Last night I attended a private screening for the documentary “New York Mixed Martial Arts”, and the flick gets a hearty thumbs-up. Directed by Kahleem Poole-Tejada and produced by “Sambo Steve” Koepfer, the film focuses on the Empire State’s inexplicable lack of MMA sanctioning, and along the way captures a New York-based amateur fighter looking to turn pro, a rally and a roundtable discussion, and quite a few snippets of industry insiders saying “Seriously, what the hell?”
Included in the list of industry insiders is Dana White, who, while taking a break at the recent TUF trials in New Jersey, said a few words about the inevitability of New York coming around. The words that come out of heavyweight fighter Josh Barnett’s mouth, however, impugn the state’s credibility and question the motives behind the sport’s ban. For Barnett, it’s either all about the benjamins or lawmakers are simply fools. And pre-Zuffa UFC official Paula Romero gets in front of the camera to take us on a walk down memory lane, to the time when New York State first gave MMA the boot.
Brad Desir is the aforementioned amateur fighter, and as a New York resident, he – like many, many others in the state – have to go elsewhere to fight. We watch Desir train a bit with coach Sambo Steve, and then we follow him to the M-1 Global tryouts in New Jersey.
As for the rally and the roundtable discussion, we’re given insight into the grassroots movement’s efforts at making both the public and the legislature aware of the issue. What’s surprising is just how much the general public on the street doesn’t know (“The sport is banned?”) and just how much certain legislators are actually educated on the topic (yes, really).
“New York Mixed Martial Arts” will serve as the opening act for the Bronx Week Film Festival, and will play to general audiences May 16 to 19. Currently, the bill to legalize sanctioned MMA has stalled in the State Assembly; maybe this will give it a much-needed push.