implementing a season, athletes must start from scratch each year. For an athlete to become a three time champ, he/she must work his/her way to the title three separate seasons. This creates true champions, and legends. Single promotions are never ending, at first this may sound like a good thing, but it can get stagnant. With a league, fans enjoy the excitement of a fresh start, the anticipation of a finale, and the time off for their other interests. To put it simple, single promotions flood the market.

NYMMANOW: As you know, amateur MMA is fast becoming a national issue regarding fighter's health, safety and oversight. Fighters Source® hosts events in several states including New York. Unlike professional MMA, only about half of state athletic commissions in the United States oversee amateur MMA; some quite poorly, others quite well. What have you learned about the amateur MMA scene in America during your travels? How did you choose the locations for each branch of the national tournament?

MEDINA:  Each branch was chosen by the various team owners throughout the country that wanted to be a part of the Fighters Source® League. Fighters Source® qualified 8 promotions from around the country and invited them to participate in our Inaugural year as a League.  As far as the first question, where should I start, LOL! Unlike most promoters, that are bounded by their local territory, I have had the unique opportunity to experience various different state and foreign athletic commissions each with various rules and regulations.  States are not uniform in their operations when it comes to amateur MMA.

NYMMANOW: As you know, MMA in New York is a controversial topic with professional still banned and amateur unregulated by the NY Athletic Commission. How have you gone about overseeing sanctioning in your New York events and how has it different from other states? Your first time out here was regulated by the MMA Ki Federation (KICK International). Most recently you used ISKA. How will the Fighters Source® finals at the World MMA Expo be regulated?

MEDINA:  There is very little difference.  We use 3rd party sanctioning bodies as we have done with our other events in New York and Florida. The only difference is how scrutinized MMA is in New York.  Since our last show in New York at the Hammerstein, over 30 amateur sanctioned, accredited shows have been put on, and I would like to think that Fighters Source® played a big part in leading by example about how important sanctioned fights are for the safety of everyone involved.

NYMMANOW: I personally love the state team format in this tournament and think it has great potential for growth. Can you speak to how the idea of a national tournament with state teams arose and any lessons you may have learned along the way?

MEDINA:  It arose right after our New York show.  We saw there was a larger need to include other promotions to put forward the absolute best US Team.  We took the old IFL (International Fight League) model and adopted it to the amateur side of MMA, which seems to have blossomed under those ideals.  Almost like the NCAA National Wrestling Tournament consisting of different schools from different states, and them having national Champions from each weight class.  I have learned that the United States is very fragmented in the various rules and regulations for MMA among the various states.  It is our hope to have nationally unified MMA rules for not only athletes but for promotions as well.

NYMMANOW: Teaming up with Paul Paone and the World MMA Expo is a fantastic opportunity. How did this come about?

MEDINA:  It's funny that you ask.  My partner, Adam Meyers, CFO of Fighter Source®, and I, were visiting the Hammerstein to investigate throwing another event at that location, and Paul was also looking to also possibly hold the Expo at the Hammerstein.  At the end of our site visit, Paul, Adam and I sat in the hotel lobby and spoke of the benefits for both companies for the Fighters Source® 2014 Nationals being the main event for the Expo.  We are very happy to be a part of the MMA World Expo and look forward to our next one.

NYMMANOW: What's next for Fighters Source® after the Expo. I know you have taken teams overseas in the past. Any plans to take the winners of the finals to represent the U.S. abroad?

MEDINA:  The winners of the Nationals will move on to represent the United States in London at the World Challenge in September.  The World Challenge Finals will conclude the 2014 season.

NYMMANOW: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Any final thoughts?

MEDINA:  This past season has been such a great experience.  We have met a lot of different people, different cultures, from various different states.  We were able to experience events in snow, in rain, in heat, indoor events, outdoor events, etc., and it was all great.  The common bond was Mixed Martial Arts.  We look forward to the rest of this season and for the seasons to come. We, as a League, will continue to work toward legalization of Pro-MMA in New York, and the inclusion of MMA in to the Olympics. Thank you to NYMMANOW for this interview, and we will see you at the Nationals!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Some Thoughts on the Sport

I recently posted this on Facebook and it generated some solid discussion. So, I figured it was worth posting here as well. Please feel free to add your comments.

I have come to point (a while ago actually) where I have stopped following and for the most part caring about "mainstream" MMA (UFC, Bellator, etc). It just does not excite me any longer. Of course there are a few fighters I care about enough to follow, but generally I just won't go out of my way.

