When it was announced this week that the TNT Fight Series would be the first amateur MMA card to be sanctioned in New York since state authorities tried to stamp out the practice in 2002, thoughts of controversy and conflict with government officials came to mind for everyone except the people running it. Fighter and promoter of the TNT Fight Series Erik Herbert went on the record with The Fight Nerd.com last night to describe what has been a thus far smooth ride with the sanctioning body and local government.
The TNT Fight Series, is set to take place this May in Tonawanda, New York, just north of Buffalo and will be sanctioned under the USMTA. The USMTA is one of the organizations that New York State allows to regulate “martial arts” competitions, which amateur MMA falls under according to the legal definition of the term. Many sanctioning bodies have known that they can regulate amateur MMA shows but have been intimidated by possible conflicts with state and local authorities. Yet, according to Herbert, convincing the USMTA to sanction his event was no great effort.
“It really wasn’t that hard,” said Herbert. “[At one point] we wanted to do [Muay Thai] in the cage. So we asked and the USMTA said yeah. From there we were thinking we were so close [to doing MMA] that we should just do it. [The USMTA] were fine with it. They read all the legislation, especially with the lawsuit [between Zuffa and New York State], and they said it was okay.”
When Herbert was forced to approach the state athletic commission, where the everyone thought the real conflict would lay, there appeared to be no big fuss. While Herbert felt that “easy” was the wrong word to describe the process, he did say that “they’ve been cooperative.”
“They’ve given us the green light for everything, provided we abide by the rules of the sanctioning body,” Herbert said of the State Athletic Commission. “They told us they would have to let officials in our town know what we were doing. So, they sent a letter to our local government warning them that there was a risk of rioting and all kinds of things that were not going to happen.”
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While sending such a warning letter might not seem like the most cooperative the athletic commission could have been, it was a far cry from the horror stories of a decade ago that forced New York promoters to stop putting on amateur MMA shows. Though, if such a letter has been standard practice, it’s no wonder why local authorities were not pleased to have MMA in their towns back when the sport wasn’t as well known.
Now that MMA has slowly but surely edged itself into the main stream, local response has been far less abrasive.
“We met with the Mayor and the Chief of Police,” Herbert continued. “They will be sitting in the front row.”
The positive reception by local officials and a recognized sanctioning body, along with a laissez-faire by the State Athletic Commission may be the beginning of a kinder and gentler relationship between New York and MMA. The rules of the USMTA that the commission insisted TNT abide by are almost identical to those currently practiced by the New Jersey State Athletic Control board. The only difference between USMTA amateur mixed martial arts and the amateur MMA practiced in the rest of the region is that the standard gloves are one ounce heavier, which Herbert mentioned were “a pain” to find.
The TNT Fight Series features fighters from Canada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, as well as local boys. Herbert credits the wide spread of competitors at his show with the fighters at his upstate New York gym, Victory MMA. He credits the matchmakers he has met bringing his fighters to the surrounding area for the fighting tourists now coming to New York for his show.