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  • I have not written anything on this blog since the beginning of the 2016 legislative calendar, so it is fantastic to have my first post this year be the last post! On March 22nd, 2016, the Assembly voted 113-25 to pass the MMA bill! Now with the Senate and Assembly having both passed the legislation, we await the Governor's signature and we are golden. It has been a long battle, but FINALLY New York has regulated amateur MMA and legal & regulated professional MMA. Check out the long process that brought us here in Jim Genia's comprehensive story for MMA JunkieWhen I threw my hat into the fight for regulated #NYMMA in 2010, I had no idea how many great people I would get to meet and work with as we tried to build a unified grassroots front in the battle to legislate the amateur and professional versions of the sport we love. In no particular order, here are people who in ways great and small were the boots on the ground here and fought the good fight; or fought along side us.Many people will take credit for today's accomplishment, but let's not forget this was a massive team effort. These people deserve your thanks and recognition (I know I will forget people!! I am sorry if I forgot you!)Jim Genia, Eddie Goldman, Paula Romero, Justin Klein, Steven Katz, Steve Kardian, Assemblyman Dean Murray, Assemblywoman Joyner, Kahleem Poole, Bruce Kivo, Matthew Kaplowitz, Dave MacLean, Rob Hinds, Chris Herzog, Peter Storm, Michael Benjamin, Steve Greenberg, David Weinraub, Frank Shamrock, Tara LaRosa, Alistair Overeem, Councilman Joel Rivera, Mike Hauben, Michael Stets Steczkowski, Julian Earle, Ronald McEvilly, Don Lilly, Matthew Hu, Barry Friedman and his incredible team, Danielle Hobeika, Chris Reitz, Jorge Rivera, Peter Lampasona, Corey Sands, Bradley Desir, Rick Wenner, Anil Melwani, Curt Boshnack, Josh Pawlyk, Fletcher Neal, Phoenix Carnevale, Forrest Hobbick, Kevin MacDonald, Robert Billings, Reggie Hinds, Lyman Good, Mike Rivers, Mike Straka, Josh Barnett, Nestor Marte, Bas Rutten, Rob Terlizzi, Brian McLaughlin, Primo Bellarosa, Stephen Kunen, Paul Paone, everyone who endorsed NYMMANOW, the Bronx Week Film Festival, Columbia University Sports Mamagement Program, Dylan Wanagiel at MSG, NYS Boxing Commissioner John Signorile, Mohegan Commisioner Michael Mazzuli, Nick Lembo of the NJSACB, Anastasios Mylonas, all the folks at MMA4NY, all the promoters across NYS who never gave up, all the legislators who supported us over the years in the Assembly and Senate, anyone who came to our rallies, watched our documentary, read, shared or contributed to my NYMMANOW blog, attended our events and were willing to give us locals a voice and allowed us to speak truth to power. It has been incredible to watch a true grassroots community develop over the past 6 years. So awesome. Let's go celebrate!!Stephen KoepferFounder, Coalition to Legalize MMA in New York

  • Opponent to regulated MMA in New York, Assemblywoman Margret Markey - Chair of the Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development - cancelled her own scheduled December 11th public hearing on combat sports injuries in New York State with only days notice, and no justification given. According to the hearing's original announcement:The New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) is authorized to regulate professional boxing and wrestling, which includes, but is not limited to, establishing medical and safety rules and regulations. If legalized in New York State, the sport of mixed martial arts would likely be regulated by NYSAC. The purpose of this hearing is to ascertain the frequency and severity of injuries suffered by professional boxers, wrestlers, mixed martial arts fighters and other combative sports participants. In addition, this hearing would review current safety and medical protocols in order to determine if there are areas in need of improvement which would benefit and protect the welfare of these professional athletes.Apparently, Markey had a case of cold feet when it became clear not enough people would testify against regulating MMA in New York.So much for Assemblywoman Marge Markey's hearing on MMA, which was slated for Friday— Jimmy Vielkind (@JimmyVielkind) December 9, 2015 Despite the Assemblywoman's apparent desire NOT to hear from her constituents on the issue, the UFC spearheaded rally that was to precede the hearing went on full steam ahead, with assistance from our coalition, right in front of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's Manhattan office...and AXS TV's Inside MMA was there to cover the story:Will 2016 be the year for NY MMA? Time will tell, but there are lots of moving parts in our favor, not the least of which is a newly ratified and comprehensive bill that addresses each and every aspect of the opposition's argument against the sport. The legislation is set to hit the ground running once the legislative calendar opens next year. After a very close battle this year, Assembly supporters of regulated MMA in NY plan to push the issue early in 2016. With the UFC actively planning an event at Madison Square Garden for April, the Federal lawsuit still in play, and an opposition that is losing steam, our ducks are lining up in a nice row for a potentially exciting new year.

  • We have done it before and I am asking you to do it again! On December 11th, the State Assembly is holding a public hearing regarding injuries and combat sports in New York - including Boxing, Kickboxing and MMA. This hearing will be a major factor in our 2016 fight for legal professional MMA in NY! The hearing is PUBLIC and we are planning a rally to gather outside the hearing location at 9:30am (in Manhattan) before the hearing starts at 10:30am.As close as we came last year, the new and improved bill we have awaiting to hit the ground running next year, and the the fact that the battle is starting this early in the game for 2016 is a great sign for us. It is IMPORTANT that we make a good showing at this rally! PLEASE take some time to come and show your support for the sport we love. I know it gets frustrating year after year, but change in Albany happens at a snails pace. Let's keep pushing and make 2016 the year. That will start with a strong continued push in 2015!When: Friday, December 11, 2015 at 9:30amWhere: 250 Broadway, in Manhattan. Right outside of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's office.You can expect all the usual rally activities including signs, chants and speakers. Check out our 2011 and 2012 rally vids. I KNOW WE CAN TOP THIS!

