Fight Club Busted in NYC Moves Its Petri Dish to Florida
Rumble in the Bronx made headlines when cops busted its massive coronavirus mess in New York City. Three weeks later, it had found a new home.
After an underground fight club was busted and heavily fined in New York for packing hundreds of mostly maskless people into a warehouse under the mantle “Rumble in the Bronx,” the same club appears to have thrown a similar event just three weeks later in Orlando, Florida.
Rumble in the Bronx’s Instagram page posted a flier advertising an Orlando event featuring eight “exclusive fights” for the night of Dec. 5. That same flier—which nodded to some rudimentary coronavirus safety precautions—was also posted to another Instagram account, called @rumble_in_orlando, with a similar logo and list of followers.
The fighters, sponsors, performers, and organizers featured on the flier subsequently shared videos of the event in question on their Instagram stories and highlights. Images and videos from the posts show about 75 to 100 people packed into a warehouse without masks. Fighters are fighting, musicians are performing, and the audience is pressed up against the ring, cheering.
That the fight party was held just days before the first doses of a vaccine for COVID-19 were delivered to hospitals all over the country made the unnecessary risk even more appalling, Florida-based experts told The Daily Beast on Monday.
“It’s the stuff of nightmares for infection control,” infectious disease expert and University of South Florida professor Dr. Jill Roberts said. “It’s really awful.”
“It is just such a stark contrast to what the rest of the world is doing,” Roberts added, noting that it’s especially jarring to see Americans take part in large, indoor, maskless events when other countries are going back into lockdown—and some of their own cities and states are, too.
Dr. Marissa Levine, another University of South Florida infectious disease professor, said that—at minimum—a fight party with dozens of maskless people indoors was a “high-risk activity” for those in attendance.
“If you have 100 people in a room together, that’s about a 70 percent chance that at least one person in that room has COVID, based on what we know is happening in the community right now,” Levine told The Daily Beast. “It’s not surprising, but it’s disappointing, very unfortunate, and potentially deadly.”
Roberts noted that physical exertion and singing—or yelling or cheering—all come with added risks for transmission.
“It’s a perfect storm,” said Roberts. “I would be very concerned.”
Michael Roman, 32, was one of 10 event organizers arrested in New York last month on charges of health and alcohol violations, unlawful assembly, and participating in a prohibited combative sport, police told Gothamist. They were each fined $15,000, the site reported. The event, in the Bronx, involved about 200 people packed inside a warehouse largely without masks, exceeding indoor capacity limits for nonessential social gatherings, according to The Washington Post.
Authorities identified the event’s organizers as unlicensed underground fight club “Rumble in the Bronx,” a group designed to allow unsettled disputes to be worked out in the ring, according to Gothamist. Roman, sometimes called Killa Mike, previously told sports site The Undefeated it amounted to “a place to kill beef and release aggressions.”
“Patrons were also observed drinking alcohol, smoking, hookah, and not wearing face coverings while failing to social distance,” the New York City Sheriff’s office said in a statement to NBC New York at the time.
The bio for Roman’s Instagram account, @fuckth3world, lists the accounts for Rumble in the Bronx, Rumble in Orlando, and Rumble in Connecticut.
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When reached by phone on Monday, Roman said he would call back to answer questions from The Daily Beast. But he did not call back, nor did he answer questions from The Daily Beast via text about the Bronx event, the Orlando event, or COVID-19 safety precautions. It was not clear if the fight event in Orlando was sanctioned or licensed by any state agencies.
Consistent with a cowboy approach to the pandemic under Gov. Ron DeSantis, the state of Florida recommends against gatherings in groups of more than 10 people, but it is not a mandate. There is no local order in Orlando with more stringent guidelines.
Roxxane Montana—a musician with 439,000 Instagram followers, who performed at the event in gold hoops, a long single braid, and a sheer black-and-white houndstooth jumpsuit—said she did so because Rumble in Orlando is “what the city needs right now,” adding, “guns down, gloves up.”
She said she couldn’t say “an exact amount of people” at the fight party but that the vibe was “amazing.”
“COVID doesn’t bother me as much because I do what I can to protect myself, and I saw them doing what they needed to protect everyone as well,” she told The Daily Beast.
On that front, the flier for the event noted that masks would be available at the door and that temperatures would be checked for all attendees.
None of the other individuals identified as sponsors, performers, or DJs of the Orlando event—or their representatives—responded to requests for comment from The Daily Beast on Monday.
Other photos and videos of the event showed several intense fights on a blue mat, partying, and hookah smoke drifting through the air, as the flier advertised.
A spokesperson for the City of Orlando deferred any specific comments to the police department, adding: “Mayor [Buddy] Dyer continues to encourage our residents, visitors and businesses to practice pandemic precautions, including guidelines from local, state, and federal governments, and the CDC.”
A spokesperson at the Orlando Police Department said there had been no reports about such an event as of Monday afternoon, suggesting that another local law enforcement agency—like the Orange County Sheriff’s Office—may be responsible: “It may have happened without our knowledge, or it may have happened in another jurisdiction.” The Orange County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast about the event.
In any case, if organizers moved the event to Florida to avoid New York restrictions, it would certainly not be the first time a group crossed state lines to bypass coronavirus orders. New York Young Republican Club President Gavin Wax told The Daily Beast earlier this month that the group’s 150-person gala was held in New Jersey because of the state’s more “lax rules.”
But Roberts cautioned on Monday: That logic won’t lead to good public health choices, especially if Florida’s guidelines are the barometer.
“If Florida is the only place that will allow it, that should be your sign that you shouldn’t do it,” she said.
A spokesperson for Orange County Public Health did not respond to specific questions from The Daily Beast but said, generally, authorities have “determined the main factor in the transmission of the COVID-19 virus is not the location, but not following the pandemic precautions of wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, washing of hands, avoiding crowds, and staying home when sick.”
Of course, there’s a big gap between going to the grocery store more than once a week, or even indoor dining, and gathering in a group of 100 people.
“Why do we have to try so hard to kill as many people as possible before we get the vaccine out there?” Roberts asked. “We’re so close to having a significant portion of the population being protected. Do you really have to hold your fight club today?”
“History is going to look back at how many deaths we caused for no reason,” she added. “In the long term, you can’t take back the people you killed.”