At the risk of sounding like an old fart longing for the "good old days," there is just too much MMA now. I feel the market is close to over-saturated (if it is not already); impersonal. I sincerely miss the days where I knew all the fighters by name, cared about their development and progression; the feeling that I knew them as people. These days there are just too many to follow, know about or care about. Each new guy is the next P4P sensation and he is just as quickly forgotten. No personalities to invest in.

Honestly, it is the amateurs and lower level pros where I still feel like a true MMA fan; where I can know the guys (sometimes personally) and follow their progression. These are the guys and gals with awesome stories, drive & personalities - people I can invest my time and energy into following. It is in the amateur ranks where I feel most excited and engaged; like I felt back in the day when the sport was new. It still feels like a personal experience.

This is why I care so much for getting amateur MMA properly regulated. These are the folks fighting simply for the love of it, but neglected by our state. To me, regulation of amateur MMA is way more critical than pro in NY. It affects vastly more people. I love this sport and it is with the up and coming guys where I see the same love, passion and self sacrifice...just to fight for free. Amateurs may not bring in big money to our state, but these guys are the bedrock of our sport. They are who keep the sport exciting for me. They are the folks who still make me feel like a true fan.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Small Step Towards Amateur MMA Regulation in NY

Today, Senator Joseph Griffo's bill which calls for the regulation of amateur MMA in New York passed the Senate. Having read the bill, I think it is a positive step forward, however has definite room for improvement if the opportunity to amend future versions of the legislation arises*. Nevertheless, it is a strong signal to our Assembly legislators that the issue of amateur MMA needs to be addressed. But, the Assembly has not moved on Professional MMA, and it will likely stagnate on this as well. The NYS legislative calendar ends tomorrow.

The issue of amateur MMA regulation has snowballed in recent years. With New York State's 2012 admission that amateur MMA is legal and unregulated in New York, our community has blossomed. In 2013, there were 47 amateur MMA events in NY; nearly double that of 2012. But, this is not without problems. In his recent Deadspin article, Jim Genia recently detailed significant medical concerns that come with the rise of amateur MMA in NY.

I have commented in the past about the dangers of unregulated amateur MMA.

April, 2013: Concerns over Amateur MMA Regulation Going National

August, 2012: Amateur MMA: When Will We Come Out of the Dark Ages

July, 2012: Will the Dustin Jenson Tragedy Teach Us Something?

Check out Zach Arnold's Fight Opinion op-ed on the assets and deficits of state-by-state commission regulation of MMA. Anyone considering the issues facing potential NY State Athletic Commission regulation of MMA needs to read Zach's piece and consider the issues he raises.

*Look for my upcoming commentary on the NY amateur MMA legislation that just passed through the Senate

Speaking at Columbia University's Sports Management Course on NY MMA

Yesterday MMA Journalist Jim Genia, fighter Hassan Hope and I spent the evening talking NY MMA with the students of Columbia University's Graduate Program in Sports Management. The program has established a course tasked with exploring and presenting solutions to NY long held ban on MMA. Here is my commentary on the course itself.

Big thanks to Carla Varriale and the students of Columbia for having us!

Friday, June 13, 2014

NY MMA: Are You In The Trenches With Us Or Not?

Today MMA4NY, one of Zuffa, LLC's (that's the UFC for those not in the know) PR entities here in New York held a "rally" in support of lifting the ban on professional MMA in front of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's office. Sadly, I did not attend. Why? Because the rally was only announced Wednesday and I could not clear my calendar for today. MMA4NY had approached me via e-mail about 2 weeks ago regarding a possible rally and when I frankly told them why I believed it was ill advised, I never heard back from them. Nevertheless, a rally for Friday morning at 11am was announced on Wednesday afternoon.

What happened next was a complete joke and incredibly offensive to all of us in the MMA community actually in the trenches here in New York State. If MMA4NY wants to act like they are in the trenches with us and show they actually care about our fate, this is not the way to do it. Only two days notice for a rally? Holding a rally on a Friday, when most people take off from work, minimizing the amount of eyes on the rally in the first place? No public support from UFC for the event whatsoever? Not a single New York based UFC fighter present at the rally? Holding a rally after Sheldon Silver already publicly put this year's bill to death? Sending in interns who don't know the facts, or even the name of the Assembly Speaker they are rallying? Waiting until the last 2 weeks of the legislative calendar instead of rallying at the beginning of the calendar when New York MMA is a hot issue? MMA4NY's hastily announced "rally" was clearly a last ditch effort doomed to fail from the start. Well, it was a failure if you are thinking about actually having a rally that helps our cause here in any way. Maybe not such a failure if one's goal is to keep the Zuffa paychecks flowing. You gotta show you are doing something to earn that cash, right?

