As reported by veteran MMA journo Eddie Goldman on his podcast, this year's MMA World Expo at the Javits Center in Manhattan will be on December 1 and 2, and it will likely feature an amateur MMA tournament. Wait, did I just say "an amateur MMA tournament"? Yes. Yes, I did.
Thanks to the lawsuit Zuffa brought against the State of New York, it's come to light that amateur MMA is not (and has never been) illegal here. As such, more and more amateur events have been popping up in Upstate New York - far away from New York City, but nonetheless taking place in a very open and public fashion and, most importantly, unmolested by the coarse hands of the New York State Athletic Commission. However, an MMA show going down in the boondocks of Buffalo or the sticks of Albany is a far cry from one happening in the Big Apple, and none of the established, above-the-board NYC promoters (i.e., promoters of sanctioned kickboxing events) I've talked to are willing to risk aggravating the athletic commission by doing anything MMA in the Five Boroughs. Which makes what MMA World Expo organizer Paul Paone is doing all the more noteworthy - and risky.
"Yes, I am working on logistics now and should be able to release all the details shortly," Paone said to me via email when I asked for confirmation that he was indeed going to have an amateur MMA tournament at his expo. Can a tournament be done? Logistically, it definitely can, especially given that this is Paone's fourth expo and prior expos have had everything from grappling tournaments to kickboxing events to mixes of the two. Without question, the apparatus to make it happen is in place. And since this shindig would occur in the heart of Manhattan - and would be the first of its kind since David Ross' tournament attempts at the Borough of Manhattan Community College gymnasium back in 1996 - there will be no shortage of willing participants. The question, then, is what, if anything, the athletic commission will do.
Standard operating procedure for when the NYSAC wants to shut down a show is to send a cease and desist letter, and threaten to have commission reps and police at the venue to make sure nothing happens (you can probably guess how I know this). Will they throw such heat at Paone? Or will they turn a blind eye on an event they admit they have no authority over, an event taking place right in their backyard that will undoubtedly garner a heck of a lot of media attention?
I have no clue. However, although I haven't yet been able to pin the athletic commission down for a firm answer on what they're allowing re: amateur MMA in the state, you can bet I'm going to continue asking. We're in a weird, yet strangely awesome, transition period when it comes to MMA in New York. An amateur MMA tournament at the Javits Center would make it even awesomer.