Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fighters Source National Tournament Finals in NYC

I had the pleasure of sitting cageside to live tweet the Fighters Source National MMA Tournament Finals at the MMA World Expo in NYC yesterday. Overall it was a great show. How great was it? Check out my tweets, it will be like you were there! Ok, maybe not, but it is still pretty cool.

To learn more about Fighters Source, check out my interview with their CEO Anthony Medina and visit

5th annual MMA World Expo at Javits Center - New York News

This weekend saw the fifth annual MMA World Expo in NYC. Check out Fox News' report:

5th annual MMA World Expo at Javits Center - New York News

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fighters Source® Comes Back to NYC For Their National Tournament Finals

On May 23rd, 2013 Fighters Source® made their fist appearance on the New York amateur MMA scene with their Kings of New York event at the Hammerstein Ballroom. I was pleased to be able to cover the event last year and interview Fighters Source® CEO Anthony Medina leading up to their debut New York show. Over a year has gone by and much has changed. Since that time Fighters Source® has gone national with a well reviewed amateur MMA tournament that culminates with a final event at the 2014 MMA World Expo on July 26th at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.

On June 21st, leading up to the national tournament finals, Fighters Source® joined forces with New York's Golden MMA to host a regional qualifier here in New York City. Check out veteran Journalist Jim Genia's story on the New York regional event.

With only 6 days to go before the Fighters Source® national tournament finals and their third appearance in New York City, I once again have the pleasure of interviewing Anthony Medina about what's in store and how the brand has evolved over the last year.

NYMMANOW:  It has been a year since the Fighters Source® debut in NYC at the Hammerstein Ballroom; which I also covered for NYMMANOW. Please tell us what has gone on with Fighters Source® during that time. What has changed since last year?

MEDINA:  Our complete business model has changed.  We have become a league instead of a single promotion.  The difference between a league and a single promotion is everything.  A single promotion has only their network and database to recruit talent.  A league uses the joint databases of multiple promotions to discover national talent.  A single promotion markets individual fighters. Fighters get injured, grow old, or retire for personal reasons. Their marketing momentum stops right there, then they must be reignited for their next start.  A league markets a team; teams which are consistent, and can be followed by generations. It is true that the athletes of each team may change, but the team itself remains. The marketing continues to multiply season after season.  Single promotion matches are handpicked by a matchmaker. Fans never know when their favorite athlete will compete next.  They are also in the dark as to who he/she will fight next. This is difficult for converting casual fans to avid fans.  A league runs a season and schedule.  Fans know when their fighter/teams compete next. They also know who they will be fighting, and where the event takes place. This makes tracking and predicting, simple for the fans. Single promotion Champions of a single promotion hold their title until a matchmaker gives them an opponent that can beat them.  A league, by implementing a season, athletes must start from scratch each year. For an athlete to become a three time champ, he/she must work his/her way to the title three separate seasons. This creates true champions, and legends. Single promotions are never ending, at first this may sound like a good thing, but it can get stagnant. With a league, fans enjoy the excitement of a fresh start, the anticipation of a finale, and the time off for their other interests. To put it simple, single promotions flood the market.

NYMMANOW: As you know, amateur MMA is fast becoming a national issue regarding fighter's health, safety and oversight. Fighters Source® hosts events in several states including New York. Unlike professional MMA, only about half of state athletic commissions in the United States oversee amateur MMA; some quite poorly, others quite well. What have you learned about the amateur MMA scene in America during your travels? How did you choose the locations for each branch of the national tournament?

MEDINA:  Each branch was chosen by the various team owners throughout the country that wanted to be a part of the Fighters Source® League. Fighters Source® qualified 8 promotions from around the country and invited them to participate in our Inaugural year as a League.  As far as the first question, where should I start, LOL! Unlike most promoters, that are bounded by their local territory, I have had the unique opportunity to experience various different state and foreign athletic commissions each with various rules and regulations.  States are not uniform in their operations when it comes to amateur MMA.

NYMMANOW: As you know, MMA in New York is a controversial topic with professional still banned and amateur unregulated by the NY Athletic Commission. How have you gone about overseeing sanctioning in your New York events and how has it different from other states? Your first time out here was regulated by the MMA Ki Federation (KICK International). Most recently you used ISKA. How will the Fighters Source® finals at the World MMA Expo be regulated?

MEDINA:  There is very little difference.  We use 3rd party sanctioning bodies as we have done with our other events in New York and Florida. The only difference is how scrutinized MMA is in New York.  Since our last show in New York at the Hammerstein, over 30 amateur sanctioned, accredited shows have been put on, and I would like to think that Fighters Source® played a big part in leading by example about how important sanctioned fights are for the safety of everyone involved.

NYMMANOW: I personally love the state team format in this tournament and think it has great potential for growth. Can you speak to how the idea of a national tournament with state teams arose and any lessons you may have learned along the way?