MMA Journalist Jim Genia was on the scene and filed this report on how the MMA4NY rally went down today.

So, how did MMA4NY show that they care for us here in the trenches in New York? They sent several ill-prepared interns on a suicide mission to stand in the rain in front of Sheldon Silver's Manhattan office. Oh yeah, the only other people to show up were Journalists Jim Genia and Phoenix Carnevale. While the interns may have had the best of intentions (I do thank them for their support!), they were simply fodder in the continuing war for New York MMA. The interns, or should I say pawns, were sacrificed to the front lines of a war which has become a proxy battlefront for the Fertitta Brothers' (majority owners of the UFC) decades long war with the Las Vegas Culinary Union over their non-union Station Casino chain. But, are the power brokers actually trying their best to end this war and get us professional MMA in New York?

Some, including myself believe that this is a war not intended to be won at all. Or at the very least, it will be stretched out as long as possible for the selfish benefit of several parties. In fact, it has become my opinion that the "fight" for New York MMA is suffering from permanent project syndrome where the power players involved have little motivation to actually lift the ban. But, why keep the ban in place?

Could it be for the maintenance of a perpetual pulpit from which both the Culinary Union and the UFC can bring national attention to their ridiculous feud? Where the New York MMA community is simply considered collateral damage? Were it not for New York MMA, nobody would know or care about their Vegas hotel union battle. The New York MMA issue is a convenient way to keep taking perpetual pot shots at each other. If professional MMA comes to New York, both sides lose a fantastic megaphone.

Related Reading - 2012 Editorial (things have not changed much): New York MMA: Think Locally, Act Globally

Could it be that too many people are making too much money because MMA is banned in NY? Aaron Elstein of Crane's New York seems to think so. Legislators are getting their coffers filled without ever having to cast a vote (in the Assembly) or even make minor public statements on our behalf. Lobbyists are getting paid massive retainers to fight for us in Albany; with zero record of success year after year. Public Relations and marketing firms are getting paid tremendous amounts to spread the word and fight for us here in NY. Is today's rally worth the retainer fees being paid to MMA4NY by the UFC?

Some of our own community here in New York may not even want MMA legislation to pass in Albany. There are third party sanctioning bodies operating here in New York who will lose their legislative hall pass if our state lifts the ban and hands control to the NYS Athletic Commission. Since New York's 2011 admission that amateur MMA is legal and outside the jurisdiction of the NYS Athletic Commission if run by a third party sanctioning body, the amateur MMA scene here has blossomed (not without it's own set of problems). Furthermore, only a select few of these sanctioning bodies, according to NYS's liquor laws, are permitted to serve alcohol at their amateur events. That's right. Some folks sanctioning amateur MMA events here in New York have a pretty sweet deal because according to the ban's language; they can operate unsupervised. So, if that law is overturned, so is their ability to operate here in New York. Their hall pass gets handed back to the principal.

Bottom line is this. Those of us in the trenches and living with this sad prohibition, day in and day out, don't have the funds to pay to have a lobbyist in Albany where our voice can be heard. We try our best, but it is not enough to matter in the long run. There are many people claiming to be helping the New York MMA community. In truth, many are not here to help us at all, but act with their own self interest. So, to those who like to pretend like they are in the trenches with us, I say if this is how you are going "fight" for us, don't fight for us at all.

Here are some vids of actual rallies by the local New York MMA Community:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Jim Genia Talks New York MMA on the WRHU 88.7 Morning Show

This is definitely worth a listen. MMA Journalist Jim Genia sits in on the WRHU Morning show with a well prepped and educated host. Great to hear a talk show host who is well prepped and ready to dive in the deep end with some intelligent MMA discussion.

Monday, June 2, 2014

BK Live Covers NY MMA

MMA journalist Jim Genia and I got to sit in on BK Live, a daily talk show hosted by Brooklyn Independent Media. Of course we got to chat about New York MMA, along with Master Dave Herbert and the show's host Michael Bellamy. We even got to discuss man vs. beast matches...yes...MAN VS. BEAST! Can it get any better than that!?

