It’s hard to believe that just a little over three years ago, professional mixed martial arts bouts were illegal in New York.
The state has been the breeding ground for some of the sport’s most talented athletes and respected promotions. One of which is the New York Fight Exchange (NYFE).
The local promotion celebrates its 17th event this Saturday, June 1 at Resorts World Casino in Queens for NYFE 17: Kings of New York 2.
Ahead of the event, the KH squad caught up with NYFE President and Combat Sports vet Mike Washington to get the scoop on the weekend’s matchups and how the brand came to be.
Time for a change…
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From working on the business end as a manager for one of the industry’s largest management firms to officiating in-ring action for over a decade, Washington has seen many sides of the fighting. Having this perspective, he uncovered a lot of room for improvement especially in matchmaking aka the art of arranging bouts.
“Being at events, I hated seeing one-sided fight cards or rewarding big ticket sellers easy fights, I always said I would do it differently. When we decided to produce an MMA event, I learned real quick the importance of a solid fight card.”
He decided to take a shot at filling the gaps and founded NYFE alongside Tom Sconzo, who is currently the ISKA Director for New York. The pair met while officiating and shared the same vision for producing fights with more of a professional feel before professional MMA was even legal in the state.
“We went for big venues, quality production and focused on the fighter experience. When ISKA came to New York, Tom felt it was his calling to take the position as director and give back to the sport that has given him so much. So he stepped down as NYFE Co-Owner and I took full ownership and control.”
There’s a lot that goes into executing a solid fight card. At every event, fighters, coaches, fans, and sponsors invest their time, money, health and then some. With NYFE being on the cusp of its 17th event, it’s more than just an accomplishment, it’s a true indication of how much respect the brand has built over the years.
The Early Days
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Washington recalls NYFE’s first fight card that took place just a quick drive away from this weekend’s event at The Amazura Concert Hall in Queens, unapologetically titled, NYFE 1: Believe The Hype.
Back then, NYFE had a skeleton crew so he barely saw any fights since he had to hold down the back of the house. The event ended up being an invaluable learning experience and really put the promotion on the map, setting the stage for further fight nights down the line.
“I learned to follow my instinct and integrity.”
There’s More to Fighting…
There’s more to fighting than what goes on in the cage. It’s about building relationships and understanding the needs of fighters and their coaches as well as fans. Maintaining integrity for the sport while providing an entertaining platform comes with a lot of risks for promoters and matchmakers.
Fighters can get injured or back out at the last minute so building a well-rounded card is more important than ever for the fan experience. For fighters, each match-up means a lot, especially in the early stages of their careers.
A bad matchup can seriously affect the trajectory of their careers and most importantly their health, so it’s the last thing you want to slack on according to Washington.
“I’ve worked my ass off for my reputation and I’m not gonna ruin that for anybody or anything. When a coach asks you to matchup their students, it’s a huge responsibility and you should treat it as such. It’s way more than matching weights and records. It’s stylistic matchups the fans will enjoy and competitive matchups of equal skillsets so that the fighters can test their skills.”
The NYFE Fight Card
Speaking of matchups, NYFE 17: Kings of New York 2 features a pretty stacked card hand-picked from Washington, featuring young talent from a slew of NYC’s most respected MMA gyms. The event will be headlined by four title fights:
Welterweight 170 lb Title – Eric Taylor (Supreme Submission Squad) vs Eric Finch (War Horse Avenue MMA)
Lightweight Title – David “Mike Hancho” Cabrea (Inferno MMA/Soca BJJ) vs. Donnell East (LAW MMA)
145 lb Title – Nate Salva Cruz (Andersons MMA) vs. Kelvin Sterling (LAW MMA)
125 lb Title -Phumi Nkuta (LAW MMA) vs. Orlando Ortega (Team Demolition)
Former UFC Featherweight and Ultimate Fighter (season 14) finalist, Dennis “The Menace” Bermudez will be commentating and calling the fights along with his Menace and the Man podcast co-host, Stan “The Man.”
The night will also feature a number of musical performances from local acts and the announcement of a new partnership Linacre Media and Fight Night Live for video production and coverage.
Amongst all the success, Washington remains humble and forever thankful to the fighters, gyms, fans, and sponsors for supporting NYFE through each and every showdown.