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Inside the Octagon


My effort to help get MMA legalized in New York State


This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to watch UFC 88 at Jay-Z’s 40/40 club in Manhattan; Matt Serra, Pete Sell, and George Sotiropoulos hosted the event. My visit to the 40/40 club was multipurpose, however. A group of MMA writers were invited to discuss the legalization of mixed martial arts in New York State. It was an informative session. It’s extremely frustrating to me that New York State will not legalize this sport; New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania have ell embraced MMA. New York is another story.

As I sat in that room, I got to thinking about how my journey into mixed martial arts began. It was kind of ironic that I was in a room with Matt Serra and Pete Sell discussing the legalization of MMA in NY, because they are two people who inspired me to hit the mats in the first place.

A little over a year and a half ago, I was a shell of the man I had come to be. Distressing factors in my personal life had led me to over eat and drink too much, and the consequences on my personal health were near disastrous. I had ballooned up to 300 pounds, and looked and felt unhealthy.

One day I went to the doctor for what I thought would be a routine visit. My throat was sore and my glands were swollen. I figured I would get a throat culture and a Z-Pack and be on my way. For one reason or another my doctor decided to do some blood work. I was lying down in the office when my doc bum rushed the door with two nurses and an EKG machine. Before I could even ask what was going on, I had one nurse tearing my shirt off and one nurse shaving my chest.

And then the doctor uttered two sentences that I will never forget as long as I live.

“I have never seen numbers like this in a human being before” and “you are a ticking time bomb for a heart attack.”

I was carted off in an ambulance, and was sent to the emergency room for 24-hour observation and a nuclear stress test, all at the age of 25.

As I sat in that hospital bed overnight with tubes and electrical apparatus’ stuck to various places of my upper torso, I came to some harsh realizations about the decisions I had made, and I knew it was time for a change.

After my nuclear stress test, I was released and was told that it was absolutely imperative that I lose weight, strengthen my body, and get on a healthy diet.

eteboxers4.jpgI returned to my job at the Times Herald Record shortly after my stint in the ER. I was depressed about the events that had transpired, but I was also looking forward to a little trip I would be making out to Long Island. See, these events transpired around the time that Matt “The Terror” Serra defeated Chris Lytle at the finale of the “The Ultimate Fighter: The Comeback”. Matt Serra was starting his road to welterweight championship glory. The Record gave me a videographer and a photographer, and we drove out to Ray Longo’s fight gym in Mineola, NY to watch Matt Serra and Pete Sell train for their upcoming UFC bouts.

It’s no news that I am absolutely fanatic about mixed martial arts. Having the opportunity to talk with Matt Serra was very exciting for me. Up until that time, I had never watched professional fighters train for their fights. We snapped photos and recorded video of his sparring sessions and conditioning, and all of a sudden I had a eureka moment.

I was going to become a mixed martial artist. I loved watching the sport, and I lived an athletic life up until I graduated college. I was going to drop this weight and get back on track to a healthy lifestyle.


Shortly after the interview, Matt Serra shocked the world by knocking out Georges St. Pierre at UFC 69 and becoming the welterweight champion of the world. Matt was something like a 4-1 underdog in the fight, but he went in there and proved that hard work pays off, and the performance further inspired me to start my training regimen.

I signed up for MMA classes at Tiger Schulmann’s MMA school. I nearly collapsed the first day. The training was serious, and I was out of shape and overweight. I knew if I stuck with it things would eventually get easier. Over the course of the next year I dropped 40 pounds and got my blood labs exactly where they should be. I am stronger, more confident, and a happier person then I was a year and a half ago. I owe all of this to mixed martial arts. I am still a work in progress, and my work is far from over, but dedication to my training will keep me on the right track to building a better body , a sounder mind, and a clean bill of health.

Luke Cummmo, me, Pete Sell – Taken about a year and a half ago, I was tipping the scales at 300 pounds

Pete Sell and I – Taken this past weekend, 40 pounds lighter this time

State legislations have been weary to legalize MMA because it is seen as a violent “cockfight” or “glorified street fight”. Rest assured your average street fighters couldn’t mimic what mixed martial artists do in the cage or the ring. I am so sick of hearing these phrases. When you see two warriors enter the cage, you see the culmination of YEARS of martial arts training, conditioning, dieting, and self-discipline. You aren’t staring at two animals ready to rip each other’s heads off, you are looking at some of the finest athletes on the planet about to showcase their acquired martial arts skills. It’s time to stop focusing on the negative, and focusing on the positive aspects of the sport.

l_c7178c0723fb700b6aef26217878706a.jpgMMA changed my life for the better. I hope that the New York State legislators and the athletic commission will come across this letter and come to this realization because I know I am not alone. Martial arts and boxing has changed the lives for a lot of people. It’s time to let NY mixed martial artists showcase their skills. It’s time we bring sanctioned mixed martial arts action to the greatest city in the world.

Circling back to the UFC 88 party, I just found it slightly ironic that a year and a half later I was sitting in a room with the same two fighters who inspired me to train in the first place, only this time I was 40 pounds lighter, stronger, and the healthiest I had been in years, all thanks to the same sport I was watching on TV. It seems to me like it’s a no brainer to legalize this sport in this state, and I hope that it happens in the near future.

If you want to know more about how you can contact your legislators, mmafacts.com has a very informative and useful website. You can find out your legislators contact information and send them an email voicing your opinions. As mmafacts.com says, the best letters are courteous and to the point.

I am going to continue my MMA training because I know my day in the cage will come, and that day will be a glorious one. I just hope I don’t have to drive to New Jersey to compete on that day.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 10th, 2008 at 12:00 pm by lvollmer. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: Luke Cummo, Matt Serra, MMA, MMA legalization, mmafacts.com, New York, Pete Sell, UFC 88




About this blog
Web programmer by day, practicing mixed martial artist at night, Larry Vollmer Jr. brings the latest news from the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the rest of the mixed martial arts world - a fast-spreading obsession on TV and online. These are the bouts - they occur in an octagon-shaped "ring" - that test men's souls.