BRIC has a swanky new studio just adjacent to Brooklyn Academy of Music in Downtown Brooklyn. You should all check it out! BK Live airs daily at noon on Time Warner 756, Verizon Fios 46 and streams online at

Without further ado, here is the show:

BK Live 5/30/14: Sports - Mixed Martial Arts from Brooklyn Independent Media on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Columbia University Tackles New York MMA... their sports management graduate program.

Yes, you heard it! Our seventeen year prohibition on MMA in New York has not only solidified itself as the laughing stock of the North American MMA community, a never-ending déjà vu of legislative posturing and a simmering constitutional legal there is a full fledged COURSE as part of the Columbia University graduate program in sports management designed to address the issue! Yes, really!

In all seriousness, this is an interesting development. Columbia's press release of May 29th entitled
A Battle for the Ages – Sports Management Class Takes on the Case for Legalizing MMA in New York states:
The project -- “MMA in New York: A Study in Whether It Should Be Legalized and Regulated” -- will be led by sports law attorney Carla Varriale of Havkins Rosenfeld Ritzert and Varriale, LLP. Varriale is an adjunct professor who teaches Sports Law and Ethics in the school’s sports management program. “The students are poised to study this issue. New York enjoys a plethora of professional sports, including boxing. Why is this sport such a lightning rod and, most importantly, can the controversy be overcome so New Yorkers can get the same access to the sport as the rest of North America?” said Varriale.
“Although MMA is a controversial sport, it is a popular sport that New Yorkers have an interest in, since they will travel to other states in order to watch it or are spectators via television broadcasts. The students will examine the reasons the sport was otherwise banned, whether it should now be permitted and, if so, under what sort of regulation in order to address safety concerns. The students will also follow the ongoing litigation in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York that has challenged New York’s MMA ban on First Amendment and vagueness grounds, among other things. It’s a unique class and this is an opportunity to study how legislation is made (or not) and the challenges facing an emerging sport. At the conclusion of the project, they will issue a report and they will make recommendations regarding some of the safety and risk management issues.”
While it is sad on one level, that our state's prohibition on MMA has become so entrenched that an entire course can now be dedicated to it, on a different level it will be exciting to see how a fresh group of young minds will assess and tackle the issue of the ban.

NY MMA: May Update

Not much new in NY MMA this year. Senate passed the legislation again. Assembly will likely not pass it again. The Zuffa et. al vs NYS Federal lawsuit moves on (currently in discovery phase), and amateur MMA continues to boom...with some controversy.  Here are some recent stories to get you all up to speed.

May 21, 2014: Deadspin, HIV, Hepatitis C, and More: New York's MMA Scene is a Disaster

May 19, 2014: By The NY Daily News, NYS Assembly Speaker - NY MMA Looking Unlikely

May 19, 2014: By Jime Genia, Would MMA Lose a Floor Vote in the Assembly?

May 15, 2014: By Jim Genia, Will the Assembly Vote on MMA This Year?

May 14, 2014: By Fightland, Fighting for Nothing - And Everything - In New York

May 14, 2014: By Jim Genia, Analyzing New York's 2014 MMA Bills

May 14, 2014: Stephen Koepfer and Al Iaquinta on the TNS Podcast

May 9, 2014: By Jim Genia, Bjorn Rebney on the Battle for MMA in New York - "I've Stayed Out of It"

May 1, 2014: By Jim Genia, Yesterday's Press Conference in Albany Generates Some Media Attention

April 27, 2014: By Popular Mechanics, Fight Night - Watching MMA in NYC

April 24, 2014: By Jim Genia, One on One with Senator Liz Kruger, New York MMA's Most Vocal Enemy

April 4, 2014: By Jim Genia, The UFC, the Cullinary Union and the Battle for New York

March 14, 2014: By Jim Genia, New York Senate Still Likes MMA

Friday, April 4, 2014

More of the Same for NY MMA in 2014

Honestly, there is not much news to report from the NY MMA battlefield since my February update. But there is of course, some minor news and tidbits to report. As usual MMA Journalist Jim Genia is on the scene.

Check out his latest report on the further developments of the Zuffa, et. al, vs NYS federal lawsuit targeting the constitutionality of the NY MMA ban (Click here for some history on the suit). If we are to get Pro MMA in New York this year, I feel this suit is our best shot.