MEDINA:  It arose right after our New York show.  We saw there was a larger need to include other promotions to put forward the absolute best US Team.  We took the old IFL (International Fight League) model and adopted it to the amateur side of MMA, which seems to have blossomed under those ideals.  Almost like the NCAA National Wrestling Tournament consisting of different schools from different states, and them having national Champions from each weight class.  I have learned that the United States is very fragmented in the various rules and regulations for MMA among the various states.  It is our hope to have nationally unified MMA rules for not only athletes but for promotions as well.

NYMMANOW: Teaming up with Paul Paone and the World MMA Expo is a fantastic opportunity. How did this come about?

MEDINA:  It's funny that you ask.  My partner, Adam Meyers, CFO of Fighter Source®, and I, were visiting the Hammerstein to investigate throwing another event at that location, and Paul was also looking to also possibly hold the Expo at the Hammerstein.  At the end of our site visit, Paul, Adam and I sat in the hotel lobby and spoke of the benefits for both companies for the Fighters Source® 2014 Nationals being the main event for the Expo.  We are very happy to be a part of the MMA World Expo and look forward to our next one.

NYMMANOW: What's next for Fighters Source® after the Expo. I know you have taken teams overseas in the past. Any plans to take the winners of the finals to represent the U.S. abroad?

MEDINA:  The winners of the Nationals will move on to represent the United States in London at the World Challenge in September.  The World Challenge Finals will conclude the 2014 season.

NYMMANOW: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Any final thoughts?

MEDINA:  This past season has been such a great experience.  We have met a lot of different people, different cultures, from various different states.  We were able to experience events in snow, in rain, in heat, indoor events, outdoor events, etc., and it was all great.  The common bond was Mixed Martial Arts.  We look forward to the rest of this season and for the seasons to come. We, as a League, will continue to work toward legalization of Pro-MMA in New York, and the inclusion of MMA in to the Olympics. Thank you to NYMMANOW for this interview, and we will see you at the Nationals!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Some Thoughts on the Sport

I recently posted this on Facebook and it generated some solid discussion. So, I figured it was worth posting here as well. Please feel free to add your comments.

I have come to point (a while ago actually) where I have stopped following and for the most part caring about "mainstream" MMA (UFC, Bellator, etc). It just does not excite me any longer. Of course there are a few fighters I care about enough to follow, but generally I just won't go out of my way.

At the risk of sounding like an old fart longing for the "good old days," there is just too much MMA now. I feel the market is close to over-saturated (if it is not already); impersonal. I sincerely miss the days where I knew all the fighters by name, cared about their development and progression; the feeling that I knew them as people. These days there are just too many to follow, know about or care about. Each new guy is the next P4P sensation and he is just as quickly forgotten. No personalities to invest in.

Honestly, it is the amateurs and lower level pros where I still feel like a true MMA fan; where I can know the guys (sometimes personally) and follow their progression. These are the guys and gals with awesome stories, drive & personalities - people I can invest my time and energy into following. It is in the amateur ranks where I feel most excited and engaged; like I felt back in the day when the sport was new. It still feels like a personal experience.

This is why I care so much for getting amateur MMA properly regulated. These are the folks fighting simply for the love of it, but neglected by our state. To me, regulation of amateur MMA is way more critical than pro in NY. It affects vastly more people. I love this sport and it is with the up and coming guys where I see the same love, passion and self sacrifice...just to fight for free. Amateurs may not bring in big money to our state, but these guys are the bedrock of our sport. They are who keep the sport exciting for me. They are the folks who still make me feel like a true fan.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Small Step Towards Amateur MMA Regulation in NY

Today, Senator Joseph Griffo's bill which calls for the regulation of amateur MMA in New York passed the Senate. Having read the bill, I think it is a positive step forward, however has definite room for improvement if the opportunity to amend future versions of the legislation arises*. Nevertheless, it is a strong signal to our Assembly legislators that the issue of amateur MMA needs to be addressed. But, the Assembly has not moved on Professional MMA, and it will likely stagnate on this as well. The NYS legislative calendar ends tomorrow.

The issue of amateur MMA regulation has snowballed in recent years. With New York State's 2012 admission that amateur MMA is legal and unregulated in New York, our community has blossomed. In 2013, there were 47 amateur MMA events in NY; nearly double that of 2012. But, this is not without problems. In his recent Deadspin article, Jim Genia recently detailed significant medical concerns that come with the rise of amateur MMA in NY.

I have commented in the past about the dangers of unregulated amateur MMA.

April, 2013: Concerns over Amateur MMA Regulation Going National

August, 2012: Amateur MMA: When Will We Come Out of the Dark Ages

July, 2012: Will the Dustin Jenson Tragedy Teach Us Something?

Check out Zach Arnold's Fight Opinion op-ed on the assets and deficits of state-by-state commission regulation of MMA. Anyone considering the issues facing potential NY State Athletic Commission regulation of MMA needs to read Zach's piece and consider the issues he raises.

*Look for my upcoming commentary on the NY amateur MMA legislation that just passed through the Senate

Speaking at Columbia University's Sports Management Course on NY MMA

Yesterday MMA Journalist Jim Genia, fighter Hassan Hope and I spent the evening talking NY MMA with the students of Columbia University's Graduate Program in Sports Management. The program has established a course tasked with exploring and presenting solutions to NY long held ban on MMA. Here is my commentary on the course itself.