  • Fear not New Yorkers! At the conclusion of the New York legislative calendar, our state now has a Chicken Wing Day, a state amphibian (the wood frog), horse racing is now legal on Palm Sunday, and you can bring your pet dog to your favorite outdoor cafe! But, mixed martial arts still remains unregulated for our amateurs and completely banned for our professionals.After what may have been the largest rallying of support by the MMA community we have ever seen in NY, newly minted Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie fails to move the the combat sports bill forward for a vote. Once again, the bill that could have brought regulated MMA (and other amateur combat sports like kickboxing) to New York dies without ever being voted upon by our elected representatives. Adding salt to the wound was the fact that A02604 is an extremely progressive bill, which could have had positive trend setting implications for the sport as a whole.Nevertheless, despite passing in the Senate twice (both the original and amended versions of the legislation), apparent support by Governor Cuomo and a vast majority of support in the Assembly, Heastie demonstrated that he was very willing to sacrifice the health and safety of New York athletes by choosing not to rise above the disingenuous partisan politics enacted by his predecessor. In the end, as a past co-sponsor of the New York MMA bill, Heastie proved himself to be worse than Sheldon Silver. At least with Silver, we knew where we stood. Heastie was a wolf in sheep's clothing.This May, 2015 letter I received from Heastie's office was more prophetic than it seemed:Since 2012 at least five amateur combat sports athletes have died in unregulated or poorly regulated amateur MMA and kickboxing events nationally. Let's not forget about the dozen or so amateur MMA fighters & kickboxers who have been able to fight in New York's unregulated amateur circuit despite having been suspended from competition by other state athletic commissions for HIV, Hepatitis, and other prohibitive medical conditions.Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports sums it up perfectly:Thus, it's going to be at least another year until there is a legal MMA card in New York.There may be several hundred illegal* ones, though, and without adequate regulation and medical care someone could be seriously injured. If that happens – and I pray to God that it doesn't – the person's blood will be on the hands of the governor, the legislators and everyone else who worked to block this bill's passage.*There will likely not be hundreds of illegal MMA events in NY as amateur events are legal and pro does not exist in NY, except rarely on Native land. There are however, many unregulated by the state athletic commission - fifty four in 2014. Still, Iole's point remains frightening accurate.For a breakdown of what went right and wrong with this year's round of fighting, check out this piece by Jim Genia. I leave you with a small fraction from the last week on that modern day ticker tape that is twitter:@NYSenate did their part today for #NYMMA, now the @assemblynewyork @NYSA_Majority need to bring it home and vote on A02604. @CarlHeastie— NY MMA Film (@NYMMAFilm) June 17, 2015 NY Assembly in session now. No MMA listed on the calendar of bills, but that doesn't necessarily mean something bad.— Mark La Monica (@LaMonicaMark) June 17, 2015 THIS.— jim genia (@jim_genia) June 17, 2015 Fans. A lot of you are reacting to the MMA in NY post, but please make sure you know whats going on. The fight...— TAP NAP SNAP (@Tap_Nap_Snap) June 17, 2015 @ChrisWeidmanUFC @ufc #ufc #LegalizeMMAinNY #mma4ny— Legalize MMA NY (@legalizeMMANY) June 17, 2015 Amended MMA Bill passes New York Senate #mma #ufc #ny #legal— MMA Payout (@MMAPayout) June 17, 2015 MMA Bill Could Be Voted On This Week By Assembly: Supporters of a bill that would legalize mixed-martial arts ...— State of Politics (@StateOfPolitics) June 17, 2015 Per @StateOfPolitics, we have 78 Democratic votes in favor of #NYMMA bill A02604. Let's bring it to the floor!— Stephen Koepfer, MA (@sambosteve) June 17, 2015 Big hurdle cleared if true.— Josh Gross (@yay_yee) June 17, 2015 The NY state Senate Tues passed the MMA bill but the bill has a match in the Assembly, more tonight but we could finally be close!!— Ron Kruck (@rkruck) June 17, 2015 My interview on @Tap_Nap_Snap about MMA in NY and the health of our athletes— phoenix carnevale (@microphonephoen) June 18, 2015 carl heastie raised possibility of weekend session. been a long time since saturday session loomed in assembly. ex-speaker was orthodox— ken lovett (@klnynews) June 18, 2015 The Long Wait for MMA in New York Continues— FIGHTLAND (@FIGHTLAND) June 18, 2015 Rochester's MMA scene ready if NY lifts ban. @DandC— Dick Moss (@Tavi59) June 18, 2015 #MMA supporters hope extra day for lawmakers means legalization of the sport: by @EastmanTWCNews— Scott Patterson (@ScottTWCNews) June 18, 2015 Gotta be waiting on the NY MMA vote. Dec. 5 at @TheGarden would be lovely.— Josh Gross (@yay_yee) June 18, 2015 A few of my sources in Albany are saying there is a strong possibility #NYMMA bill A02604 will get on calendar tomorrow— Stephen Koepfer, MA (@sambosteve) June 19, 2015 Just emailed the speaker of the assembly. Hopefully it gets done this time. #NYMMA @LaMonicaMark @ALIAQUINTA @FunkMaster_UFC @TruckMMA_UFC— Joseph Capobianco (@Joe_Capobianco) June 17, 2015 MMA could be legalized soon in NY State: @JoeMorelle @legalizeMMANY @MMA4NY @jim_genia @sambosteve— Steven Greenberg (@GreenbergPR) June 19, 2015 More and more rumors trickling in that the MMA bill will be pushed to Tuesday instead of today. Underlying message: Chaos reigns in Albany.— jim genia (@jim_genia) June 19, 2015 @jim_genia and me on a #NYMMA weekend edition of @Tap_Nap_Snap podcast!— Stephen Koepfer, MA (@sambosteve) June 20, 2015 It's not over yet… #MMA4NY— MMA4NY (@MMA4NY) June 19, 2015 Majority Leader Joe Morelle hopeful for vote next week on New York MMA bill via @MMAFighting— jim genia (@jim_genia) June 21, 2015 Local news channel out of Albany just said on TV that the MMA bill is coming today. It's TV, so take that for what it's worth.