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Commission practices at UFC Albany event draw criticism from fighters

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Practices conducted by the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) are drawing criticism from fighters following the UFC's event in Albany over the weekend.

Multiple fighters and coaches confirmed with MMA Fighting that the commission would not let doctors give fighters stitches in the arena, a practice that is common in many other jurisdictions. Instead, fighters were sent to the hospital in an ambulance and some had to wait hours to get cuts sutured.

Adam Zugec, coach of fighter Ryan Janes, said Janes didn't get out of the hospital until after the conclusion of UFC Fight Night 102 — four hours after he went in following his bout, the second of the fight. Ashley Yoder had to wait two or three hours to get stitches done, according to her jiu-jitsu coach Ricardo Feliciano.

To make matters worse, fighters were shipped to the hospital immediately following their fights — in their sweaty fight kits, in some cases without their wallets or cell phones.

"We had to go straight there and the hospitals are terrible," Feliciano said. "They made us wait a long time, they didn't care."

Through spokesperson Laz Benitez, the NYSAC said stitches may be given to fighters at the arena "should the promoter enter into an agreement for the provision of suturing care."

"The New York State Athletic Commission physicians provide care for emergency, and potentially, life-threatening conditions," Benitez said in a statement. "This does not typically include suturing. Combatants may receive suturing care at the venue from a New York State-licensed medical professional should the promoter enter into an agreement for the provision of suturing care, or otherwise seek treatment at a medical facility."

Physicians did administer stitches at Madison Square Garden last month at UFC 205, but those were doctors attained by the UFC, the commission said.

The UFC did not return a request for comment from MMA Fighting on Monday. Rob Tatum of Combat Press was the first to bring the issue to light Friday.

Light heavyweight fighter Gian Villante had a bizarre experience separate from the issues with stitches. Villante said a commission doctor made him go to the hospital after his fight with Saparbek Safarov after Villante told him he had hiccups throughout the week.

Villante, who won by second-round TKO, said he ended up having an abnormal EKG, but it wasn't long after the fight so he said that was to be expected. After waiting an hour for a doctor to come see him, Villante said he asked if he could leave and they said he could.

So, the Long Island native departed the hospital and went to a local bar to celebrate the victory with his friends, family and teammates. His night was far from over, though. Villante said he got calls at 3 a.m. from the hospital and UFC president Dana White telling him to get back there.

Villante eventually went back, had more tests done, got another CT Scan, saw the doctor and then signed out, he said. He said he was told the commission would have suspended him if he didn't go back to the hospital.

"The New York athletic commission sucks," Villante said. "It was a f*cking nightmare."

The commission said it could not comment on Villante specifically due to "confidentiality and privacy laws."

MMA only became legalized in New York after a long ban back in April. UFC 205 last month at MSG was the first major card run in the state regulated by the commission.

The NYSAC is currently being sued by lawyers for boxer Magomed Abdusalamov, who was in a coma for weeks after a 2013 bout and now has brain damage.