Boisterous cheers erupted as Trey Ramachandra’s roundhouse kick struck Tim White’s temple with a thud.
The lightning-quick blow seemed to stun White at first. But the amateur boxer from Waterford quickly came back at his opponent, pinning him against the wire cage with a flurry of punches.
Ramachandra dropped to a knee, prompting a roar of delight from the crowd of several hundred gathered at the Washington Avenue Armory Friday evening. But with one fighter down on the mat, the referee quickly jumped in, sending the two wiry men to their respective corners.
There were no blows to the fallen fighter or jujitsu holds. The fighters wore thick 12-ounce gloves akin to a boxer’s, shin pads and headgear, all equipment aimed at avoiding blunt-force wounds that hemorrhage with each punch.
This is amateur kickboxing, not mixed martial arts. And while the differences between the two styles of fighting may be subtle, they mean a world of difference to the state.
New York is among a handful of states that does not allow mixed martial arts bouts, which is something the promoters from Five Guys Fighting understand well. The group was established four months ago with the notion of hosting a card of amateur bouts, with each featuring different disciplines of fighting.
“We wanted to have a local event to showcase what we have in upstate New York,” said Ryan Clark, a jujitsu fighter from Rotterdam now promoting the group.
The cage fighting event was initially scheduled for the University at Albany’s SEFCU Arena last week. But just two days before the event, the state Athletic Commission deemed it a mixed martial arts event and implored UAlbany to revoke the group’s permit.
The move left the promoters with a short window of time to convince state officials of their sincerity while scrambling to find a new venue for the event. The state withdrew its cease-and-desist order after Five Guys Fighting signed a sworn affidavit asserting their event wouldn’t feature mixed martial arts.
The promoters also agreed to have their fighters wear headgear and larger gloves. Jujitsu was also removed from the card at the request of the Athletic Commission.
But in the end, Clark said neither the promoters or the fighters minded. They were simply happy to have an amateur event where local fighters could strut through the chain-link fence encircling the ring to the cheers of their friends and family.
“What we’re trying to do here is take a step closer to mixed martial arts,” said promoter Shannon Miller, who is also an acclaimed local boxer. “These are real athletes that are trying to do what they love.”
Beneath the center stage at the armory, Matt Leddick of East Greenbush sat in a room with about two dozen other fighters preparing for the event. The mortgage broker has fought in about a half-dozen mixed martial arts matches out of state and one day hopes to compete in New York.
Like many mixed martial arts fighters, he thinks the early days of the sport gave it a negative stigma that lingers today. He said the bouts today are highly skilled and not the blood sport opponents paint it to be.
“I think it got a bad rap,” he said.