— jim genia (@jim_genia) June 23, 2015 Tenant protestors mass outside @NYGovCuomo office while Cuomo is inside meting with Assembly Speaker Heastie— Glenn Blain (@gblainnydn) June 23, 2015 New York Legislators Somehow Manage to Put Off MMA for Another Day— FIGHTLAND (@FIGHTLAND) June 23, 2015 Several NY Assembly committees expected to meet Wednesday. Could be best chance for MMA bill at this point.— Mark La Monica (@LaMonicaMark) June 24, 2015 @LaMonicaMark @jim_genia unless Heastie throws his weight around, there's no way it would make it through the committee process— Michael Kim (@mkMMA) June 24, 2015 If @CarlEHeastie does not put #NYMMA bill A02604 up for a vote, my loss of faith in the political process will be validated #GetItDone— Stephen Koepfer, MA (@sambosteve) June 24, 2015 While the " Big Ugly" is being printed, let's use our time wisely and pass the bill to legalize #MMA in the #NYSAssembly— Dean Murray (@DeanMurrayNYAD3) June 23, 2015 The MMA Bill is not on the first posted Assembly agenda for Wednesday. THIS IS GOING TO BE A LONG DAY.— jim genia (@jim_genia) June 24, 2015 If you want to get #MMANY YOU HAVE TO GET @CarlEHeastie TO GET THE BILL ON THE ASSEMBLY FLOOR!— Gabriel Toribio (@MonstaMoment) June 24, 2015 @NYSA_Majority Absences are threatening #NYMMA. @CarlHeastie don't let us down! The votes are there #NoExcuses— Stephen Koepfer, MA (@sambosteve) June 24, 2015 @sambosteve @CarlEHeastie let's do this speaker please New Yorkers don't want to travel to see events. Keep $$$ here— Tommy D (@tommyhitz) June 24, 2015 Uh oh, Twitter is catching wind of the #MMA in New York issue. See this search result— Mark La Monica (@LaMonicaMark) June 24, 2015 @CarlHeastie This is what MMA did for Garrett and it has inspired many more, Let MMA make its journey in New York.— Jason D'Arcy (@jason__darcy) June 24, 2015 My open letter to the NY State Assembly. Please call Speaker @CarlHeastie & ask him to allow a vote. 518-455-4100— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) June 24, 2015 Guys, let's get the Octagon to NY! We need your help. Call Speaker @CarlHeastie 518-455-4100. Urge him to allow a vote on MMA bill.— Dave Sholler (@Sholler_UFC) June 24, 2015 Morelle says he's going to keep pushing the #MMA bill in extra days of session. Here's @YanceyRoy's story— Mark La Monica (@LaMonicaMark) June 24, 2015 UFC Fans! Your voice matters! Call Speaker @CarlHeastie 518-455-4100. Urge him to allow a vote today on MMA bill. RT— UFC (@ufc) June 24, 2015 RT- @CarlEHeastie I fully support bill A02604 to fully regulate professional & amateur MMA in NYS. #makeithappen @sambosteve @jim_genia— Robert Hinds (@hindsmmareferee) June 24, 2015 We'll be calling in LIVE during the second hour -- don't miss it and make a call yourself!— MMA on SiriusXM (@MMAonSiriusXM) June 24, 2015 I support bill A02604 @CarlEHeastie #makeithappen #NYMMA please regulate MMA in NYS— Scott Shinick BSC (@ScottShinick) June 24, 2015 @sambosteve @CarlEHeastie I just sent Speaker Heastie an email... did you?— Joel Bekker (@Joelbekker) June 24, 2015 If @CarlEHeastie's lines are blowing up half as much as mine and he still does not #HonorHisWord re #NYMMA, he's no better than Silver— Stephen Koepfer, MA (@sambosteve) June 24, 2015 @Im_Mike_Anthony @jim_genia @danawhite. No vote yet, but there's still hope as we'll be here for at least another day. Keep the pressure on!— Dean Murray (@DeanMurrayNYAD3) June 24, 2015 @Tommytoehold NY assembly is in OT! MMA bill not currently on agenda. Speaker @CarlEHeastie needs to know we need MMA in NY!— Bernie Mucitelli (@BJM_13) June 24, 2015 Awesome job #NYMMA supporters! Word on the street is @CarlEHeastie's phone is off the hook! Keep calling in support of #NYMMA 518-455-4100— Stephen Koepfer, MA (@sambosteve) June 24, 2015 No MMA vote in New York again today. Assembly back at it again tomorrow. Stay tuned to @jim_genia for the fastest updates.— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) June 24, 2015 In all my years fighting for #NYMMA I've never seen supporters rally like today! Huge thanks to everyone who hit up @CarlEHeastie!— Stephen Koepfer, MA (@sambosteve) June 25, 2015 Beautiful sight! #NYMMA— NY MMA Film (@NYMMAFilm) June 25, 2015 @Caseyryback23 ..No single, easy answer to that question but right now it comes down to pure partisan politics. It's that simple. #MMA— Dean Murray (@DeanMurrayNYAD3) June 25, 2015 If @NYSA_Majority and @CarlHeastie don't vote on #MMANY bill A02604C, it will look bad on the legislature in light of the previous speaker.— Gabriel Toribio (@MonstaMoment) June 25, 2015 @MistaLurk @CarlHeastie @ChrisWeidmanUFC @arielhelwani @danawhite @ufc Gave Heastie a call 3 hrs ago. Let the secretary know we want MMA-NY!— Aljamain Sterling (@FunkMaster_UFC) June 25, 2015 We want MMA in NYC NOW! #MMANY #MMAinNY #UFC— The Fight Nerd (@TheFightNerd) June 24, 2015 @CarlHeastie, as you requested, there are 76D's in favor of MMA in NY. Why won't you allow a simple up/down vote? That seems fair to me...— Stephen Quinn (@TheStephenQuinn) June 24, 2015 Carl E. Heastie, @carlheastie is now trending in #NY— Trendsmap New York (@TrendsNewYork) June 24, 2015 Hey @ScottCoker, make the call to @CarlHeastie. and tell him to allow a vote on the bill!!! 518-455-4100. @ufc @BellatorMMA #BestForBusiness— MMA Nonstop (@nonstopmma) June 24, 2015 If you want to see MMA legalized in NYC, Call Speaker @CarlHeastie 518-455-4100. Urge him to allow a vote on MMA bill.— Coach (@CMPunk) June 24, 2015 How is it STILL illegal to have MMA events in NY STATE? Let's change this. I wanna see @CMPunk @ufc at @TheGarden— Kevin Gill (@OGkevingill) June 24, 2015 Delivered @ChrisWeidmanUFC letter to @CarlHeastie! Lunch in Alb Chris & @danawhite to celebrate when legal! @MMA4NY— Glen Dame (@Glen_Dame) June 24, 2015 Just called myself. Please call people! Has to happen now.— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) June 24, 2015 Well look who is has been trending on Twitter in NY!! Mr @CarlHeastie New Yorkers are speaking loudly please listen— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) June 24, 2015 Just called @CarlHeastie's office in New York to ask why #UFCSaskatoon is happening before #UFCBaltimore happens again. They will inquire.— InMyMMAOpinion (@InMyMMAOpinion) June 24, 2015 #MMA bill deserves vote, too. MT @CTLizB: Spkr Pro Tem Aubry tells guests they got a lesson in democracy from the rare near-loss for a bill.— Michael Benjamin (@SquarePegDem) June 24, 2015 Just called @CarlHeastie and said BRING MMA TO NEW YORK! They laughed and said they are working on it. @jim_genia @ufc @Sholler_UFC— Ryan McGuire (@McRyan26) June 24, 2015 @CarlHeastie please bring the mma bill to a vote. #nymma— Matt (@JudgeMMAtt) June 24, 2015 @danawhite @CarlHeastie Speaker Heastie, I spent 8 years in the Maine Legislature. Legalizing MMA here has been tremendous for us.— Chris Greeley (@ChrisGreeley3) June 24, 2015 @CarlHeastie I want to be in a"New York State of Mind" Let there be a vote on MMA for NY!— Marc Ratner UFC (@MarcRatnerUFC) June 24, 2015 C'mon, Carl. RT @danawhite: Want MMA in NY? Call Speaker @CarlHeastie. Tell him to allow a vote on the bill!!! 518-455-4100— Jon Anik (@Jon_Anik) June 24, 2015 Awesome job #NYMMA fans! Word on the street is @CarlHeastie 's phone was off the hook today! Again if not on Thurs calendar 518-455-4100— NY MMA Film (@NYMMAFilm) June 25, 2015 @sambosteve @CarlHeastie I called and mr.heastie if you don't let it get voted on I will have no love for ny anymore and look forward to— Marshawn Sherman (@ShermanMarshawn) June 25, 2015 The big question is if @CarlHeastie will lend the support he promised. The bill needs him to get thru the committees and onto the floor.— jim genia (@jim_genia) June 25, 2015 Let's make history today @CarlHeastie #ISupportNYSMMA #NYMMA— Ron McEvilly (@RonMcEvilly) June 25, 2015 AUDIO - @josh_316 @BigEastSilver & @Chris_Bivona48 stand tall for #MMAinNY! Listen to their call to @CarlHeastie -->— MMA on SiriusXM (@MMAonSiriusXM) June 24, 2015 Final round for #NYMMA Please continue to encourage @CarlHeastie at 518-455-4100 #MMA #UFC @arielhelwani @SBNLukeThomas @KevinI @yay_yee— Michael Kim (@mkMMA) June 25, 2015 No MMA on this morning's assembly calendar of bills to vote on. No updates on committee agendas yet, which is where it start first.— Mark La Monica (@LaMonicaMark) June 25, 2015 MMA being legalized in NY matters. It's important symbolically & in reality. Yes, the story is tedious. MMA doesn't need it, but it matters.— Luke Thomas (@SBNLukeThomas) June 25, 2015 Me and @niallmcgrath4 spoke about #MMAInNY on @talkingbrawls. Check out what we had to say right here.— Andreas M. Georgiou (@andremgeorgiou) June 25, 2015 Report: MMA in New York dead again, bill fails to get through legislature— Bloody Elbow (@BloodyElbow) June 25, 2015 HIV, Hepatitis C, And More: NY's Amateur MMA Scene Is A Disaster by @jim_genia Who cares about NY MMA, amiright?— caposa (@GrabakaHitman) June 25, 2015 As a prior co-sponsor of the #NYMMA bill with as much support as we had this year, @CarlHeastie is worse than Silver.— Stephen Koepfer, MA (@sambosteve) June 25, 2015 With no vote in Assembly, MMA Bill dead in New York #mma #ufc #ny #legal— MMA Payout (@MMAPayout) June 25, 2015 #corruption #nycmma #polotics #bribeswork #briberyworks— thomas doyle (@SamboRonin) June 25, 2015 New York won't subject it's citizens to MMA, but somehow letting them suffer through Knicks basketball is legal. Oh, the humanity!— Mike Chiappetta MMA (@MikeChiappetta) June 25, 2015 On MMA in New York: "The fact that it’s not legalized in New York is mind-boggling" - @abirchakMMA— MMA on SiriusXM (@MMAonSiriusXM) June 25, 2015 The only way the MMA Bill will pass in NY is if it's smuggled in some frozen meat @LaMonicaMark @jim_genia— BigCristo (@BigCristo) June 25, 2015 @JPonTwiitter @sambosteve @JimmyFromNY @brando7969 @bjjDNA47— Legalize MMA NY (@legalizeMMANY) June 26, 2015 I am really surprised. I feel bad for Joe Morelle, who must feel disrespected. MMA bill will wait until next year— Robert Duffy (@BobDuffyRBA) June 27, 2015

  • We are literally down to the wire with the new amended MMA bill A02604. To catch you up since my last post regarding the Assembly's new amended bill, on June 14th both the Assembly and Senate have revised their bill with matching amendments. You can read the latest version of the bill here.Yesterday, the Senate voted on and passed their new amended version of the bill by a 49-13 majority. Officially on the Assembly's calendar, today is their final session day; though they will likely extend their session through the week to tie up all loose ends. We are literally down to the wire with this. Events are seemingly happening by the minute. To keep up to date, minute by minute I highly suggest you follow MMA Journalist, Jim Genia. He is literally on top of each and every bit of news that comes out, as it comes out.Runor has it that we have the required Democratic Assembly votes to pass A02604 (if you are wondering why I specify "Democratic", read my last blog post). However, this is New York and politics is never cut and dry, and often completely illogical. Yes, we are closer than we have ever been, but that is more reason to continue contacting you Assembly members, the Governor and the Assembly Speaker to request their support of A02604. We are in the home stretch and we can't get complacent!Here is the info you need to contact everyone:Assembly Speaker Carl HeastieBronx Office: 718-654-6539Albany Office: 518-455-3791E-mail: Speaker@assembly.state.ny.usGovernor Andrew CuomoE-mail the Governor HEREAlbany Office: 1-518-474-8390Find your local Assembly Member contact information HEREIf we play our cards right, we will be celebrating the arrival of regulated MMA to New York by week's end, but let's keep the ball rolling: It is not over yet!

