BY JIM GENIA
I’ve been asked by Underground Combat League promoter Peter Storm to write a rebuttal to the recent Wall Street Journal article “Living a Dangerous Dream”, an article that addressed New York City’s illicit fight scene and some of the issues surrounding it. Why me? As Storm has promoted nearly thirty such events since 2003, and I’ve been to, reported on and written about nearly all of them, Storm feels I’m qualified to voice his opinion. Plus, the dude is busy planning death matches. Cut him some slack.
Reporter Sophia Hollander did a fine job in providing a peek into the world of UCL, and she touched briefly upon both sides of the “illegality” coin. A few things to note, though:
• Hollander never attended an event. Her reporting was based on what her photographer saw, and what an alleged competitor (identified as “Kris A.”) described.
• While Storm doesn’t dispute that Hollander may have talked to someone with the alias Kris A., he doubts Kris A. actually ever fought in the Underground Combat League. Why? In the article, Kris A. lamented that his family was forced to buy tickets to the event he supposedly fought in, and when they couldn’t afford the price, they had to watch from outside the venue. This doesn’t ring true.
According to Storm, every competitor is allowed to bring three people with them for free. Also, throughout the years a multitude of people have fabricated tales of fighting in Storm’s promotion (I’ve met them, Storm has met them – you’ve probably met them and don’t even realize it), so it would be no a stretch for someone to tell a Wall Street Journal reporter what they think they want to hear.
• The article does focus on a legitimate underground fighter. Jonathan Figueroa (we actually know him as “Jonathan Velez”) is a repeat customer and skilled competitor, and though light in weight, the gung fu stylist has zero problems taking on much bigger opponents.
• Storm promotes his underground shows because there’s a need for them, not because they make bank (they usually don’t, and I’ve seen him throw invite-only events, not charge admission and pay for the venue out-of-pocket). And as long as Albany politics continue to keep sanctioned MMA out of New York State, the UCL will go on, just as it’s done for the past eight years.
• What will happen to the UCL when Albany finally does get around to sanctioning mixed martial arts? Storm has no problem going legitimate. After all, he does have an established MMA brand.
That is all.
Jim Genia is the author of the upcoming Raw Combat: The Underground World of Mixed Martial Arts, which is a nonfiction book he wrote on the underground fight scene in New York. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why.