For a solid sitrep of the perpetuating legislative cycle that New York is stuck in regarding the pro MMA ban, here is Jim's latest: The UFC, the Culinary Union and the Battle for New York.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

2nd Annual ABC approved MMA Judge Course: Report

Yesterday, the Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY held it's second annual Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) approved MMA judge course with Robert Hinds, veteran MMA official and only one of eight people approved by the ABC to offer the course.

Last year's course was held in Long Island, NY. This year, the class was held in the heart of Manhattan at New York Combat Sambo; the first time an ABC approved MMA official's course has ever been hosted in New York City.

Over a dozen attendees came to the gym turned classroom to participate. Included among the students were current and aspiring MMA judges, fighters, coaches and journalists. We were honored to have newest member of the New York State Athletic Commission, John Signorile in attendance for part of the course as well. The Commissioner's presence was critical and motivational. Mr. Signorile was extremely supportive of bringing pro MMA to New York and learning as much as he can about the sport in order to help do so.

Also in attendance was legendary MMA journalist and author Jim Genia who wrote a fantastic review of his experience in the class for his MMA Journalist Blog.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Battle Begins Again...Battle Begins Again...Battle Begins Again for MMA in 2014

2014 is here and so is the 17th round of fighting for regulated pro mixed martial arts in New York. Yes, yes...we are the last place in all of North America where the sport is still prohibited. You actually can time travel! Just visit New York and you will be given an opportunity to get a taste of 1997...over and over again.

Here are some recent stories from January regarding our great state's idiotic ban on pro MMA:

FightLine in the Field: UFC Presser in Albany – 1.28.14
By Jim Genia 
January 29, 2014 (Fightline)

MMA Rally for New York Legalization
By Keeler in the Morning 
January 29, 2014 (WIBX 950am)

By Matthew Dondiego
January 29, 2014 (Legislative Gazette)

January 28, 2014 (MMA Junkie)

MMA tries again to KO ban in NY
By Joseph Spector 
January 28, 2014 (Albany Watch)

Mixed Martial Arts Fight Begins Anew In Albany
By Ken Lovett 
January 28, 2014 (NY Daily News)

By Autumn Ziemba
January 21, 2014 (Sci Fighting)

By Jimmy Vielkind
January 17, 2014 (Capital Pro)

January 8, 2014 (MMA Frenzy)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Poll: Rising support for MMA in NY

From Capital New York:
ALBANY—Support for mixed-martial arts fighting has increased among New Yorkers over the past six years, according to poll commissioned by Ultimate Fighting Championship, the biggest MMA league.
A Global Strategy Group survey, which was provided to Capital, found 45 percent of the 800 New Yorkers surveyed support the sport, compared to 28 percent who register opposition. That's up from 2007, where a differently worded question found a near-even 41-39 split. Half of the voters surveyed said they had seen a UFC event, and support rose when respondents were told it is legal in 49 other states...

Read the entire article here

New York's Own Dave MacLean On Inside MMA

Dave MacLean, owner of Mac's MMA (one of the best NY MMA resources) and Matchmaker for Gladius Fights has been a longtime and HUGE supporter of the fight for regulated professional MMA in NY. We are very glad to see him getting out there on the airwaves!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

CHOKE ARTIST: NY MMA Oriented TV Drama in Pre-Production and Needs Your Support!

CHOKE ARTIST is a contemporary action drama television series centered on a young New York mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter’s tumultuous rise from gym rat to elite professional fighter in a state where his chosen profession is outlawed. CHOKE ARTIST follows our protagonist as he clashes with police, shady politicians, crooked promoters, and underground fighters in an attempt to break out of the city, where he is considered a criminal, into the world’s biggest professional MMA organization. 

Buzz is really starting to generate around this scripted television series project and production companies affiliated with both cable networks and original web series have shown interest. Things are moving pretty quickly. MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world and as you can imagine, a first of its kind scripted series exploring MMA’s explosive introduction into the mainstream has generated significant interest. We, the producers of CHOKE ARTIST, have scheduled the filming of a sizzle reel/pitch trailer on location in New York City at the request of interested parties. 

We are excited about our cast, featuring UFC lightweight and The Ultimate Fighter Live finalist Al Iaquinta and blockbuster-action film actor Vlad Koulikov alongside a talented group of New York actors who stood out at the packed CHOKE ARTIST casting event. We have some pretty sweet cameos for the sizzle lined up as well.

