While the state of New York still does not sanction, and in fact explicitly prohibits, the sport of mixed martial arts, a loophole in the Empire State’s wholesale ban on combat sports does allow for sanctioned amateur MMA, which a promotion and sanctioning body will be taking advantage of for the first time in ten years. This May in Tonawanda, New York, just north of Buffalo, promoter and veteran of the MMA events held on tribal reservations Erik “The Bull” Herbert is teaming up with the USMTA to bring a fully sanctioned amateur mixed martial arts card, the TNT Fight Series, to state land.
The legal ban put in place in 1997 that prohibited professional MMA in New York technically took with it all combat sports apart from boxing. However, certain select bodies, such as the USMTA and the WKA, are allowed to sanction “martial arts” competitions within the state. To the letter of the law, by the admission of the New York State Attorney General’s office, amateur MMA falls under the category of “martial arts.”
While this loophole has existed for nearly as long as amateur MMA competitions, it’s been a decade since the last time someone tried. After Lou Neglia’s “Vengeance at the Vanderbilt” MMA card was held on June 28, 2002, New York began putting heavy pressure on all MMA events. Amateur mixed martial arts shows in New York were shut down whenever they popped up, with local authorities citing obscure zoning regulations and looking for every excuse to declare them illegal while state authorities quietly threatened sanctioning bodies against doing any further work with mixed martial arts.
To this day, most organizations that can regulate amateur MMA in New York are fully aware that they have that privilege, but are unwilling to deal with the potential dangers of doing so.
The USMTA and Herbert have completely flaunted the 10 year long taboo with the upcoming TNT Fight Series, much to the shock of the New York MMA community. The USMTA and Herbert have not yet issued a statement regarding this bold maneuver, but are expected to in the immediate future.
More will be available on this story as it unfolds.