nyc underground in Wall Street Journal

 sadly, i was interviewed and none of my quotes made it in, plus you have to join the WSJ site to read the article ( ).  but here's a link to the photo gallery - - which is free.


"Mr. Figueroa raises his elbow to strike his opponent, which is permitted in underground MMA tourneys, but not in regular MMA bouts."

the reporter left out the whole "to the death" angle that i was trying to push on her. oh well.

Can someone post the full article?

Was this reporter Kyle?

Once, boxing provided a path to propel young, struggling New Yorkers to new lives, allowing them to capitalize on skills that served them in the streets. These days, mixed martial arts is increasingly fulfilling that role, offering discipline and martial arts philosophy alongside the sometimes brutal consequences of the sport.

But so far it's illegal in New York to make money from such a career choice.

The state Legislature ended its most recent session without legalizing the sport, which has been banned here since 1997. It is regulated in 45 other states (not including tribal reservations), New Jersey among them.

Mixed martial arts enables fighters to draw on a range of combat disciplines, including jiujitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling, boxing and kickboxing. Fighters can be choked into unconsciousness--but that is no worse than being punched unconscious as in boxing, supporters say. Any fighter can "tap out" if he wants the fight to end.

Today in New York, fighters are faced with a tradeoff: It is free to compete in underground fights (sanctioned bouts in New Jersey require medical tests that can cost hundreds of dollars), but potentially more dangerous. They can get essential practice in actual bouts, but can't build up an official record that could yield more lucrative and high-profile matches. They have the ability to set their own rules, but those rules can backfire.

In an underground fight earlier this year, Jonathan Figueroa, 23 years old, went to the hospital and received "four or five" stitches after getting battered under his chin. ("My teacher said I cut myself worse shaving. It was so exciting. It was great," he said.)

Mr. Figueroa has a broad, sweet smile and speaks earnestly of the moment when he strikes an opponent in the ring. The man may once have viewed him as a potential victim, but suddenly realizes he has become "the prey."

"That's why I do it, just that shift," said Mr. Figueroa, his face lighting up. "I really enjoy that."

In his latest fight, a punch to his neck staggered him. He swayed in the ring, nearly passing out. But in the last of three rounds, Mr. Figueroa slammed his opponent to the floor, held him down, and pounded his neck and back until time was called. He was declared the winner.

Punching the spine is illegal under the official rules of mixed martial arts, which detail more than 20 fouls.

It is not the only difference between underground and regulated fights. In New Jersey, rigorous medical exams for professional fighters include blood tests, EKGs, an MRI/CT brain scan and an eye exam; fighters over age 40 must also be checked for cerebral circulation and cleared by a cardiologist. Up to five doctors can be ringside for a major event, according to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, which regulates the sport.

The agency estimated that more than 50 fighters from its 42 mixed martial arts events last year were disqualified for medical reasons, including some who tested positive for HIV and hepatitis. Doctors also discovered severe conditions in several fighters, requiring hospitalization and surgery.

"There's a multitude of medical issues that are present," said Nick Lembo, counsel to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. There is no medical testing for the underground New York fights. And fighters could be barred from New Jersey bouts if authorities find out they're participating in underground evens.

Of course, the screening doesn't mean it's completely safe, Mr. Lembo cautioned.

"It's a combat sport, so obviously there's an element of danger involved," he said.

But, he added, "I think it's fair to say that it's as safe as boxing or Muay Thai or kickboxing or the other combat sports that are legal and allowable."

New York state Assemblyman Bob Reilly, one of the more vociferous opponents of MMA, disagrees.

"I just simply believe that to condone this type of violence is contradictory to what we want to do in our civilized society and what we want to do in our government," he said. "Violence begets violence." He added that his constituents don't want it.

A Siena Research Institute poll in March found New Yorkers virtually split, with 39% in favor of legalization and 41% opposed.

While legislators wrangled over legalization, other New Yorkers spied an opportunity.

