The People of NYC’s Underground MMA Clubs
With mixed martial arts leagues still officially banned in New York State, amateur enthusiasts go at it in makeshift gyms and bare-bones rooftop bouts.
On the rooftop of a seventeen-story building in the middle of a public housing complex in The Bronx, two fighters were battling it out. The roof has no railings, so anyone could easily have fallen off. Wearing only shorts and mixed martial arts gloves, they punched, grappled and kicked each other until one of them was beaten into submission and fell to the floor unconscious.
“That was the first rooftop fight I’ve ever seen,” said William H. Cavalli, an underground fighter, as he recounted the illegal bout that took place on a windy, wet day last February.
“I don’t like heights. It was kind of creepy. I wouldn’t fight on a roof.”
With only fifteen people watching, the fight ended after a quarter of an hour, when one of the fighters went down hard, his head thudding into the building’s roof. “Mind you,” said Cavalli, “there was no mat.” The fight had to be stopped.
As Cavalli described the story later in a coffee shop in Brooklyn, he seemed in awe of the fighters. “Dude…
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