Back in April, New York state failed to cash in on one of the most anticipated fights in the history of mixed martial arts.
Rashad Evans and Jon Jones squared off before more than 15,000 fans at Phillips Arena in Atlanta, generating a reported $2.2 million in paid attendance. Some 70,000 reportedly tuned in on Pay Per View.
Evans, a Niagara Falls native, and Jones, who grew up in Rochester and resides in Ithaca, would have almost certainly sold out First Niagara Center. Rogers Centre, just 90 miles to the north in Toronto, once drew 55,000-plus for a UFC card.
Mixed martial arts, however, is legally sanctioned in 45 states — New York is not one of them.
Fight fans in this area, however, will finally get a taste of one of the fastest growing niche sports in the nation this weekend at the Lumber City’s Rainbow Roller Rink.
The North Tonawanda-based gym Victory MMA and Fitness will host the first legally sanctioned MMA fights in more than 10 years — dubbed the TNT Fight Series — at 7 p.m. May 19 at Rainbow Roller Rink, 101 Oliver St.
“The phone has been ringing and ringing for people that want to see the sport in New York,” said Victory co-owner Don Lilly, a City of Tonawanda native and Tonawanda High School graduate. “We’re happy to be able to put it on and help these local guys come in and fight in their hometown.”
Angelo Castricone, a representative of the United States Muay Thai Association, said as long as it’s an amateur show and it’s run through a sanctioning body, it’s legal. The USMTA is sanctioning Saturday’s event.
“No one’s really pursued it up until Don Lilly has and went to the New York State Athletic Commission, found out with the criteria is to put the show together, they contacted me as a sanctioning body and that’s basically how they’ve got to this point,” Castricone said Monday at a brief press conference inside the roller rink.