Nic Canobbio at weigh-ins for Flex Fight Series 6 at...

Nic Canobbio at weigh-ins for Flex Fight Series 6 at The Sports Arena in St. James on Oct. 15, 2021. Credit: Newsday/Mark LaMonica

Nic Canobbio finally will accomplish something he’s talked about doing for nearly a decade — promoting a professional mixed martial arts event in New York.

The check next to that box officially can be applied on Saturday evening when LAW MMA’s Justin Montalvo and Detroit’s Jake Methric enter the cage inside The Sports Arena in St. James to kick off the pro portion of the Flex Fight Series 6 main card.

"It’s been the goal of ours since 2013 to do pro MMA in New York, and when the first pro fight is walking out it would fulfill eight years of hard work," said the Lindenhurst-raised Canobbio, president of Flex Fight Series and a veteran promoter of amateur MMA on Long Island. "I’m going to feel proud of my team that helped achieve this goal."

The Montalvo-Methric fight is the first of three pro MMA bouts on the card, right around the "sweet spot" of pro fights for Canobbio’s young promotion. It had been four fights, but Canobbio lost the main event when featherweight Vilson Ndregjoni was not medically cleared by the New York State Athletic Commission.

Stricter medical requirements for the pro fighters is one of the differences between promoting amateur and pro MMA events in New York. Another is the amount of insurance the promoter must carry.

When New York legalized MMA in 2016, part of the negotiating and politicking led to the state requiring $1 million insurance coverage for life-threatening brain injuries for all professional MMA fighters and boxers. That was in addition to the typical $50,000 in coverage for medical care for injuries and another $50,000 for accidental death.

The premiums for such coverage may be nothing more than a line item for the big promotions such as UFC, Bellator or PFL, all of whom have promoted multiple cards in New York since legalization. Those events usually will have anywhere from 20-36 fighters on the card, running upwards of $50,000 or so in insurance premiums. For a smaller promoter such as Canobbio’s Flex, it was enough to give him pause for a while.

But with pro-am events now possible, it felt like a good time to make it happen, Canobbio said. Flex Fight Series 6 also has five amateur bouts on the evening card. Plus there's Flex Fight Series 5 -- an entire amateur card -- also at The Sports Arena starting at noon. Both events will stream live on pay-per-view via throwdownsports.com as well.

Canobbio promoted a similarly structured pro-am event in Florida earlier this year. While the state athletic commissions in Florida and New York are vastly different in terms of medical and insurance requirements, that event provided some lessons.

"Watching these pros, especially the ones that have deep experience, you just see the level in their game, just how much more polished they are," Canobbio said. "Even more than these polished amateurs that we have, some of these guys have 5, 10, 15 amateur fights, you know they're pretty polished by that time."

Canobbio already has a date planned for December for his next pro-am card on Long Island.

"Once we have this, this profile under our belt, and it's successful, which we think it will be," Canobbio said, "then, you know, we get some capital, that changes the game and we're able to do it more often."

Flex Fight Series 6

Oct. 16 at The Sports Arena in St. James

Pro card

Welterweight: Alex Brown (1-1, Killer Bees NYC) vs. Raymond Ceballos (0-0, Renzo Gracie NYC)

Strawweight: Glory Watson (0-1, Youngs MMA) vs. Rebecca Bryggman (0-2, East Coast Fight Sports)

Lightweight: Justin Montalvo (2-0, LAW MMA) vs. Jake Methric (0-0, Cortex CSG)

Amateur card

Bantamweight Unification: Rocco Giambrone (6-3, Renzo Gracie) vs. Kelvin Sterling (7-3, LAW MMA)

Heavyweight Title: Daryl Davis (2-0, Jersey Fight Club) vs. Nick Navarro (2-0, Carnicella MMA)

Featherweight John O’Dea (3-2, LIMMA) vs. Wallace Alves (2-0, UFC Gym)

Featherweight: Phaidra Knight (1-0, Renzo Gracie NYC) vs. Cherrelle Warren (2-1, WNY MMA)

Bantamweight: Andrea Moore (0-0, Uproar Gym) vs. Jennifer Hlubik (0-1, Ramirez Boys Fight House)

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