  • Not since 2010 when I formed the Coalition to Legalize MMA in New York have I felt more optimistic about the prospects for getting MMA properly regulated in New York. In fact, for the first time in five years I believe we can see concrete positive results of all the planning, lobbying, meetings with members of our legislature, interviews, social media campaigns, articles, editorials, rallies, etc. After years of hard work, on behalf of many people across our state, this year we are ridiculously close to getting what we want. The finish line is only a few steps away. We literally have only days left (Wednesday is the end of the legislative calendar) to put the new and vastly improved Assembly bill A02604 to the floor for a vote. For years those who oppose bringing regulated MMA to New York have expressed concerns about the health and safety of our athletes. When one boils down the battle for MMA in New York and strains out the disingenuous oppositions and unrelated political curds that have plagued this process for years, the most credible, important and relevant concern left in the pot is indeed the health and safety of our New York athletes. There is nothing more important than the safety of our athletes; not the money, not the job growth, not the ticket sales, nothing.This year it came to light that the initial version of Assembly bill A02604, essentially the same bill that has passed the Senate for the past six years, inadvertently banned the now booming New York amateur MMA scene; a move that would essentially force thousands of fighters back to the illegal world underground fighting. While dissecting the bill, journalist Jim Genia identified language in the bill that, if passed, set the stage for the regulation of professional MMA, but banned amateur MMA simultaneously. This set into motion a movement on behalf of the New York MMA community, the likes of which I have rarely seen. Of course we wanted regulated professional MMA in New York, but we did not want to lose our growing amateur circuit and compromise their health and safety.Read my April 30th open letter to the Assembly on this topic The unregulated "wild west" nature of amateur MMA has long been a concern in New York, but not a focus of past attempts at legislation. None of the bills in years past have addressed the needs of our amateurs; it was always about the professional athletes. This year's bill put amateurs on the chopping block and was enough to generate a call to action that ironically put the pro-MMA and anti-MMA crowds on the same side - fighting for the safety of ALL our New York athletes.All across New York coaches, regulators, fighters and fans reached out to their legislators. The message was clear: We want MMA in New York, but we want safe regulated MMA for our professionals AND amateurs - amend the bill if you want our support. As an example, here are the Coalition memos we shared at meetings with our Assembly Members:Similar e-mails, letters, tweets, phone calls and memos went out to Assembly Members across New York from our community. It seemed for once that actual concerns were being discussed, rather than the usual anti-Zuffa union soundbites that we New Yorkers were used to. Still, we are used to feeling neglected in New York politics. After years of disappointment, hope was a feeling we dared not entertain. In all the years of running the New York MMA hamster wheel, we had become accustomed to feeling unable to effectively participate in the process. But, this year was a perfect storm of sorts. The opposition and the supporters of MMA wanted some of the same things: and people listened!Assembly Majority Leader and primary sponsor of A02604 Joe Morelle announced last week that the bill had been amended. Here is a copy of his Assembly memo outlining the bill's changes from just days ago:The new version of A02604 is a progressive document that truly addresses the short and long term safety needs of our athletes and effectively raises the bar on how MMA can and should be regulated (the bill can be read in its entirely here). Additionally, you can listen to Jim Genia discussing the new bill and current state of things on MMA Payout. Word on the street is the the Senate will agree to amend their version of the bill and that the Governor is throwing his weight behind this new bill as well.So we have a revamped bill that sets a new standard with regard to safety measures for our athletes, provides for New York State Athletic Commission oversight of both professional and amateur MMA, and revamps the current outdated combat sports law in numerous important and significant ways. After years of hard work, we have essentially gotten pretty much everything we and the opposition wanted in a new bill. So why are we still pushing for a vote on the bill? This should be a no-brainer, right?Well, we are still fighting because the Assembly majority is still about 4 votes short of the 76 Democratic votes we need to pass the bill. Convention in the Democrat controlled Assembly is that a bill must be able to pass with only Democrat votes. If that sounds contrary to how our system is supposed to function, that is because it is. The Democrat controlled Assembly does not want to depend on Republican votes to pass a bill; effectively neutering all the pro-MMA constituents in Republican controlled districts. This leaves us with three possible outcomes:First, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (who was a prior co-sponsor of the bill in years past) could send the bill to the floor for a vote regardless. In this case, the bill will surely pass in a bi-partisan fashion and we will finally have regulated pro AND amateur MMA in New York for the first time since 1997. There are plenty of Republican votes to make up for the few missing Democrat votes.Second, we can (and most definitely should!) give a last hard push to the hold out Democrats who are still undecided regarding this bill. In my opinion, any member of the opposition who does not stand behind this amended bill is acting out of pure disingenuous self-interest. Here, quoting from Jim Genia's blog, are the Assembly members in question. Contact them and let them know where you stand: These two guys are VERY close to voting in favor of the MMA bill, so definitely go at them hard: -Assemblyman Steve Otis, Westchester -, 914-939-7028 and 518-455-4897 -Assemblyman James Skoufis, Mid-Hudson Valley -, 845-469-6929 and 518-455-5441 Here are the rest of the undecideds: -Assemblyman Jeff Aubry, Queens -, 718-457-3615 and 518-455-4561 -Assemblywoman Barbara Clark, Queens -, 718-479-2333 and 518-455-4711 -Assemblyman Sean Ryan, Buffalo -, 716-885-9630 and 518-455-4886 -Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, Brooklyn -, 718-771-3105 and 518-455-5262 -Assemblyman Charles Barron, Brooklyn -, 718-257-5824 and 518-455-5912 -Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, Mid-Hudson Valley -, 845-454-1703 and 518-455-5177 -Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, Albany -, 518-455-4178 -Assemblyman Brian Kavanaugh, Manhattan -, 212-979-9696 and 518-455-5506The final and unfortunate third possibility is that once again we do not achieve 76 Democratic votes AND Assembly Speaker Heastie does not put the bill to the floor for a bi-partisan vote. In this case, we are left once again waiting to start the fight over in January; albeit with a fantastic new bill from which to begin the fight anew. We have spent years waiting for this moment: A new progressive bill with an MMA supporter in the Speaker's seat. Will that be enough? Or will it be New York Politics as usual?We will know by Wednesday.

