New York Fight

June 28, 2008

Ring of Combat, Louis Neglia and Atlantic City

Filed under: Mixed Martial Arts — Tags: , — nyfight @ 12:02 am
Promoter Neglia finds mixed martial arts home in A.C. for Ring of Combat
By DAVID WEINBERG Staff Writer

ATLANTIC CITY – Mixed martial arts promoter Louis Neglia figured out a few years ago that it is easier to scale a mountain by taking a roundabout route than by charging straight up its face. It is that conservative approach that has kept Neglia’s Ring of Combat as one of MMA’s strongest organizations while others have been forced to tap out after becoming tapped out.

According to published reports, organizations such as EliteXC and International Fight League are struggling financially and Vineland-based Cage Fury Fighting Championships folded last year.

“Those other (MMA) promoters are like used-car salesmen just looking to make a quick buck,” said Neglia, who will stage Ring of Combat XX tonight at Tropicana Casino and Resort. “I’m doing this for the love of the sport.”

Neglia, a 55-year-old native of Brooklyn, N.Y., is one of MMA’s pioneers. Along with Ray Longo, he staged the first fight sanctioned by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board.

On Feb. 26, 2000, Neglia convinced then-NJACB commissioner Larry Hazzard to approve a one-round exhibition between Steve Anshelewitz and Mark Shopp as part of a full-contact karate show held at the Trop. A few months later, the NJACB got together with a few MMA promoters and fighters to devise the rules and regulations that are now universally used in fights.In the past eight years, a number of MMA organizations have held cards in Atlantic City, including high-profile outfits such as UFC, EliteXC and International Fight League. But none have had the consistent presence in town like Ring of Combat. Tonight’s card will be Neglia’s 11th straight on the Boardwalk.

“We’ve been doing business with Louis for a number of years now and I can honestly say we have never had a single problem,” said state Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Lembo, the NJACB’s legal counsel who also oversees most of the state’s MMA shows. “We’ve never had a single fighter complain, and that’s rare in MMA and boxing.

“Louis also deserves a lot of credit for the quality of his shows. If you’re a fan, you know that when you go to Ring of Combat, you’re going to see competitive, exciting fights.”

The Tropicana evidently agrees. Eighteen of the previous 19 Ring of Combat cards have been held in its showroom – Ring of Combat IX was in Asbury Park – and two more are scheduled for Sept. 12 and Nov. 21, respectively.

While other casinos such as the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort and Showboat Casino-Hotel have dabbled in professional MMA, the Trop is the only one that has made it a main course on its entertainment menu. In addition to Ring of Combat, Battle Cage Xtreme is slated to hold cards at the Trop on July 12 and Oct. 18.

“We were looking for something that would appeal to a younger demographic that spends a lot of time in The Quarter (at the Trop),” said Michelle Robb, Tropicana’s entertainment director. “Some of our concerts don’t appeal to that age group, but MMA certainly does. Every event we’ve had here has done very well.”

Ring of Combat’s appeal centers around its deep stable of fighters. Several of its top performers such as Phil Barone, Frankie Edgar and Matt Serra have gone on to compete for higher-profile organizations like UFC.

Because Neglia does not permit mismatches, each of tonight’s 14 bouts is regarded as a toss-up. Fighters who want to be coddled and protected should seek other organizations. That usually makes for even, competitive matches that can only help the sport.

“I’m not like some of the other promoters in that I have no interest in signing has-beens or guys with no talent,” said Neglia, who was a three-time world kickboxing champion. “I don’t care if a guy is from Kalamazoo, Mich.; if he can fight, I’m interested.

“I pay my fighters well (usually between $4,000 and $25,000), and they also know that I look out for them and care about them. They all know that my word is my bond and that’s the most important thing.”

NOTES: Doors to Tropicana’s Showroom open at 8 p.m. with the first undercard bout scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Three championship fights are scheduled. The main event is the USKBA welterweight title bout between Nick Catone and Erick Tavares. Tickets are priced from $50 to $150 and are available at the Trop box office and through Ticketmaster.

To e-mail David Weinberg at The Press:

DWeinberg@pressofac.com

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