This is the 30th of a 50-part series documenting the history and current state of MMA for each of the 50 states in the United States of America. You can find the rest of the series to date here. Each part will chronicle the history of MMA as well as several notable fighters and camps in each state. States will be completed in alphabetical order. Be sure to check out the previous part; New Hampshire.
History of New Jersey MMA
New Jersey, the third state to join the Union, is truly a pioneer state to the world of MMA. It is considered one of the forefather states, in fact. New Jersey was hugely instrumental in creating the Unified Rules of MMA as well as becoming the first state to sanction MMA. The state has also contributed a handful of some of the toughest competitors to ever step foot into a cage or ring.
New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB)
The NJSACB (New Jersey State Athletic Control Board) was created in 1985 to regulate unarmed combat within the state. During September of 2000, the state began to allow MMA events to be sanctioned. In the meantime, they were developing and testing their own rules to sanction themselves. In November of the same year, the state created what is now known as the Unified Rules of MMA. This rules system is accepted across North America and Europe as the “go to” ruling system. Many other states have accepted the Unified Rules of MMA as their set of rules. Promotions that run in unsanctioned states even use the Unified Rules of MMA to conduct their events.
Major Organizational Visits to The Garden State
New Jersey has been a safe-haven for the UFC since the Zuffa ownership took control. The company has held 18 events in New Jersey while Bellator has visited The Garden State for 11 events. A monumental moment in all of MMA was UFC 28: High Stakes. This was the first UFC event sanctioned under the NJSACB. This also marked the UFC’s first visit to a northern state since UFC 7. That event took place about five years previously in Buffalo, New York.
The Importance of UFC 28
UFC 28 was the first event to experiment with what would later become known as the Unified Rules of MMA. Fighters were only allowed to wear trunks and gloves. The new rules also enforced stricter, more detailed weight class rules, creating the only super heavyweight bout in the UFC. Josh Barnett knocked out Gan McGee in the second round to win the bout. The sold-out crowd at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City on November 17, 2000, witnessed the main event return of Randy Couture as he would regain his heavyweight crown by defeating Kevin Randleman. The event was also the only appearance of UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes’ twin brother, Mark Hughes.
The Most Recent UFC Visit to New Jersey
The most recent, and the 18th visit by the UFC to New Jersey, came in the way of UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Lee on April 21, 2018. The almost 10,000 fans in attendance at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City witnessed an incredible comeback victory by top-tier lightweight contender, Kevin Lee. New Jersey’s own, Frankie Edgar, starred in the co-main event defeating Cub Swanson by unanimous decision. Fight of the Night was taken by Ricky Simon and Merab Dvalishvilli which saw Simon win by “technical submission” at the end of the bout. The result caused controversy determining if Dvalishvilli was “unable to continue” or just exhausted.
Bellator Visits New Jersey for the First Time
Bellator’s first visit to New Jersey would come over 10 years after the UFC’s first visit. Bellator 44, which took place at Caesar’s Resort in Atlantic City, featured the finals of the season 4 lightweight tournament. Michael Chandler defeated Patricky Freire by unanimous decision. Hector Lombard was also victorious on the card. The card also featured a matchup between future stars Alexander Shlemenko and Brett Cooper, with Shlemenko coming out on top by unanimous decision.
Fighters In/From New Jersey
The state of New Jersey has contributed many tough, hard-nosed fighters to the world of MMA, including the UFC. Two of those fighters specifically are mainstays on the top of many fans’ most respected and admired fighters list.
The Toms River, NJ native has been a part of the UFC since 2007, making his company debut at UFC 67 where he won by unanimous decision. Currently, Edgar has competed 24 times inside the octagon with his most recent being in his home state for UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Lee. Along the way, he has collected ten post-fight bonuses and won the UFC lightweight title from BJ Penn at UFC 118. After defeating Penn in the rematch at UFC 118, Edgar engaged in two epic bouts with Gray Maynard at UFC 125 and UFC 136 respectively. He went on to win both of these contests in incredible Rocky-esque showings.
Since dropping three-straight from February 2012 to February 2013, Edgar has had an impressive run over the last five years. In that span, he has earned a record of 8-2. His only two losses coming against Jose Aldo and Brian “T-City” Ortega. Edgar is a sure-fire UFC Hall of Famer after he decides to hang up the gloves.
Another well respected New Jersey fighter is the Sparta native, Jim Miller. Another long-tenured UFC veteran, Miller first appeared in the UFC at UFC 89 in October 2008. In the almost ten years since this debut, Miller has become the first UFC fighter to reach 30 bouts inside the promotion, as well as the first to win 17 fights at lightweight. Though Miller was recently riding a four-fight skid, he had an impressive rear naked choke victory over Alex White at UFC 228 back on September 08, 2018. With more still in the tank, who knows how high of a fight tally Miller will eventually close out his UFC career with.
Part 31 of the series will be the state of New Mexico. Stay tuned to MMASucka for the whole series and all of the breaking news in the world of MMA.