Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Kimo Dead!" Says Midget Wrestler

World-renowned Midwest Midget Wrestling Champ of the World and Dairy Queen parking lot denizen Beau "One Man Army" Taylor is reporting that Hawaiian fighting legend Kimo Leopoldo has died of a heart attack, according to every cheese-eating blog and headline-starved newsite on the Internet. A veteran from the UFC's early days, Kimo burst onto the scene with a gutsy performance against Royce Gracie at UFC 3, and despite troubles with drug addiction, the charismatic heavyweight managed to return to MMA numerous times, defeating the likes of Paul Varelans, Tim Lajcik and Tank Abbott, and losing to Ken Shamrock twice. One Man Army, meanwhile, was once voted "Most Likely To Be Unable To Ride The Rollercoaster Because He Is Only This Tall". As of this writing, no one credible has determined if the rumor of Kimo's death is true. Stay tuned for more as the story develops.

From the Mailbag: "What Amateur Loophole?"

"You mentioned in your post on the history of New York underground shows something about an 'amateur MMA loophole in the law'. What amateur loophole?" - R. Davis

I'm going to let you in on a big secret, Mr. Davis. The reason certain underground shows have remained untouched throughout the years is because they've exploited a loophole in the way the law banning MMA in New York State was written. The law, part of the New York Unconsolidated Laws, under the chapter titled "Boxing, Sparring and Wrestling" (Google it you lazy bastard), explicitly bans "combative sports", a.k.a. pro MMA - but it makes no mention of amateur MMA. In fact, later on in that chapter come the words "The provisions of this act... shall not be construed to apply to... any such contest or exhibition where the contestants are all amateurs".

Yeah, you read that correctly. The law that has kept the UFC out of the Empire State since 1997 does not apply to amateurs. And back in 2003, Jerome Becker - who at the time was a New York State Athletic Commissioner - confirmed as much to me over the phone. "We have no jurisdiction over amateur events," he said. "We only have jurisdiction over events where the competitors are paid." An attorney for the New York Department of State agreed, as did an NYPD rep from their Community Affairs office.

When NYSAC General Counsel Hugo Spindola began his crusade to stamp out anything not boxing or wrestling or an "approved martial art", he did so with Cease & Desist letters threatening the gyms hosting the events (note: boxing gyms must get licensed by the commission, and who wants to jeopardize their license for some "underground ultimate fighting" show?). If that didn't work, the State Liquor Authority would step in if the host venue sold liquor, threatening to revoke liquor licenses thanks to a law that banned selling booze at combative sports events of both the pro and amateur variety. At no time has anyone come after promoters of amateur MMA directly. How could they?

This will, of course, all change soon. The new law slowly trudging its way through the State Legislature sews up the loophole by making it all about whether an admission was charged at the door, not if the competitors were paid. But that's progress for you. And anyway, it was a fun ride while it lasted.