New York is one of the few states in which the sport of MMA is illegal. In this day and age, it sounds silly to even say that, but there is no shortage of silly when it comes to NY politicians. Despite all the political rhetoric about how MMA is akin to human cockfighting, the real reason MMA is outlawed in NY is because the powerful union lobbies don't want it in NY. The Culinary Union has a beef (pardon the pun) with the UFC, because they want UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta to unionize their casinos, something that is not going to happen. As punishment, the union has been pushing NY pols hard to keep MMA out of the state. And by pushing, I mean more than likely lining the greedy pockets of politicians who sell political favors to the highest bidders.
Anyway, don't fret the MMA situation in New York too much, because for the past 10 years, thanks to Peter Storm and his Underground Combat League, MMA has been alive and well in the Big Apple.
Storm's latest show was held in the Bronx on April 28, 2013. This was the venue where Frankie Edgar began his MMA career before becoming UFC champion. And there no doubt be more famous fighters coming out of the UCL, because Peter Storm looks for the best talent and does a great job at matchmaking fights.
I had the pleasure of ring announcing the show, and was very impressed with the fights. Despite Storm's very low key approach to putting on MMA shows in NY (no posters, no advertising, just word of mouth advertising), the events always draw a nice crowd. Indeed at the show was famed food writer Anthony Bourdain, who has a brand new show on CNN called Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Bourdain is a big fan of MMA, and attended the UFC on the 27th, then the UCL on the 28th. He told MMA Frenzy that the UCL was a better show: "I’m a fan of MMA, and I have to say – reluctantly – as much as I enjoyed myself last night at the UFC, tonight happened to be a little more exciting."
Bourdain is not alone in that assessment. There is a feeling at the UCL that you are part of a secret society and are witnessing something very special. The UCL certainly lives up to its "underground" moniker, and the action is as raw as MMA combat gets. Indeed, author Jim Genia even wrote a book about the UCL called Raw Combat, and it is a great read. The UFC has gone mainstream, but the UCL is as real as it gets.
After the show, I took a few minutes to interview Peter Storm as he unwound from the event with a plate of chicken wings. In this video, after the jump, Storm talks about what makes the UCL so different, and so enduringly popular.