With our locations locked in, the next step for CHOKE ARTIST is to gather funds to cover production costs and give our director of photography and his crew the budget and gear needed to make this sizzle look bad ass, simply because it’s the only way to do the east coast & New York MMA scene justice.

Also please know that the premise of the script, the current fight to legalize professional MMA in New York (the only state in America where it remains illegal), is one CHOKE ARTIST believes in wholeheartedly. The writer and producers attached have fought, trained, and coached all over the state and country. Among the countless highly regarded MMA fighters New York produces, 2 currently stand as reigning UFC World Champions (Chris Weidman and Jon Jones). Former UFC Champion Frankie Edgar also got his start in the underground NY fight scene. Former Bellator Champion Lyman Good hails from New York City. Former UFC Champion Rashad Evans also has his roots in New York. The home office of the original UFC was right in Midtown Manhattan! All that stands between Jones, Weidman and the revival of Madison Square Garden as the fight mecca of the world, from which they could defend their belts with the support of a home-town-crowd, is an antiquated NYS ban. It’s forfeiting countless millions of dollars in revenue and jobs so many could use. We are grateful to those who choose to fund and help us raise a national awareness and voice for the cause. 

Below you can find links to the project’s facebook page, imdb page and twitter account, where you will find all sorts of cool information and updates about the project’s cast, creator, producers, and fans. You will also find a link to our fundraiser page. Please take a look and consider helping us with this project!

Feel free to contact us through facebook or twitter, it's always great to hear from our supporters and the MMA community. 

CHOKE ARTIST Facebook page
Twitter page @TVChokeArtist
IMDB page



Sean FitzGerald: Writer, Creator, Co-Director
In 2011 Sean graduated from the New School University on the Dean’s list with a Bachelors of Science degree in media studies. One could say Sean double majored in marital arts as he spent much of young adult life competing in amateur wrestling, grappling, golden gloves boxing, and mixed martial arts. In 2008 Sean won a championship belt from an ISCF amateur tournament and also competed in unsanctioned “smoker” exhibition fights in New York. Combining his love for the sport of Mixed Martial arts with his passion for screenwriting and development assistant experience, Sean authored the pilot for Choke Artist based on his in depth research of the sport over the past fifteen years.

Sean currently resides in Los Angeles where he works in the producing and production department of various reality series including The Bachelor, Storage Hunters and Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

Stephen Koepfer: Producer, Industry Consultant
Born in 1968, Stephen is a lifelong New Yorker and martial artist. In 1997, during the formative years of MMA, Stephen had his first fight - just in time for New York to ban the sport all together. An integral part of the New York MMA community, Stephen has operated his Manhattan gym, New York Combat Sambo and trained fighters since 2003. He became an Association of Boxing Commissions approved MMA judge in 2013.

Stephen and his gym have been featured multitudes of martial arts videos & websites, the New York Times, Time Out New York, WWE Magazine and the bestselling books Raw Combat: The Underground World of Mixed Martial Arts (Jim Genia. Citadel/Kensington, 2011) and Tapped Out: An Odyssey in Mixed Martial Arts (Matthew Polly. Gotham Books, 2011). In 2010 Stephen founded the Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York and has become deeply involved in the fight to lift his home state’s ban on MMA. In 2012, Stephen organized and curated the first ever MMA documentary film festival at Madison Square garden.

Recognized for his expertise, Stephen served as a technical advisor for Human Weapon (History Channel, 2008) and the season one finale of Dhani Tackles the Globe (Travel Channel, 2009), where he also appeared as himself. Stephen’s inauguration as a producer came in 2011 with the acclaimed documentary New York Mixed Martial Arts (MMAFilm, LLC, 2011). The film’s success led to interest from Cinematic Right Management, which now distributes the film. Stephen has been in front or or behind the camera in several other independent projects. He earned a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and a MA from Hofstra University.

Jabari Gray: Producer, Co-Director
Jabari Gray is an attorney, actor, producer, musician and martial artist known for his professionalism, strong work ethic and passion for creativity. His work in television, film, print, music and live performance media can be seen and heard worldwide. Though a citizen of the United States, Jabari was born into a large, extended family of Caribbean immigrants and spent part of his childhood years growing up in Kingston, Jamaica. Jabari has fought amateur MMA and regularly competes in amateur combat sports.

