Jacob S. Jake Bohn will fight in a mixed martial arts bout Saturday at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
It also could be the last chance to show off his talents before a hometown crowd, if the former Watertown High School wrestler decides to turn pro. Thats because professional mixed martial arts is illegal in the state.
On Saturday, hell be participating in an amateur MMA fight card that local promoters Marc A. Stevens and John K. Gibbons will put on, one of very few to be held in the state in 19 years.
Mr. Bohn, 23, a 2007 WHS graduate, is undefeated in three amateur fights. If he can defeat Saturdays opponent and then win his next bout, he hopes to turn pro.
I want to take this as far as I can go, he said earlier this week at Mr. Stevenss gym, Jiu-Jitsu Nation, on Arsenal Street, where he has trained for the past couple of years.
Some consider MMA too brutal, too dangerous. Its fast. Its furious. And sometimes bloody.
The full-contact combat sport consists of two combatants fighting in an octagonal metal cage. It allows boxing, wrestling, kick boxing and jiu-jitsu techniques.
But Mr. Bohn pulls no punches. He said its hypocritical that the state allows amateur bouts but fighters cannot receive any prize money for professional bouts.
He will have to run off to 48 other states if he turns pro, and wont be able to fight again at the fairgrounds unless the state changes the law.
The promoters obtained permission for Saturdays event from the city of Watertown, which owns the facility, as long as it is a sanctioned event by the New York Athletic Association and an MMA governing body. Similar events have been held recently in Syracuse, Albany and Buffalo.
Its allowed in the state, City Attorney Robert J. Slye said. I have no legal issue with it.
The promoters also are required to have an ambulance, life-support equipment and medical help available at the facility, said Erin E. Gardner, superintendent of the citys Parks and Recreation Department. The two promoters also must provide adequate security. No alcohol will be sold Saturday night at the bouts.
Football is more violent, said Mr. Stevens, who wrestled in high school at South Jefferson Central School and appeared on The Ultimate Fighter MMA reality show in 2010 on the FX cable network.
Mr. Gibbons, who was involved in mixed martial arts and kick boxing before retiring about 20 years ago, said he believes the sport is so safe that he has no qualms that his 14-year-old son, Connor, fights.
He tells me, See, Im still pretty, he said, adding that his son, so far, has dominated his competition.
But Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham has a different view of the sport, calling it human cockfighting.
Its just not my cup of tea, he said.
Perhaps the biggest MMA battle has been in the state Legislature. In May, the state Senate overwhelmingly approved allowing professional MMA, but the measure did not get to the floor of the Assembly.
For the second time in three years, state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, argued for the bill, saying it could generate big money for cities where Ultimate Fighting Championship events are held.
But Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, does not support legalizing it.
Its something that should not be legalized to bring revenues into the state because its a violent sport, she said.
Last November, UFC and its parent company, Zuffa International, filed a lawsuit against the state challenging the MMA ban. Last week, a U.S. District judge threw out a portion of the suit, but the remaining arguments are still pending.
Were not that militant, Mr. Gibbons said, noting they are content to hold the amateur event. Were not in it to make money.
Saturdays event will include 12 fights consisting of three 3-minute rounds. Doors open at 5 p.m., with fights starting an hour later. Only $20 general admission tickets remain on sale.
A few of Mr. Stevenss students from his school will be on Saturdays card, with the hopes they do well and are seen by scouts looking for professional fighters, he said.
Justin T. Roswell, 23, and Carlie Trey Williams, 21, are both Fort Drum soldiers who first got involved in combative fighting through the military. They are now students at the Arsenal Street gym, with hopes of turning pro.
Its just a little more intense, Mr. Roswell said. I just like the rush, the adrenalin.
He does not know much about his opponent on Saturday. The man he originally was going to fight had to back out because it was determined he had high blood pressure.
My game plan is I just want to stand up on my feet and fight, Mr. Roswell said.
Mr. Williams has a couple of amateur fights under his belt but lost at a recent All-Army combative fight tournament at Fort Dix, N.J.
But he is confident about Saturdays fight.
Ill win, he said.