  • Dear Assembly Member, I am writing in regard to the Mixed Martial Arts bill (A02604), which is currently being considered in the Assembly. I am a the founder of the Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY, which represents fans, students, athletes and coaches of Mixed Martial Arts in New York State. We fully support the regulation of professional and amateur MMA. Since 2009 we have played an active roll in educating the public as well as our legislators regarding the sport of MMA and why it is critical that it be regulated in NYS. We have worked directly with Association of Boxing Commission trainers to educate our state's amateur MMA officials, athletes and coaches. We have even produced an acclaimed documentary called New York MMA, which is now available on Hulu. I believe this short film would be a great introduction for you as to who we are, as well as an educational piece regarding the sport of MMA.As we are at a critical moment regarding MMA in New York, I wanted to speak to you and stress our belief that A02604 as currently written is inadvertently placing New York's amateur athletes at a higher health and safety risk by forcing them to either turn professional or not compete at all. This will essentially force many (in my estimation most) athletes and promoters back to the underground unregulated fight scene; which we clearly do not support. As we have seen in Washington this week, poorly regulated fights can have very serious consequences. In fact, Since 2012, five amateur combat sport athletes have died in unregulated or poorly regulated events nationwide (none in New York). Here is my editorial regarding the desperate need for a higher standard of amateur MMA regulation, not just in NY, but nationwide. We in New York have a rare opportunity to lead by example - to raise the bar and protect our amateur athletes. To ignore this issue in A02604, as it is currently written, would be negligent. In 2014 there were a total of 54 amateur MMA events in NYS (functioning under a wide spectrum of third party regulation, or none at all). Each event had approximately 15 bouts, or 30 athletes. That totals approximately 1,620 athletes (not accounting for athletes who fought more than once). This is nearly double the amount of 2013 events. When one does the math we see that this community is very large; as with most sports, much larger than New York's professional MMA community. To not account for the safety of our amateurs, and only focus on the regulation of professional, we are throwing out the baby with the bath water. Additionally, aside from sacrificing the safety of our amateur athletes by pushing them back to the underground as the current bill would do, we believe NY will be sacrificing significant revenue by not providing for Athletic Commission regulation of amateur MMA in the bill. Consider the possible revenue if these 1,000+ amateurs had to acquire an annual $35 Association of Boxing Commissions license, paid to the NY athletic commission (as they do in NJ, PA, etc). We are looking at very significant numbers and we have not even considered promoters licenses, seconds licenses, venue rentals, medical staff, hotel, food, travel and other aspects which surround the very large NY amateur MMA circuit. Importantly, amateur MMA will directly benefit local communities. Large professional events like the UFC (who we wholeheartedly want in NY) will take place in large cities and do not provide direct economic impact to smaller NY communities. Amateur MMA events will provide direct economic impact to the local communities that host them. It is clear that the definition of amateur as laid out in this bill is incongruous with the norm in amateur sports. A02604 defines an amateur MMA event as any event which simply charges admission for spectators. By this standard, no single amateur wrestling, basketball, football or boxing event in NY would be considered amateur. This is an unrealistic definition which holds MMA to a much different standard than all other amateur sports. Under this definition athletes and promoters will be forced to either turn professional, quit or go underground as in the past. We absolutely want professional MMA in New York and have been fighting for it for quite some time. However, we believe that sacrificing our amateurs to do so is not the correct path. We are strongly urging that portions of this bill be ratified to allow for New York State Athletic Commission (or an approved, qualified proxy) oversight of amateur MMA if it is to move forward. Let's protect our professionals and amateurs equally. Lastly, I would be remiss if I were to neglect mentioning of our community's concern over the extremely broad language in the bill regarding how "Gyms, Clubs and Training Camps" will be regulated. Not only is the definition of what consists of an "MMA Gym, Club or Training Camp" poorly defined (and determined in large part by the bill's very broad definition of what an amateur MMA event consists of), the level and scope of the regulation to be placed on these gyms is equally vague. We would like to see greater definition with regard to this issue. Here is one editorial on the matter. Thank you in advance for your consideration. Sincerely, Stephen Koepfer Founder, Coalition to Legalize MMA in New YorkProducer, New York MMA

  • The opposition to NY MMA has reached new low. As reported in today's Daily News:The fight against mixed martial arts has escalated, with a group of prominent New York Jewish leaders saying that legalizing the controversial sport could benefit a major anti-Israel force. The group has penned a letter to “friends of the Jewish community” that will go to state lawmakers and run in Jewish publications highlighting the fact that the Abu Dhabi government owns a 10% stake in the sport’s biggest league — the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Abu Dhabi is part of the United Arab Emirates, which the Anti-Defamation League ranked as one of the most anti-Semitic countries in the world, the letter says.The Daily News piece continues:“At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise, we cannot stand by while Albany cuts a deal with a company whose profits will go directly into the hands of an enemy of Israel,” the letter says. “It is our hope that New York will continue its proud tradition as a staunch friend to the Jewish community by rejecting the legalization of mixed martial arts and saying no to a company and country that is clearly no friend of Israel.”The opposition is clearly grasping at straws if they need to bring global religiopolitical issues into this. I am reminded of the great Fedor Emilianenko years back when asked at an interview (at 7:36 of the linked video) about US-Russia relations and his role as a Russian athlete competing in America. His is reply was spot on: "Sport is not politics. Any sport should serve to bring people together."To infect international sports, in New York's case MMA, with racial politics is desperate, divisive and opportunistic to say the least. we should keep such politics out of sports. Secondly, the UFC is not MMA! Once again the opposition to our sport will throw the baby out with the bathwater; demonstrating they are anti-UFC, not anti MMA. The vast majority of the New York MMA community has nothing to do with UFC. As with most sports, only a small percentage of athletes and coaches will rise to that professional level. Furthermore, the opposition acts as if the UFC is not yet available in NY, which it clearly is in the form of internet and television viewership.So, to all my readers - Please contact your Assembly member as well as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and respectfully inform them that such politics has no place in sports or in New York. Let them know we need to ratify Assembly bill A02604 to allow for regulation of amateur AND professional mixed martial arts in NY! If you are not a native New Yorkers please contact the office of Assembly Speaker Heastie and respectfully let him know you would visit our state to watch live MMA or bring your fighters and teams to compete here!Contact Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie here:District Office1446 East Gun Hill RoadBronx, NY 10469718-654-6539Fax: 718-654-5836District Office DirectionsAlbany OfficeLOB 932Albany, NY 12248518-455-4800Fax: 518-455-5459Albany Office

