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The New York MMA Loophole

Jim Genia shares an interesting factoid about MMA in New York: It’s totally 100% illegal. Unless it’s amateur MMA in which case there’s no laws or guidelines against it whatsoever.

The reason certain underground shows have remained untouched throughout the years is because they’ve exploited a loophole in the way the law banning MMA in New York State was written. The law, part of the New York Unconsolidated Laws, under the chapter titled “Boxing, Sparring and Wrestling” (Google it you lazy bastard), explicitly bans “combative sports”, a.k.a. pro MMA – but it makes no mention of amateur MMA. In fact, later on in that chapter come the words “The provisions of this act… shall not be construed to apply to… any such contest or exhibition where the contestants are all amateurs”.

Yeah, you read that correctly. The law that has kept the UFC out of the Empire State since 1997 does not apply to amateurs. And back in 2003, Jerome Becker – who at the time was a New York State Athletic Commissioner – confirmed as much to me over the phone. “We have no jurisdiction over amateur events,” he said. “We only have jurisdiction over events where the competitors are paid.” An attorney for the New York Department of State agreed, as did an NYPD rep from their Community Affairs office.

When NYSAC General Counsel Hugo Spindola began his crusade to stamp out anything not boxing or wrestling or an “approved martial art”, he did so with Cease & Desist letters threatening the gyms hosting the events (note: boxing gyms must get licensed by the commission, and who wants to jeopardize their license for some “underground ultimate fighting” show?). If that didn’t work, the State Liquor Authority would step in if the host venue sold liquor, threatening to revoke liquor licenses thanks to a law that banned selling booze at combative sports events of both the pro and amateur variety. At no time has anyone come after promoters of amateur MMA directly. How could they?

Soooo … who wants to throw an amateur show?