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Muscle Sport Magazine

While NY Sits On It’s Hands, the UCL Fills the Gotham MMA Scene

The finishing touches are being put on the venue in preparation for a mixed martial arts event within the five boroughs of New York City. A non-descript location as it is, a few of the men involved are hanging bed sheets over the windows to further enhance the mystique of this clandestine gathering.

 

No beer is sold and the competitors receive nothing but experience, but ask any of these fighters where they would rather be at that minute and not one would tell you anywhere else but inside that ring.

 

“We’re the only show in New York,” said Angel Rodriguez, a 33-year-old Queens resident who not only has fought in the Underground Combat League, but is also the webmaster for the organization’s website, www.savevaletudo.com.

 

OLD SCHOOL

 

The loose translation of vale tudo is ‘anything goes,’ but there are rules in place in the UCL. There is no biting, eye gouging, groin shots or fish hooking. “We do allow certain things that the UFC doesn’t,” added Rodriguez,” such as soccer kicks and elbows to the back of the head. We want to stick to the original sport in Brazil.”

 

One unique aspect of the UCL is that the competitors can agree or disagree on certain things during a pre-fight discussion, even with one or both battling bare-knuckled. Although there are no weight classes, per say, the fighters are matched up within 10 or 15 pounds of each other.

 

CALM BEFORE THE STORM

 

Peter Storm founded the UCL in 2003, mostly because of the lack of places for local fighters such as himself to ply their trade. MMA is still not a sanctioned sport in the state of New York and although that is a roadblock to some, Storm and his league have a cult following.

 

“The UCL has been around for [eight] years and is the number one amateur league in the country,” he said.

 

Rodriguez acknowledges what Storm has done and shows extreme gratitude. “Peter gets complete credit for this thing,” he commented. “He started it early on and he was the go-to guy. The word gets around; he doesn’t even want to use the online tools to announce the events.”

 

Holding an average of four cards every year, the UCL has stretched as far as Vermont and the feedback has been nothing but positive. “If I’m wearing a UCL shirt, people in the street come up to me and tell me how much they like it, that they’ve been to a show in the past,” said Rodriguez.

TWISTING IN THE WIND

 

But with the positive always comes a negative, even if it is not deserved. A few years ago, Fox 5 News in New York did a story on the UCL that was one-sided and caught the ire of Rodriguez.

 

“Instead of showing the guys shaking hands, the camaraderie and the chess match (that is MMA), they only showed the brutality. We weren’t very happy with that. One minute, you’re punching the shit out of each other and the next you’re breaking it down. They didn’t show that.”

 

GRADUATING CLASS

 

The list of alumni proves negativity like that wrong and shows that he UCL has been the breeding ground for extremely talented fighters. Frankie “The Answer” Edgar won his first ever MMA match in the UCL in July of 2005 and is now the current UFC Lightweight Champion after defeating the legendary BJ Penn at UFC 112. Current Strikeforce and former WEC lightweight Anthony Leone also came through Storm’s ranks, as did Bryan Vetell, a 6’3” 265-pound heavyweight that went on to compete with the New York Pitbulls of the now-defunct International Fight League.

 

Just what will happen to the UCL if MMA becomes a sanctioned sport held at arenas like Madison Square Garden? “It’s going to happen sooner than later,” said Rodriguez. “There will probably be changes in the UCL. Peter has said that he doesn’t know if that will kill it. I think that you can still keep it going.”

 

For more information on the UCL, visit www.savevaletudo.com and Angel Rodriguez’s website, www.arodomus.com.

Photo By Anil Melwani, WWW.MMA.US

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Angel "ARodomus" Rodriguez

    September 8, 2013 at 8:01 am

    I remember when we did this piece. Good stuff man. Thanks for telling our story. Myself and Storm haven’t spoken in years, we had a bit of a disagreement in the realm of money, but that UCL era is always special to me.

  2. Joe Pietaro

    September 9, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Sorry to hear that, Angel. Good hearing from you.

  3. Pingback: Introducing MMA Fighter Steve "The Destroyer" Bell | Muscle Sport Magazine

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