  • In 2011 when The Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY premiered its documentary New York Mixed Martial Arts at the Bronx Week Film Festival to a sold out crowd, we could not have imagined MMA would still be banned in New York five years later. Our intent was not to make a political film, but to make an educational film that introduced viewers to our community. The opposition to MMA in New York ignorantly paints us as violent, misogynistic and uneducated animals who have no place in New York’s society - that we need saving from ourselves.After viewing the film, acclaimed director Michael Tucker (Gunner Palace, Fightville) wrote:“Anyone who cares about the future of MMA in New York State needs to watch this eye-opening film to discover who and what is keeping MMA out of Madison Square Garden. Beyond the politics, however, this is a moving portrait of athletes in exile - men and women who are forbidden to engage in the sport they love in their own city.”Since that time, as a direct result of the constitutional lawsuit against New York on behalf of Zuffa, LLC (parent company of the UFC) and several other plaintiffs, amateur MMA once again became a legally viable option for our athletes for the first time in a decade. Granted, as dictated by the current legislation, the amateur version of our sport is not regulated by the New York State Athletic Commission; and there have certainly been concerns regarding the lack of ubiquitous health and safety standards in third party bodies who have stepped in to fill the commission’s shoes. Nevertheless, the situation for amateurs in New York now is a far cry from the unregulated underground days of MMA in our state just a few years ago. Though there is still work to be done, it is a step in the right direction.  Sadly, with regard to professionals, as state after state lifted their antiquated prohibitions, New York continued to lag behind. Year after year we would come close, get excited and hope that “this would be the year.” The Senate would pass the legislation; polls would demonstrate NewYorkers wanted professional MMA; Assembly committees would pass the legislation forward…only to be blocked by Sheldon Silver who, who as Assembly Speaker and an opponent of regulated MMA, would stop the bill in its tracks. So, while our amateurs had experienced a breath of new life, our professionals have remained, as Michael Tucker aptly noted: “a community of athletes in exile – men and women who are forbidden to engage in the sport they love.”It has been quite a while since I posted about the effort to regulate professional MMA in New York. I apologize for the long delay and am thankful for all my readers who have reached out to ask where I have been. I am sure you can imagine how the hamster wheel that is the battle for regulated professional MMA in our state can facilitate apathy. I believe the entire New York MMA community feels it. Admittedly, I have become victim to this as well; preferring to focus a bit more on issues surrounding improvement in regulation of the amateur version of our beloved sport; which we thankfully do have in New York now. After Albany’s failure to pass legislation outlining regulation of professional MMA in 2014, I had pretty much decided to hang up my gloves in this fight; or at least take a back seat. Years of getting involved, pushing letter writing campaigns, social media campaigns, organizing rallies, doing interviews, lobbying legislators, working with our supporters in Albany, writing stories, even producing a documentary seemed to have little effect on the political tide against us. It was harder and harder to get support in my efforts. People were tired of losing; tired of feeling unrepresented in Albany. Imagine a community of fighters feeling that powerless?Please don’t misunderstand me; the New York MMA community is a strong one, a vibrant one and a virtuous one. The community has rallied around our amateur ranks with skyrocking numbers of regulated shows year after year. We even had our first amateur MMA event at none other than Madison Square Garden!We have made efforts to take care of the health and welfare of our fellow community members. For example, Live to Fight is a non-profit created by our community for our community that fights “relentlessly for those in the martial arts, mixed martial arts, and combat sports community who are suffering from life threatening illnesses.” Regarding professional MMA, we have made our voices clear over and over again, and have fought for what we want:Nevertheless, like Sisyphus’ eternal damnation to push a boulder up a mountain, only to watch it roll back down to the valley floor after all his efforts, we New Yorkers have begun to feel powerless against the self-interested power brokers who knew nothing about us and did not care to learn. We knew that we were a virtuous community, no matter how the opposition portrayed us. As philosopher Damon Young notes in his 2011 Daily News Op-Ed piece “Legalizing mixed martial arts in New York should not be a steel cage match:” “The physical virtues are obvious. Competitors must be strong, fast and agile. They have a sprinter's lungs, a weightlifter's shoulders and a gymnast's legs - all while keeping their dukes up. They move decisively from boxing to Judo to wrestling, often while coping with pain, exhaustion and pressure. They show the human body at its most swift and robust. There are also ethical virtues. To compete in MMA requires courage. Cowardice or foolhardiness won't do. Fighters must face danger with diligence and skill. Another virtue is restraint: You commit to a forceful punch or tight lock, but walk away once the fight is won. MMA thrives on mutual trust and cooperation. Generosity is also encouraged. The best fighters, like Canadian George Saint-Pierre, are upfront about their own talent - and their opponents'. They neither gush with praise nor withhold it. To win, they must recognize passion, skill and willpower when they see them. Pettiness is no aid. Temperance is another virtue: keeping one's body healthy. Anger and brute strength are not enough to win. MMA requires meticulousness in eating and drinking, as well as patience in training. If only more Americans had the fighter's disdain for sodas and snacks. Not every fighter exemplifies these traits. There are unfit, cruel, egotistical fighters - just as there are such athletes in every sport. Still, MMA encourages bona fide virtues.”Then, what seemed a miracle occurred this year. