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NY MMA Expo
Sunday’s NY MMA Expo was the first of a planned series of events to promote the sanctioning of Mixed Martial Arts in the state of New York. The Uniondale Marriot ballroom where it was held was a small venue, certainly paling in comparison to the pre-UFC 100 fan expo in Las Vegas.
While the sheer size of something like the Vegas expo may have made a bigger statement about the fans’ desire to see MMA in Madison Square Garden, the more personal venue did have a lot of advantages.
First, there was still a very good turnout to the event. In fact, the relatively small space created a more powerful image when crowds of fans lined up for autographs.
Secondly, the fans got a lot of face time with the fighters, gyms, and local businesses that set up booths at the expo. I was able to get short interviews with every fighter and business owner to make an appearance, and, in some cases, I spent less time with them than the individual fans did.
The guest list of professional fighters included WEC lightweight champion, Jaime Varner, former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski, former IFL standout and recent edition to the Strikeforce welterweight stable, Tim Kennedy, and former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk. An article containing the full fighter interviews is currently posted on The Examiner.
UFC lightweight Clay Guida was also billed for the event, but was pulled at the last minute. The official reason given by the Expo was that Guida’s sponsors discovered a conflict of interest. Guida himself has not made a comment on the matter. The absence of The Carpenter did little to dampen the spirits of the day. With Sherk present, the UFC lightweight division already had representation. And, while the fighters bring the fans out, they were not really the focus of the event.
American Fighter, Kioto Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Evolution Combat Club all had booths at the Expo, but most of the space was occupied by New York based businesses that are attached to MMA.
Positioned next to the familiar TapouT logo were local companies such as 8th Degree Black Clothing and Manumissions, a recently launched line of skin care products for those who train in MMA and Jiu Jitsu.
“I feel the biggest argument for legalizing [MMA in New York] is the amount of money the state is losing,” Dan Ostrower, president of Manumissions, summed up the message of the event.
Every local business, from the gyms to the product lines, all gave the same one word answer to both what they expect to get out of the event and what they expect to get out of the legalization of MMA in New York. Exposure.
“It’s going to be big for all of us when MMA comes [to New York],” said a representative from Hauppauge based internet radio station, Guerrilla Fight. “It’ll bring some competition from the West Coast. But New York businesses are a tight nit group, and we’ll do well.”
The money to be made by MMA might not seem like the most altruistic argument for the sport’s sanctioning in the state of New York, but it may be the most convincing. As nitpicking is being done in the State Assembly over how much they may tax a specific event, it’s easy to forget how much industry is attached to MMA.
While other business undertakings are dieing off in the current US economic climate, new work built around MMA, however niche it may seem, is thriving. Working with the sport is a potential major source of employment in the future.
New York legend and competitor in UFC 1, Ron Van Clief called MMA “The sport of the 21st century.” It may also be an industry for the 21st century.
Even though the message of the day was “revenue,” it didn’t detract from the love of the game that could be seen in the crowd. Taking random samplings from groups of fans, I was often surprised to find that almost every group had at least one person actively training in MMA for a year or more. There was a definite sense of dedication among the fans present rarely seen in other sports.
The next major MMA Expo is scheduled for October 24 at the Jacob Javits center in midtown Manhattan.