As secret, unsanctioned events go, this one was exceedingly clean and sanitized. But the venue was the old Combined Martial Arts gym in Astoria, after all, and that neighborhood isn't exactly the ghetto. Plus, the fights at this shindig - the Aggressive Shoot Championship - weren't full-on vale tudo like what the UCL was churning out. They weren't even what the Unified Rules would consider real MMA, what with the "no ground and pound" rule and the rope-escapes used for getting out of submissions. Yet somehow it managed to be entertaining. It was October of 2005, and the mainstream's eyes were recently opened to the joys of "The Ultimate Fighter" on SpikeTV. Meanwhile, at this event in Queens, under the stifling oppression of an athletic commission that was shutting down any kickboxing or kung fu event that dared operate openly, a bunch of fighters gathered on a Sunday night to beat the fuck out of each other. Yeah, it was pretty cool.
Legal troubles had UCL honcho Peter Storm sitting on the sidelines (literally, he was sitting on a bench, against a wall, with the hood of his sweatshirt pulled down over his eyes), so Storm's number two man Jerry Mendez took the baton and ran with it. He got some decent names together to compete. Pro fighter Kaream Ellington had a grappling match with future MMA coach Nolan Dutcher. Jiu-jitsu specialist Carmine Zocchi took on part-time DJ Abraham Garcia for a belt (Carmine won). JA Dudley beat Hook N' Shoot vet Dale Carson. Salty competitors Richie Torres and Andrew Montanez threw down against a couple young bucks. Then there was the main event, which pitted Tom Velasquez against Rob Guarino (Velasquez won via armbar in Round 2, after using a rope-escape to avoid a tight heelhook in the first).
Tom earned himself a belt for that victory, and went on to fight pro in Ring of Combat. He's a trainer now, when not working as an official for the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. Combined Martial Arts is gone, converted into an LA Boxing, and I seriously doubt the gym's corporate overlords would be interested in hosting another such event, regardless of how much the murky waters of sanctioning have cleared up (relevant link here: http://www.thefightnerd.com/promoter-says-new-york-officials-have-been-cooperative-for-sanctioned-amateur-mma/) . Carmine runs a jiu-jitsu school in Midwood, Dudley is kicking ass as a pro fighter nowadays, and last I heard Guarino runs the Rhino Fight Team school in New Jersey. As for Mendez, he took his promotional skills down south, and puts together sanctioned kickboxing shows in Florida, his Aggressive Shoot Championship somehow the granddaddy to his events and the Aggressive Combat Championship installments that take place here in the North.
On Saturday night, when I'm chilling at the Aggressive Combat Championship event on Long Island, you can bet that I'll be thinking of all the people that came together to make that night back in 2005 so fun. And I fully expect the fighters at the event this weekend to beat the fuck out of each other with as much vim and vigor as they did at that seminal show all those years ago.