What Do Eat Bulaga!, UFC Fighters such as Anderson and Wanderlei Silva and Affliction Promotions , Inc. Have In Common? Answer: WILNER & O'REILLY, APLC.
This past Saturday marked a historic moment for the firm of WILNER & O'REILLY, APLC. Specifically, in three different venues in two different states, approximately 70 clients of our firm were performing simultaneously. Said clients included the entire cast and crew of Eat Bulaga!, UFC Middleweight Champion of the World Anderson Silva and Affliction Promotions, Inc. and a number of its foreign fighters such as Renato "Babalu" Sobral.
Babalu is an accomplished mixed martial artist with a professional record of twenty-nine wins and but seven losses. He received his black-belt in Brazilian JiuJitsu from the venerable Carlos Gracie, Jr., and has competed at elite levels around the world. Last December, Babalu delighted his Filipino fans at the Araneta Colloseuim in Manila when he submitted dutch fighter Rodney Faverus in the opening minutes of the first round. His local Filipino fans will be delighted to know that Babalu will be opening his own martial arts academy in the City of Cerritos in September of this year. The grand opening of this academy will likely occur right before Babalu's next fight which is presently scheduled for September 20, 2008 at the Playboy Mansion. At this fight, Babalu will fight for the light-heavyweight title for Strikeforce.
Mixed martial arts is booming around the world. Most of you that watched the UFC this past weekend probably were delighted when Fil-Am fighter Brandon "The Truth" Vera entered the cage to Apl de Aps/Black Eyed Peas song Bebot and dawned fight shorts consisting of the colors of the Filipino Flag. I know I was, if for no other reason that my friend and client Apl's music was on the airwaves.
While athletes such as Brandon Vera don't need visas to compete here, foreign born athletes such as Babalu do. Most of the time, fighters obtain a P-1 visa. P-1 visas require a petitioner and the petitioner is normally the organization for which they fight. At times, sports management firms can and do petition foreign athletes instead of the organization. For example, the Invincible Management Group, Inc.-a sister company of Wilner & O'Reilly, APLC-has petitioned foreign fighters before and will continue to do so. Whether the fighter is here or overseas, the visa petition begins here. If the fighter is here, he can change status. If overseas, once the petition is approved, the fighter must go to the appropriate U.S. consulate and obtain the visa in his passport. One can imagine that a trip to the Consulate is time consuming and presents necessary interruption to a fighter's training regimen.
Not all fighters or athletes are qualified to be petitioned. Instead, the foreign fighter must demonstrate that he or she has sustained national and or international acclaim in their field of endeavor. Evidence of qualifications normally includes proof of competition, awards won and media reviews. If qualified, said fighters often go on to obtain lawful permanent residency in the United States. And, unlike a P-1 petition which requires a sponsor, athletes who can demonstrate extraordinary ability in their field of endeavor may self-petition for permanent residency.
Whether athletics, entertainment, science, business or the arts, foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in any of the above may petition themselves for lawful permanent residency in the United States so long as they are qualified. The theory is that if one is the best at what they do it is in the national interest of the United States to have such people here.
While last Saturday marked a historic day for our firm, so to does this Saturday for on July 26, 2008 on CBS Television, another two of our clients will be performing. WILNER & O'REILLY, APLC is honored to represent the mixed martial arts promotional organization of Pro Elite, Inc./EliteXC who has organized the event (on both Showtime and CBS). Along those lines, WILNER & O'REILLY, APLC is equally honored to represent female fighter Cris Cyborg in an individual capacity.
Through our diligent efforts, Cris will not only fight in the United States for the first time in her illustrious career, but she will fight in a nationally televised event in the prime time demographic. Cris will fight (and beat) Shana Bazler. As a result of this anticipated victory, Cris will be able to challenge the poster-child of women's mixed martial arts, namely: Gina Carrano, for the first-ever women's title match in mixed martial arts.
While immigration remains a politically charged issue and change is likely on the way sometime next year, keep in mind that you are not alone. And, whether your from Brazil or the Philippines, famous or not, one needs a visa to come to the United States whether it is to visit or work. For what its worth, even the toughest fighters in the world fear and respect the immigration process. Whether fighter , family or both, it is imperative that you hire competent and respected counsel that's willing to go to the mats for you. Lastly, we understand and appreciate, especially in today's economic climate, that finances are always an issue. Rest assured, we don't charge you more because we represent the most famous fighters and entertainers in the world.