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Who Are They? - Crown Heights Assembly

Throbbin Wood

League Member
Dec 5, 2009
CROWN HEIGHTS, BROOKLYN – Hours after SWIFT MMA announced the influx of many new fighters to the promotion's roster, a few names had caught the eye of those looking through the SWIFT website's Human Resources section. One name in particular came up more than once to those who read through every new fighter – Crown Heights Assembly, a team located in Brooklyn, New York. Who is this four piece?

“We haven't been around too long, but the concept isn't entirely new,” said fifty-five year old trainer Mordy Rosenberg, the top man of the gym. “I've had this gym for about thirty years, back when my father's health was declining and he passed it onto me when I was only twenty-five. Thirty years later, my mission in the world of fighting has become more clear to me. There is glory to be had... title belts, names in lights, and it will more than help me pay the costs to keep this gym alive.”

Crown Heights has a diverse culture, housing a thriving Orthodox Jewish community. Rosenberg, an observant Jew himself, sees his gym in the middle of the Jewish neighbourhood. Two of the team's fighters – pro wrestler and cage-fighter-on-the-side Eli Scheinberg of Manchester, UK and local boy Aviv Mandelbaum, are both Orthodox Jews.


Scheinberg, who isn't nearly as religiously observant as his trainer says he should be, signed for local New York professional wrestling promotion Next Level Wrestling. NLW is set to put the wheels in motion in January, and “The Hebrew Hitman” travelled all the way from Manchester to New York to work for the new promotion.

“He can be a little lazy at times,” Rosenberg uneasily laughed, “but he has that cavalier attitude towards everything in life. He's use to being good at what he does. He may be a pro wrestler but he has a slight MMA background that he learned back in England. He can fight for real. Don't be fooled by his nonchalance either, because the boy can turn on a vicious streak over anything.”

“I fancy myself more as a wrestler,” Scheinberg said of his approach to the cage. “My cage fighting approach is basically my pro wrestling style... without all the glitter and bullsh-t, that is.”

“I know I'll get sh-t from some of the fighters for being a pro wrestler first,” he said. “I don't care. Hey, look at Jonathan Marx. He's a pro wrestler and I say he has a good chance at being 2-0.”

Scheinberg, who currently weighs 180 pounds, is expected to at least get up to 200 pounds every time he competes in a SWIFT cage.

“Twenty pounds, so what?” He shrugged off the challenge. “Mordy thinks I'm lazy, but who said I had to exercise my balls off to get to 200? How many candy bars you think it will take? Yeah, don't want to be a fatass, but mum always said I needed to put on a few more pounds when I was a kid.”

Mr. Rosenberg isn't going to be too happy with that comment, and has already warned him of increased intensity of training leading up to the NLW launch.

“Weight training and a proper kosher diet,” Rosenberg said of his upcoming training plans for young Eli. “The boy eats McDonald's! You can't eat McDonald's when you're Jewish!”


Aviv Mandelbaum is known as “The Silent Schmo” because of his almost-mute-like nature. Rosenberg is expected to speak for Aviv for any future interviewers or pre-fight conferences that the young man might take part in.

“He's only said about three things to me in the years he's trained here,” Rosenberg laughed. “He's a big guy... 6'5” and 235 pounds. He came here, I asked him his background and he didn't say a word to me. I started training him in boxing until he kept using his feet. Then I tried a kickboxing approach but he obviously had more to his game. One of my friends is big on karate, so I brought him in and now Aviv is a solid karate guy. It was almost impossible to train the kid because he doesn't talk, but sometimes you get the feeling that he was only put on this planet to fight and that's it.”

“Eli runs his mouth all the time and the other guys have their own voices that can get achy to listen to, but it's nice to know that at least one kid around here is going to listen to what I have to say and give me some quiet time.”

“He use to be impossible to train. I actually left him outside a few times because I didn't want to pull teeth, because that's what putting him through training felt like years ago. But he never went away, and now I'm glad it all worked out the way it has. He does what he's told these days, and doesn't talk back.”


Not everyone who attends the Crown Heights Assembly belong to the chosen people of Israel. “The Hoboken Hammer” Jimmy Luzzatto is a thirty-year old man who was one his way to making a Madison Square Garden card until his love for alcohol and cigarettes caused him to fall out of favour with his trainers. He's been homeless, he's even been to jail, and now he's trying to get his life back on track.

“I just like fightin' 'n' sh-t,” Luzzatto said. “That's all. I could go back into boxin' but MMA is where the big money is at right now, and I need money. Do I ever...”

“Luzzatto is an interesting case,” said Rosenberg. “He's not the hardest puncher, he's not the fastest either, but he's real cagey and smart. He has a real brain for fighting, and it's going to keep him from losing to people who may have better ability or fitness. I've tried to get him off of the beer and cigarettes so he isn't so out-matched in the fitness department. They won't let you fight when you're drunk.”

Luzzatto says he plans on coming to the cage with a cigarette before each fight, regardless of what any trainer or building code says. “Cigs calm me down.”


“Let me come out and say it – it's because I'm black.” Tyrone Brand has been labelled “The Odd One” by those who frequent the gym. While he may not be the only non-Jew who attends a largely Jewish populated gym, he sticks out the most because he's the only African-American who sharpens his skills there.

“Being from The South Bronx, there's a lot of blacks and Hispanics in the area so I don't usually feel that I'm the 'minority.' I don't like to talk about being black, white, Jewish, brown, whatever. I don't think of the people at the gym as Jewish fighters, I think of them as fighters who happen to be Jewish. I'm not an African-American fighter, I'm a fighter who happens to be black. I don't want to make an issue of it.”

“I will admit though, walking into the Crown Heights Assembly the first few times and training for the first few months, I felt a little out of place. For the first time in my life, I knew what other blacks meant when they talked about 'being minorities,' but I learned to get over it. The others call me 'The Odd One' because I stick out, but I don't think it's just because of my skin colour. It's because of my style compared to the others here.”

“Tyrone is an animal,” Rosenberg said. “He's mostly a puncher, and he carries a very powerful punch. He can knock someone out at any moment. He has fast combos and can even punch and claw his way off his back. He's ruthless from the opening bell onward. There's something graceful about it, in a way, but it's mostly an outpouring of rage.”

“He's a smart boy,” Rosenberg complimented. “Common misconceptions of him may be, 'oh it's a black man from The Bronx. Look at him fighting like some bar room thug. What's this crap?' He's actually pretty intelligent. My only problem is his taste for music.”

“I'm not a big fan of the choices the other fighters made, but I can tolerate them. Oasis seem like an ok band after Eli showed me some of their other songs on his little iPod. Oasis are from Manchester too, so I can see why Eli is huge on them. They're massive in the UK. But this DMX stuff Tyrone is coming out to... As Eli would say: 'bloody hell.'” He laughed after attempting to impersonate Eli's Mancunian accent.


“I see many big things,” Rosenberg confidently remarked. “They may not come right away, there's going to be bumps along the way, and we have some talented fighters to fight with in SWIFT. I hear that there's going to be even more on the way. I'm still confident in my men, and maybe one day we'll be able to put a pennant up in this gym and celebrate a title win.”

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