Alexander Jay Iaquinta: Judd Pulaski
Born April 30, 1987, Iaquinta is a native New Yorker and Professional mixed martial artist (7-2-1). Fighting since 2009, Iaquinta has made a name for himself fighting for the New Jersey based Ring of Combat promotion and later his appearance and finalist status on The Ultimate Fighter (FX, 2012), where he went undefeated. Alexander is currently signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), fighting in their lightweight division.

Iaquinta’s struggle and rise to fame is not dis-similar from Judd’s and will bring significant authenticity to the role. He made his start in the nebulous New York amateur fight and combat sport circuit until his time came to turn professional. At that point, like all New York MMA fighters, he crossed the river to new Jersey; Professional MMA having been outlawed in New York since 1997. Alexander’s own life experience in tandem with his familiarity with on camera experience from The Ultimate Fighter make him the perfect choice to play Judd Pulaski.

Paul Sheehan: Transplant
Hailing from Ireland, Paul is currently based in New York; having worked in numerous film and theatre projects in Dublin, London, Edinburgh, Hong Kong and Taiwan during his travels. Recent projects include $upercapitalist (Linus Roache, Kenneth Tsang), Four Assassins (Miguel Ferrer, Will Yun Lee) and a number of incoming independent projects slated for release next year. Trained also in advanced fencing, he is extremely excited about bringing this tale of struggle and sweat to life with the Choke Artist team.

Vladislav Koulikov: Max Povetkin
Vladislav was born in Moscow, USSR, December of 1974 and began his Martial Arts journey 10 years later at the most prestigious Sambo wrestling school in the world - Sambo 70. Between 1985 and 1990 he won multiple tournaments in Sambo including, two All Soviet Cups where he took Gold and Silver. After high school, he attended Russian State Social University and graduated with a Bachelors in Journalism.
In 1996 Vladislav moved to New York and began fighting in the then unregulated sport of Mixed Martial Arts. He also won and received the most technical grappler award in the inaugural Grappler’s Quest tournament in 1998. Vladislav has gone on to coach a successful team of his own, Represent the United States at the World Sambo Championships (2008), star in very popular instructional videos, and place in multiple combat sports events.

During the last several years Vladislav has developed a passion and become involved in acting; landing a significant role in Philip Noyce’s action thriller Salt (2010) as Angelina Jolie’s father, Chenkov. Vladislav is currently wrapping up shooting as Pavel in David Leitch & Chad Stahelski action thriller John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves. Like Iaquinta in the role of Pulaski, Koulikov’s own life experience will lend a significant air of authenticity to the role Povetkin.

Luna Tieu: Tora Takami
Luna is originally from San Francisco and earned her masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her theater credits include originating the role of Tess in One White Crow and the British farce, Move Over, Mrs. Markham. She has also appeared in a number of national print campaigns including: Sprint (which led to a Sprint commercial!), Delta, Similac, and IMAN cosmetics and recently shot a Paypal Commercial. When Luna is not in front of the camera or on her yoga mat, she's snapping photos, throwing something away, reading plays and 19th century novels, spending a ridiculous amount of time on youtube looking at cute animals and watching favorite clips of her favorite actors, and exploring New York City. She currently resides in NYC and trains with acting coach Anthony Abeson.

Jonathan Gundel: Ryan Bryan
Jonathan Gundel is a New York City based actor who originally hails from Lancaster, PA. His first stage was the dinner table, but his first role was as the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz at the age of 8. Since then Jonathan has been passionate about acting. He is a graduate if the Santa Fe institute of Art and Design and most recently appeared in the short film Alone Time, an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival. Jonathan continues ongoing scene study at Michael Howard Studios in NYC preparing for his big break!

Suzanne Milton: Officer Shelly
Suzanne K Milton began her acting career at age 4 as a munchkin in The Wizard of Oz. Since then, her most favorite roles have been Hunyak in Chicago, Victoire in Hotel Paradiso and Patricia Meyers in the independent film Stills. She was born and raised in a small south Georgia town and has been living in New York City for the past 3 years. Suzanne also studies the martial art Krav Maga.

Stephanie Taylor: Barmaid

This Texas transplant began her relationship with the stage at the age of 7. She has worked on stage, in film, t.v., commercials, and voiceover from coast to coast. Internationally, she has performed and taught Shakespeare in Florence, Italy. Stephanie earned a BFA from NYU and is a Actors’ Equity Association member.