Peter Storm, 34, founder of the Underground Combat League, hosted his first event in 2003. Since then, he has run close to 30 "shows" in gyms across the city, charging as much as $45 for tickets.

Professional matches and exhibitions are illegal in New York, but Mr. Storm says that because the fighters aren't paid and alcohol isn't served, his events are legal. He says he has received assurances from state lawyers that this is the case.

But Lisa MacSpadden, deputy secretary of state for communications and community affairs, said via emal that "paid or unpaid, and regardless of whether alcohol is served, mixed martial arts exhibitions and matches are illegal in the state of New York."

She added that if the state "is tipped off far enough in advance of a planned match or exhibition, then legal counsel will investigate the matter and issue a 'cease and desist' letter informing the involved parties that the activity is illegal." So far, she said, the state hasn't received word early enough to take action.

Mr. Storm said the ticket charges cover the costs of running the event, including renting the space--but he occasionally turns a profit, he said. Then, he said, "I eat steak."

Still, he said he would happily shut down his fights if the sport was legalized in New York.

"Not everything that's popular should be allowed, but definitely mixed martial arts is one of them," he said. "It's proven to be a safe sport and a popular sport and it's what the people want."

A 23-year-old fighter who asked to be identified only as Kris A. said he agrees that the sport should be legalized, saying it is the underground fights that are the problem. He participated once and said, "It's something I won't do again."

He added: "I thought, 'I'm going to get recognized, I'm going to get known.'" But instead: "Nothing."

His mother and his wife went to the fight to surprise him--but couldn't pay the $30 entrance fee, his wife said. They watched by peering in through a window from outside, as guards kept shooing them away. Still, she left the fight impressed by his skills and surprised by what she calls "a beautiful sport."

Now, she said, "I always tell him, 'Keep fighting, keep fighting' because I like the way he fights. He's really good at it."

But Kris has temporarily put his mixed martial arts career on hold while he pursues a degree in psychology at Hunter College.

"I seen guys either give it all they got--like give up school, give up work, and they risk it all," he said. "In the United States we always have second chances, but in the fighter's world there are no second chances. It's that one shot or none. And that's it. And once that one shot hits you, fails, you don't have your work, you don't have school, and you're done."

Carlos "Flaco" Rodriguez is willing to take that risk--for now. He has stopped school in order to train full-time, while he continues to work as a tutor.

"It was too much juggling school, work and then traveling and training full time," he said. "I had to weigh my options and I went with training."

Mr. Rodriguez saw his first mixed martial arts bout one night when he was a child, flipping through television channels. He was appalled. "All I remember honestly was blood, just everywhere," he said, shaking his head and shuddering with a disarming grin. "I was like, 'I never want to do that!'"

Since then, the sport has changed, he insisted--a refrain of many within the sport.

"It sounds like it's bad. It sounds horrible, actually, talking about it," Mr. Rodriguez said. "But it's not any worse than what boxers go through."

And boxing is more limited, Kris insists. "I would be hindering a lot of talents that I have in kicking and wrestling," he said. "I can't use that in boxing."

Mr. Figueroa is trying to continue fighting while pursuing a degree--and being a father to his 4-year-old daughter, Lunelly, whose photos dot the walls the apartment he shares with a 68-year old Rinzai Zen priest.

He meditates before every fight and to deal with difficult situations daily. He has seen friends shot and stabbed, and known others who did the killing.

Mixed martial arts provides an outlet, he said. "This is the perfect way to manage it." Unlike his friends, he does not seek a career in the sport. "I want to be a school counselor," he said. But in mixed martial arts, he sees a kind of justice. "The smaller guy can beat the bigger guy," he said. "I love that."


no medicals= dangerous for everybody(HIV, Hepatitus ect...)not a good way to start a career IMO

JBob300 - stupid new yorkers and their underground mma. your bad for the sport.

um, ok.

UCL! Phone Post