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested on corruption charges and replaced by Assemblyman Carl Heastie, himself a past co-sponsor of the Assembly MMA bill. Could this be the moment we have been waiting for? Would we finally get professional MMA in New York? Would our now thriving amateur community have a professional outlet to continue on in their careers?With their stop-gap Sheldon Silver gone, the opposition has been clearly rattled and pushed their message louder than ever before. This brutal and misogynistic sport must not be allowed in our state! Editorial letters began to appear in local papers; like this one in the Albany Times Union:“We find it unfortunate that mixed martial arts, previously called ultimate fighting, may soon be legalized in New York now that Sheldon Silver is no longer able to prevent a vote on it as speaker of the Assembly ("MMA support strengthens," March 4). Why do we need another form of fighting, when we already have so many forms of violence on television, in movies and in video games? A study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine in January 2014 concluded that "Notwithstanding the paucity of data, the injury incidence in MMA appears to be greater than in most, if not all, other popular and commonly practiced combat sports." They also state that the most commonly injured body area is the head (66.8 percent to 78 percent of reported injuries). After learning in the last few years about the risk of concussions for football players, do we want another sport with these injuries? The recent news article shows that the main interest of advocates is the dollar sign. They tout the money to be made in fights, but don't discuss possible injuries of the fighters.We are proud to live in the only state in the nation that has not legalized MMA. This is not an activity that we need in New York. We hope that others will agree and contact their legislators, telling them to say "no" to this so-called sport. Ann and David Brandon”As harsh as this letter may seem, we know that this is a minority view in New York. We also know (though the Brandon’s neglected to mention this) that the “paucity” of data used in that 2014 study has been questioned with regard to its ability to be generalized. Furthermore, the authors of the study themselves note “More epidemiologic research is urgently needed to improve the accuracy of the injury incidence estimate, to determine the injury severity, and to identify more risk factors for injury in MMA.”Ask and you shall receive. A January 2015 study, Professional Fighters Brain Health Study, has been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a review of which notes that after a 5 year study of 244 professional fighters cumulative brain damage, “Boxing is more dangerous than martial arts:”“Perhaps unsurprisingly, given their focus on the head, the boxers in the study generally fared worse than the martial arts combatants, irrespective of age. They showed smaller volumes in the scanned regions of the brain and gave slower mental performances. If you want a combat sport that's less likely to cause brain damage, martial arts are better than boxing because they're not so focused on concussing the opponent."Perhaps the most obvious explanation is that boxers get hit in the head more," the authors suggest. "In addition to trying to concuss (i.e., knockout) their opponent, martial arts fighters can utilise other combat skills such as wrestling and jiu-jitsu to win their match by submission, without causing a concussion."It seems a no-brainer that regulated MMA, both professional and amateur, is safer than an unregulated version of the sport; and MMA is clearly safer than boxing with regard to head trauma (not that head trauma does not exist in MMA), yet we still seem to have to point this point this out to our opponents. It also seems a no-brainer that we should not have to explain why MMA is empowering to women.Regardless of whether the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence says we "contribute to a culture of violence against women" or the New York City Chapter of the National Organization for Women suggests “the issue of violence against women stands out as blight on our society, and nowhere is that violence more disturbingly displayed than in mixed martial arts culture,” we know the opposite is true. We know that MMA can bolster strength, autonomy and self-empowerment of women. UFC Bantamweight Champion and fan favorite Ronda Rousey clearly doesn’t buy it. She lobbied in Albany this past week to make it clear that she believes MMA belongs in New York. On this very blog Beth Hurrle of The Gals Guide to MMA noted:“I am trying to understand how a group that tries to stop violence can speak out against a sport that takes active steps to help kids protect themselves against bullying. They also completely ignore the countless women who have taken martial arts classes after being the victim of violence or to keep themselves from being victims of violence. People who practice mixed martial arts learn respect, self control and discipline. These are not virtues that you can associate with a man who beats and sexually assaults women.”In a recent interview with Cosmopolitan, female MMA fighter L.A. Gennings notes:“People who wanted to keep women out said they were trying to protect women's bodies — but I want to be in charge of my own body. The idea of men being violent and women being passive are social constructs. Fighting is no more masculine than parenting is feminine.”Anyone who believes mixed martial arts serves to do anything other than bolster independence, equality and challenge female stereotypes needs to watch this piece on Malaysia’s first female professional MMA fighter.So, things are looking great here in NY. We have a thriving amateur community, the Senate has passed the bill to regulate professional MMA and we have a past supporter of regulated MMA in the Assembly Speaker’s seat. The opposition is looking foolish as they unsuccessfully struggle to paint us as animals. We are in the home stretch. What could go wrong?Well, this is New York after all and politics here never quite seems to add up logically. A detailed review by MMA Journalist Jim Genia of the MMA bill that recently passed in the Senate and is headed up the chain in the Assembly, reveals a troubling bit of news: if the current bill is passed in the Assembly as is, we will have to completely scrap amateur MMA in order to get professional MMA.Yes, you heard me. The bill outlining regulatory requirements for professional MMA has also ratified the sections of the current law that allow for amateur MMA; effectively killing amateur MMA in New York by prohibiting both the New York State Athletic Commission and third party sanctioning bodies from regulating the amateur version of our sport. I suggest everyone read Jim’s breakdown to understand just how silly this is. I know…I know. It sounds ridiculous. Let’s wipe out the amateur leagues which will feed the new professional leagues we are about to legalize. Let’s put measures in place that will force amateur MMA fighters back to unsafe unregulated underground fights. Let’s sacrifice the health and safety of the much larger amateur MMA community for the much smaller professional community. But, it is true. This is happening.As fast as things are moving, the bill has not passed in the Assembly yet. Some minor changes in language could fix this problem all together. Jim Genia has some concrete suggestions with regard to how we can address this. Check out his piece: How to Fix a Bill: New York MMA Edition.Fixing this involves YOUR HELP. I want professional MMA in New York as much as anyone. I think that much is clear. We are so close, closer than we have ever been. After years of fighting for this we deserve it. But, I do not want professional MMA if it will force all our amateurs back into the underground. If you want regulated professional and amateur MMA in New York, now is your time to speak up. Now is the time to contact your local Assembly member. Now is the time to demand the bill be ratified to allow for regulation of amateur MMA by the New York State Athletic Commission, or its proxy. As Jim says in his post:“When a bill is wending its way through the legislature, it's a malleable thing, and subject to a multitude of changes that can come at any time in the process. And though the Senate-approved bill - S02159 - is a done deal, the Assembly version, A02604, is still a work in progress, and changes to A02604 would mean changes to S02159 (remember: bills are linked, and melded into one when they're presented to the governor to sign).”At the end of 2015 will our New York MMA community, our entire community still be in exile? Time will tell, but now is your chance to make a difference. Pick up the phone and make the call. Let’s move the whole New York MMA community out of the underground.Stephen KoepferCoalition to Legalize MMA in New York

  • *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 KoepferFounder, 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.