The Underground Combat League keeps ticking away. It's one of MMA's dirty little not-so-secrets, the UCL is able to continue operating in New York because it's not exactly "illegal," though it's also not exactly "legal."
Reported on by popular websites such as Gawker and with a book written about the "league" by Jim Genia, UCL doesn't fully exist outside the view of the public, though the events aren't publicized and efforts are made by all involved to keep it "underground."
It'd almost be romantic, the story of a fight promotion existing underground while New York is manipulated into not regulating professional MMA, if it wasn't for the fact that they're operating under the guise of an amateur event while seemingly going out of their way to be as unsafe as possible.
Genia tweeted about an event tomorrow night featuring an amateur vs. pro fight:
UCL tomorrow. Al Jazeera is going to be there, Newark Star-Ledger is going to be there, plus one other outlet I'm not going to name. YIKES.— jim genia (@jim_genia) August 23, 2013
Since ammy MMA is legal in NYS, what makes the UCL "underground"? Well, a pro MMA fighter is fighting an ammy fighter - nowhere else can...— jim genia (@jim_genia) August 23, 2013
...you see that. Not that I'm advocating mismatches or anything, but this particular match-up is a good one.— jim genia (@jim_genia) August 23, 2013
When Gawker covered a UCL event, they were witness to an even bigger concern than allowing a pro to fight an amateur:
But Adrion was not getting up. He'd fallen down while getting choked. His leg had bent at an odd angle, and his femur snapped clean in half. He laid in the ring in a pained heap. He didn't cry, but he had that look of agony on his face that adults who are too macho to cry get when they're experiencing pain that makes them wish they could cry. Later, a guy who'd been recording the fight on his phone showed us the replay: Adrion swung around with his opponent on his back, one leg planted awkwardly, and then it all came crumbling down.
"That's the worst injury that's ever happened in the UCL," Jim assured me. (A video of the fight popped up today on Youtube. Watch it at left, at your own discretion.) That it came not as the direct result of a strike but from an awkward fall was somehow reassuring. The same injury could happen in soccer, for god's sake. There was no medic in the house, so eventually they loaded the injured fighter onto a big white plastic table with the legs folded up and slid him out of the ring so the fights could go on.
I asked Genia on Twitter if there was now a medic on site:
They also occasionally abandon the "unified rules" and just go full Vale Tudo, headbutts and all.
If the promoter were nearly as interested in just having MMA sanctioned in New York, he'd probably not be so willing to throw out all shreds of safety. No medic on site, allowing pros to fight as amateurs, allowing headbutts -- a horrible thing in terms of long term health of the brain -- all points to a lack of truly caring about anything other than the here-and-now, not anything involving the long-term health of MMA in New York.
It's might only take one situation where the lack of safety protocols results in a death or permanent serious injury to set the whole legalization effort years back.