Big thanks to Carla Varriale and the students of Columbia for having us!

Friday, June 13, 2014

NY MMA: Are You In The Trenches With Us Or Not?

Today MMA4NY, one of Zuffa, LLC's (that's the UFC for those not in the know) PR entities here in New York held a "rally" in support of lifting the ban on professional MMA in front of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's office. Sadly, I did not attend. Why? Because the rally was only announced Wednesday and I could not clear my calendar for today. MMA4NY had approached me via e-mail about 2 weeks ago regarding a possible rally and when I frankly told them why I believed it was ill advised, I never heard back from them. Nevertheless, a rally for Friday morning at 11am was announced on Wednesday afternoon.

What happened next was a complete joke and incredibly offensive to all of us in the MMA community actually in the trenches here in New York State. If MMA4NY wants to act like they are in the trenches with us and show they actually care about our fate, this is not the way to do it. Only two days notice for a rally? Holding a rally on a Friday, when most people take off from work, minimizing the amount of eyes on the rally in the first place? No public support from UFC for the event whatsoever? Not a single New York based UFC fighter present at the rally? Holding a rally after Sheldon Silver already publicly put this year's bill to death? Sending in interns who don't know the facts, or even the name of the Assembly Speaker they are rallying? Waiting until the last 2 weeks of the legislative calendar instead of rallying at the beginning of the calendar when New York MMA is a hot issue? MMA4NY's hastily announced "rally" was clearly a last ditch effort doomed to fail from the start. Well, it was a failure if you are thinking about actually having a rally that helps our cause here in any way. Maybe not such a failure if one's goal is to keep the Zuffa paychecks flowing. You gotta show you are doing something to earn that cash, right?

MMA Journalist Jim Genia was on the scene and filed this report on how the MMA4NY rally went down today.

So, how did MMA4NY show that they care for us here in the trenches in New York? They sent several ill-prepared interns on a suicide mission to stand in the rain in front of Sheldon Silver's Manhattan office. Oh yeah, the only other people to show up were Journalists Jim Genia and Phoenix Carnevale. While the interns may have had the best of intentions (I do thank them for their support!), they were simply fodder in the continuing war for New York MMA. The interns, or should I say pawns, were sacrificed to the front lines of a war which has become a proxy battlefront for the Fertitta Brothers' (majority owners of the UFC) decades long war with the Las Vegas Culinary Union over their non-union Station Casino chain. But, are the power brokers actually trying their best to end this war and get us professional MMA in New York?

Some, including myself believe that this is a war not intended to be won at all. Or at the very least, it will be stretched out as long as possible for the selfish benefit of several parties. In fact, it has become my opinion that the "fight" for New York MMA is suffering from permanent project syndrome where the power players involved have little motivation to actually lift the ban. But, why keep the ban in place?

Could it be for the maintenance of a perpetual pulpit from which both the Culinary Union and the UFC can bring national attention to their ridiculous feud? Where the New York MMA community is simply considered collateral damage? Were it not for New York MMA, nobody would know or care about their Vegas hotel union battle. The New York MMA issue is a convenient way to keep taking perpetual pot shots at each other. If professional MMA comes to New York, both sides lose a fantastic megaphone.

Related Reading - 2012 Editorial (things have not changed much): New York MMA: Think Locally, Act Globally

Could it be that too many people are making too much money because MMA is banned in NY? Aaron Elstein of Crane's New York seems to think so. Legislators are getting their coffers filled without ever having to cast a vote (in the Assembly) or even make minor public statements on our behalf. Lobbyists are getting paid massive retainers to fight for us in Albany; with zero record of success year after year. Public Relations and marketing firms are getting paid tremendous amounts to spread the word and fight for us here in NY. Is today's rally worth the retainer fees being paid to MMA4NY by the UFC?

Some of our own community here in New York may not even want MMA legislation to pass in Albany. There are third party sanctioning bodies operating here in New York who will lose their legislative hall pass if our state lifts the ban and hands control to the NYS Athletic Commission. Since New York's 2011 admission that amateur MMA is legal and outside the jurisdiction of the NYS Athletic Commission if run by a third party sanctioning body, the amateur MMA scene here has blossomed (not without it's own set of problems). Furthermore, only a select few of these sanctioning bodies, according to NYS's liquor laws, are permitted to serve alcohol at their amateur events. That's right. Some folks sanctioning amateur MMA events here in New York have a pretty sweet deal because according to the ban's language; they can operate unsupervised. So, if that law is overturned, so is their ability to operate here in New York. Their hall pass gets handed back to the principal.

Bottom line is this. Those of us in the trenches and living with this sad prohibition, day in and day out, don't have the funds to pay to have a lobbyist in Albany where our voice can be heard. We try our best, but it is not enough to matter in the long run. There are many people claiming to be helping the New York MMA community. In truth, many are not here to help us at all, but act with their own self interest. So, to those who like to pretend like they are in the trenches with us, I say if this is how you are going "fight" for us, don't fight for us at all.

Here are some vids of actual rallies by the local New York MMA Community: