By Zach Arnold | August 30, 2014
On episode 4 of UFC 177 Embedded, the cursed fight card becomes a Cinderella story as the main event changes on weigh-in day. Title challenger and former champ Renan Barao bows out for medical reasons, creating a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Joe Soto, a former belt-holder in other organizations about to make his UFC debut on the prelim card, until he got the call that would change his life. TJ Dillashaw proves he’s a company man and true champion willing to fight anyone, anytime by accepting a new challenger on one day’s notice. UFC President Dana White lambastes the negative media and implores his fighters to seize the opportunity to prove all the doubters wrong. UFC Embedded is an all-access, behind-the-scenes video blog series focusing on the days leading up to the UFC 177 bantamweight title fight, Saturday, August 30th on Pay-Per-View.
The polish is off the turd.
There was Dana White trying to pump up the fighters on one of the company’s most horrific fight cards ever by using a pedantic “blame the media” strategy. The media says the show sucks. The media is dumping all over you. You mean nothing. It was classic coach spin. It came off pathetic from a guy who was trying to tell the press earlier this week that he wasn’t bothered by the negative mention in GQ Magazine in regards to how (little) he pays his fighters.
And then came Saturday night during the preliminary fights on Fox Sports 1. An all-time meltdown from Dana White with Ariel Helwani under the tag line “Is UFC 177 cursed?” Dana ripped into the GQ mention days after claiming it never bothered him. He ripped into Dave Meltzer for claiming that the Sacramento gate would be $500,000. That turned out to be an old report. Dana ripped “journalists” for telling fans not to buy UFC 177 and for dumping on the fighters. The fact that this even aired on Fox Sports 1 to promote a PPV was amazing. The funny and predictable part is that the anti-Meltzer backlash amongst hardcore UFC fans started right away on Twitter after the “War Dana!” moment on cable television.
By Zach Arnold | August 29, 2014
Next week is the big head-to-head battle in Connecticut between UFC & Bellator. I’m not sure why UFC decided to do this, but what the hell. They are obviously preparing for the Scott Coker era at Bellator. While they seem to be preparing for the competitive intrusion, they are busy selling more than 20,000 tickets for November’s Mexico City fight between Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum. Hopefully the fight drums up some interest in the States.
The irony of this is thick when you consider that Bellator started out as a Spanish-language TV proposition on ESPN Deportes and has now completely moved away from attracting Hispanic fans.
While the UFC was doing their thing this week, Bellator was also busy with their own announcements. They announced that King Mo signed a new deal. They also announced that Stephan Bonnar would become an announcer and perhaps also fight Tito Ortiz. And everyone groaned loudly.
In one sense, I understand why Kevin Kay and the Spike crew decided to bring in Stephan Bonnar. It’s always dangerous to try to read the minds of power brokers in combat sports, but I could imagine the logic looking a little like this:
He’s Stephan Bonnar. He had the greatest fight in UFC history with Forrest Griffin. We made UFC. We gave those guys the platform. The guy’s an icon. We long for the days of the 2000s when we made UFC. He still has juice left. Let’s bring in the nostalgia with Tito. It’s our version of cotton candy. Harmless. Only upside. He has name ID. The fight will pop a rating or perhaps draw some PPV buys.
Welcome to Corporate MMA. Spike is an odd ball with a lot of cash. They’ve put up with TNA for a decade and yet only got worked up when TNA lied about bringing Vince Russo back. Spike is always looking for the next big thing, so why does their gut always seem to be centered around guys from a decade ago?
The truth is, Bellator needs a battle plan. I’ve written a five-point battle plan of sorts and it makes a lot of sense. Of course I would say that — I wrote the damn article. But you get the point. Outside of Australia, the UFC is struggling to make big waves in the Asian marketplace. Canada at this point seems to be a lost cause on a big scale without Georges St. Pierre. The UFC is still viewed as a West Coast entity. Most people don’t really know what Bellator represents or what their philosophy is going to be.
We have some clues so far. We know that the women’s division is going to get ramped up and that’s a good thing. We also know that names like Jason “Mayhem” Miller are also being considered. That is a horrific thing. He was popular during the MySpace era. Remember those days?
In boxing, you can establish fighters over a much longer period of time. In MMA, the eras seem to last about every five years. Right now, Ben Askren is this era’s Jake Shields. The guy who has figured out how to build leverage outside of the UFC model on his terms in order to eventually get into the UFC. He’s someone that Bellator can bring back into the fold under the guise of co-promotion with OneFC.
The UFC announced that Ben Askren looked so impressive today that they are considering having him fight in the WSOF.
— MMA Roasted (@MMARoasted) August 29, 2014
The biggest question that Spike has to answer with Bellator is this: what is the overarching business goal?
We know they are cutting back from 26 shows to 16 shows a year. It’s gone from a cheap weekly TV property that attracts solid, slightly increasing ratings to now… what exactly? Ever since Bellator drew the numbers they did for their Memphis-area PPV, everything has turned upside down. If you’re going to cut down from 26 to 16 shows as a TV network, obviously you either think Bellator can significantly increase the TV ratings for the 16 shows about to be produced or 12 of those shows will draw what Bellator normally draws and 4 of the shows will end up as PPVs.
If the strategy is the former, guys like Stephan Bonnar aren’t going to crack the million viewer mark. If the strategy is the latter, guys like Stephan Bonnar aren’t going to break 100,000 buys on PPV.
I would rather build up new stars on TV shows drawing 700,000 fans than worry about drawing a million viewers to watch a fight like Stephan Bonnar vs. Tito Ortiz that does nothing for the company’s future.
For as tiring as watching 26 episodes of Bellator was on Spike, at least I got the strategy. Budget $60,000 a week to spend, draw some good ratings in key demos, and stay active. I have no clue what Spike wants to do with their new MMA play toy now. Let’s hope they actually have a clue. I think Bellator’s September 19th event at the big Savemart Center in Fresno may give us some positive or negative clues.
By Zach Arnold | August 25, 2014
There were lots of interesting stories coming out of UFC’s active weekend in Macau & Tulsa. Talk about two different worlds. There was Michael Bisping doing his best Freddy Krueger impersonation on Cung Le’s face and perhaps putting the guy into retirement. At the Macau event, UFC regulated the whole ball of wax and yanked a judge after the first two fights due to poor performance. Let the hand-wringing commence.
There was the arrest of Jordan Mein’s father, Lee Mein, for sexual battery. UFC barred Lee Mein from being in the building to watch his son fight but Lloyd Irvin was in the corner of James Vick. I’m fully expecting UFC’s political critics to start tagging the sport with the “rape culture” label. And, truthfully, MMA is in a perilous spot on that front right about now.
Then there was Rafael dos Anjos blitzkrieging Ben Henderson and John McCarthy catching hell for his stoppage in that fight. I suspect Jason Herzog probably would have let this fight play out a bit more.
Given these interesting stories, I still find myself asking one over-arching question about what UFC is up to right now and it’s a question that I don’t think the company has done a very good job of answering:
What exactly is UFC’s grand plan into expanding their brand into mainland China?
If there is one thing UFC is brilliant at, it’s corporate sloganeering. World Fucking Domination. Their bravado is unmatched except perhaps with FIFA propaganda material. Ironic given that UFC claims MMA will be as big as soccer in the next 10 years. So why has UFC been strangely silent about their goals & benchmarks for success in the Chinese marketplace?
Zuffa has ran
two three Macau events at The Venetian and ran one Fight Pass show in Singapore. Cung Le headlined two of the Macau shows. UFC has Ultimate Fighter China. And that’s about it. Meanwhile, One FC with Victor Cui is setting the table long-term to expand his footprint in the Asian marketplace as a serious arena player. RUFF is the one active MMA promoter right now on the mainland. There’s the proposed M-1 Challenge event this November in Shanghai. Why hasn’t Zuffa been able to buy their way into the marketplace? A lot of it probably has to do with their corporate ideology and the refusal to change their matchmaking to bend to cultural tastes & sensitivities.
Is the plan simply to wait for others to pave the way and then swoop right in with arena shows? If UFC can’t conquer New York politics, how the hell are they going to conquer Beijing?
I understand why Bob Arum is running fights in Macau with Manny Pacquiao. For Manny, it’s about the taxes. For Arum, it’s about the site fee he can command because Manny and big name boxers can attract huge whales to gamble significant cash on fights. Plus, Top Rank has Ryota Murata. Of all the major combat sports right now, MMA is the least likely to attract the big whales. Luca Fury can generate a living as an online handicapper but the casinos want warm bodies in their buildings to blow cash at the tables & at the sportsbooks. MMA simply isn’t attracting that kind of fan given the demographics. Great TV demographics with 18-to-34 year olds but not-so-great casino spending demos.
It’s hard to put into perspective what is happening with UFC’s grand vision of what to do in Asia. They fired Mark Fischer and have inserted Garry Cook into the equation. One colleague of mine described him as an MMA version of Karl Rove, a kind of guy with a gift for gab & strategy that UFC is counting on to transcend cultural boundaries. The problem is that cultural boundaries are everything when it comes to the combat sports business in Asia. I’m amazed that UFC hasn’t bothered hiring Chinese or Japanese business executives who potential sponsors & power brokers can relate to on business matters. Even WWE has their own president for Japanese operations.
Unlike most, I was not critical of UFC’s initial disclosure about plans to run a reality TV show in Japan that’s based on a different format than Ultimate Fighter. As long as they can partner up with some Japanese promoters and get on network television, anything can happen. But they announced those plans when Mark Fischer was around. He’s gone. We’re one month away from the Saitama Super Arena event which has a bizarre card headlined by an even stranger yet intriguing main event of Mark Hunt vs. Roy Nelson. Things have really cooled off for Dentsu since they inked their deal with UFC a few years ago. UFC achieved what they wanted on the first show. What is their goal now in Japan?
Normally, the UFC is very certain and public about their marketing pronouncements. They know what they want and know what their talking points are. Curiously, you aren’t seeing such bravado right now from the world’s only major MMA promoter. Until they come up with a disciplined, smart, adaptable strategy to address the cultural tastes of the various Asian markets, they’re chasing their own tail. They would be better off focusing all their energy on Australia at this point in time.
By Zach Arnold | August 21, 2014
Nothing has gone right in Andre Ward’s legal fight against promoter Dan Goossen. In fact, the legal battle waged by Ward’s camp against Goossen has backfired in the courts.
Andre Ward asked for arbitration with the California State Athletic Commission in June of 2013 to have his 2011 contract extension with promoter Dan Goossen declared invalid. Andy Foster upheld the contract extension as valid.
In November of 2013, Dan Goossen was notified around the time of the Andre Ward/Edwin Rodriguez HBO fight that Antonio Leonard had sued Goossen in Texas. Leonard is connected to Houston rap boss & Ward manager James Prince.
Leonard alleged that he and Goossen had an oral contract in which Leonard would be a co-promoter of Andre Ward. However, Goossen’s side claimed that Leonard wasn’t supposedly licensed as a promoter with the California State Athletic Commission. In addition, the parties involved in the Ward/Goossen agreement had to obtain approval from the California State Athletic Commission and Leonard allegedly was not a written party in that agreement. Based on this situation, Goossen filed for declaratory relief in Los Angeles Superior Court in order to get a judge to issue a ruling on the matter.
The lawsuit filed by Antonio Leonard in Texas was bumped from the state court system to the Federal court system.
Ward then filed a lawsuit against Goossen in Los Angeles Superior Court. In the December 2013 Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, Ward’s attorney Alan Rader tried to use the “7-year rule” of contract length as a violation of California’s labor code. Juxtaposed to Antonio Leonard’s lawsuit in Texas alleging that he was Ward’s co-promoter, was Andre Ward suing Goossen and his own camp in LA Superior Court without naming Leonard as a defendant?
On Wednesday, a judge in LA Superior Court tossed out the 7-year rule lawsuit that Rader filed. The judge said that Ward lost two arbitration cases in front of the Athletic Commission.
A couple of weeks after Antonio Leonard filed his lawsuit in Texas alleging that he was a co-promoter of Andre Ward, Dan Goossen requested a second California arbitration hearing to resolve a dispute regarding an alleged breach of contract. Goossen asked for his promotional contract with Andre Ward to be extended in length. Goossen won this second arbitration hearing. Andy Foster & the deputy AG wrote that Ward’s attempt to declare the California State Athletic Commission as lacking in jurisdiction to oversee the arbitration hearings was nonsense because Ward didn’t protest CSAC’s jurisdiction in arbitration when Ward himself asked for arbitration in June of 2013.
Additionally, the second arbitration hearing produced a decision extending Ward’s contract with Goossen until November 8, 2016.
Losing various court & arbitration battles, Andre Ward is running out of options. Last week, Ward and company decided to file a lawsuit in the Northern California Federal court system against Dan Goossen. The court filing accuses Goossen of violating the Muhammad Ali Act. By the way, it’s the same court system where the trial involving state senator Leland Yee and Shrimp Boy is taking place. Yee is accused by the Feds of trying to extort individuals who wanted to keep the Athletic Commission alive.
Goossen is now punching back twice as hard against Ward by filing a $10 million dollar defamation suit against Ward & Ward’s lawyer James McCarroll. Dan’s attorney in that defamation case is Bert Fields. According to LA Superior Court records, the case was filed by a court clerk on Monday. The case number is BC554448.
Which brings us to the latest news regarding sabre rattling that we are hearing behind the scenes. A well-placed source contacted me on Wednesday night. The source stated that a person from Andre Ward’s camp wanted to talk to us. We are protecting this person’s name at the moment. The person from Ward’s camp claims that Ward is furious about what happened to him in the two arbitration decisions over the past year from Andy Foster and that Ward allegedly wants to pursue legal action against the California State Athletic Commission. The person claims that Ward is angry about Andy Foster extending the promotional agreement due to injury.
The opinion that I gave the source to relay to Ward’s camp? The same opinion I would say privately and publicly.
If Andre Ward sues the Department of Consumer Affairs & the California State Athletic Commission, he will lose and he will lose badly. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t grab the popcorn and enjoy the legal battle. However, I cannot honestly sit here and present a scenario where I think Ward would beat the Athletic Commission over the two arbitration decisions.
Thankfully, I don’t give legal advice. And thankfully I’m not the one trying to spend my own cash fighting lawyers like Farzad Tabatabai and Bert Fields in the courts. Good luck with that.
By Zach Arnold | August 19, 2014
The last 20 minutes of the video is where Dr. Lou Moret inflicts his damage
“Integrity is the only thing in business.” — Marcus Lemonis, The Profit (CNBC)
In his 30 years as a boxing referee in California, Dr. Lou Moret’s image of a cantankerous yet quietly skillful politician is the stuff of legend. He rarely talks, especially in public. Lou knows where the proverbial political skeletons are buried in both the Sacramento Legislature and Los Angeles County.
So, when Lou speaks, it’s an event. But nobody could have ever imagined a scenario where Dr. Moret would open up so candidly in public and let it all hang out. Uncensored. Unfiltered. Unstoppable.
At last week’s California State Athletic Commission meeting in Los Angeles, Lou Moret cut through the palaver on display about cutting the pay for officials and the illogical falsehood that somehow an officials pay scale is responsible for fraud being conspired by promoters & athletic inspectors at box offices. Not only did Dr. Lou destroy the new policy on officials taking a haircut over malice & incompetence, he ripped into Andy Foster over allegedly using unlicensed non-California officials for California events and for creating a climate of horrific boxing mismatches.
I’ve seen plenty of state athletic commission meetings go horribly wrong over the years but last week’s Los Angeles meeting may have truly been an all-time low for incompetence & tolerance of flagrant law breaking. Any fight industry insider or fan watching the meeting would be appalled by the logic on display. These people aren’t just living in another bubble. They’re living on another planet.
Last week, we wrote a detailed article laying out claims made at the August 11th CSAC meeting in Los Angeles in which Andy Foster admitted that box offices are being screwed up by athletic inspectors and that he’s tired of having to call promoters to pay more money for officials or calling promoters to return money that is owed to them.
The officials saw through the carnival barking. They know what’s going on. They’re sick and tired of it. However, no one could ever imagine a scenario where Lou Moret would be the man to call out Andy Foster, Jack Reiss, and John McCarthy over politics.
By Zach Arnold | August 18, 2014
— Team Rousey (@ArmbarNation) August 18, 2014
Guest article by Brandon Engel (on Twitter at @brandonengel2)
If Ronda Rousey leaves UFC in the near future, will she be remembered as a pioneer in the Mixed Martial Arts space?
Ronda Rousey is a polarizing — but nevertheless fascinating — figure in contemporary sports. Her fans & supporters laud her as a pioneer for all female athletes; an icon who will take the women’s MMA scene to the next level. Her skeptics question whether or not she’s an opportunist looking to get out of MMA as soon as possible in order to capitalize on her increasing celebrity status.
Sounds a lot like Gina Carano with more talent & aggression. Who knows how much longer she will stick around the MMA scene. What can be said is that she has received more honors, awards, and attention than any other female MMA fighter. She recently won an ESPY for “Best Female Athlete.” The only MMA fighter to win an ESPY, period. She was also nominated for “best fighter” but lost to Floyd Mayweather, which led to a rather regrettable comment of “I don’t know who he is.” It also led to a nonstop month-long stream of “Ronda could beat Floyd” palaver on ESPN & Fox Sports television.
The idea of Floyd hitting a woman? The recent domestic violence incidents with War Machine & Josh Grispi put a stop to the Floyd/Ronda debate, which should have never happened in the first place.
When comparing the opponents she faced in judo to the opponents she has faced so far in the women’s MMA scene, is Ronda Rousey truly a pioneer? Her critics say no, emphatically so. How does Rousey stack up to, say, Billie Jean King? Babe Dickinson Zaharias? Ronda’s in-ring dominance is undeniable. But to call her a pioneer?
By Zach Arnold | August 17, 2014
Jeff Thaler had a chance recently to interview Tim Kennedy for Fight Opinion Radio. And it was great. You can listen to our interview right here or by copying this text for the URL:
With a fight against Yoel Romero on September 27th in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Tim feels that one more win will give him a title shot… at either Middleweight against Chris Weidman or at Welterweight against Johny Hendricks. He believes he can make 170 pounds.
As for his fight strategy against Yoel Romero?
“Don’t get taken down? I don’t know. I would be surprised if he tries to take me down. How many times have you seen somebody take me down? If they do try, I think every dude that’s ever tried has lost.”
“I do not think that he will be able to be successfully take me down and keep me down.”
Tim revealed during our interview that he asked the Nevada State Athletic Commission for random drug testing. He’s not holding his breath when it comes to the issue of an increase in random drug testing in MMA.
By Zach Arnold | August 14, 2014
On Tuesday’s edition of Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio, host Mike Greenberg presented a list of five sports which he thinks could bring the most Return On Investment if they were a stock. One of the sports on that list is Mixed Martial Arts.
One of the sports not on his list? Major League Baseball.
Greenberg dished out a list of four suggestions things he would do as MLB Commissioner to help improve interest in baseball. One of those suggestions sounds like advice you would have heard from MMA promoters a few years ago on the issue of doping.
“Make LESS, not more of a big deal about PEDs.
“Baseball has the toughest testing program in all of sports. Stand on that. Stand on that and stop talking about it so much. We get it.
“[Dallas Cowboys player] Orlando Scandrick has been suspended four games [for using Molly].
“The point of it is, baseball… some of it through its own action, has contributed to the subject of PEDs being an overwhelming subject in baseball. We’ve got a testing policy. We’ve got a penalty policy. Let’s move on. Guy gets popped. He’s popped. He’s gone. Let’s go. Let’s not talk about it all the time. Let’s not make a big deal about it all the time. Let’s instruct our players and others not to make such a big deal out of it.
“When a guy gets suspended for 50 games and he comes back and signs a big contract somewhere else, let’s not have a lengthy national debate about it.
“We get it. We had a steroid problem. We’ve addressed it. We’ve addressed it more than all the other leagues have addressed it combined. Let’s get on with our day.”
I’m heavily conflicted about this advice.
Missing money: California officials hit with new pay cut because box offices aren’t calculated right
By Zach Arnold | August 14, 2014
With two lawsuits and a major Federal indictment alleging extortion of individuals trying to keep the California State Athletic Commission alive, you would think that Monday’s CSAC meeting in Los Angeles would have been a quiet affair. Instead, Executive Officer Andy Foster made a startling & troubling admission that has inflamed the core of officials who work as referees, timekeepers, judges, and doctors at Athletic Commission regulated combat sports events.
One of the major changes being proposed by Andy Foster is a change to the current tier system used to pay officials working shows. Roy Englebrecht, a famous California promoter, argued on Monday that the tier system is unfair.
“It’s always amazed me that no other pro sport pays their officials based on the hard work of the owners and the promoters and we’ve had it in year in and year out.”
The current six-tier pay scale for California official is as follows:
- $0-$10,000: Referees $200, Judges $150, Timekeepers $125
- $10,000-$20,000: Referees $275, Judges $200, Timekeepers $150
- $20,000-$30,000: Referees $300, Judges $225, Timekeepers $175
- $30,000-$75,000: Referees $450, Judges $325, Timekeepers $250
- $75,000-above: Referees $650, Judges $550, Timekeepers $275
- PPV events: Referees $1000, Judges $900, Timekeepers $500
The new proposed three-tier pay scale will look like this:
- $0-$49,999: Referees $350, Judges $300, Timekeepers $200, Doctors $550
- $50,000-$99,999: Referees $450, Judges $350, Timekeepers $250, Doctors $650
- $100,000-and-above: Referees $650, Judges $550, Timekeepers $300, Doctors $750
Additionally, changes are coming in the amount paid out to doctors working events. Also, boxing referees assigned to title fights will be working undercard bouts just like MMA referees do.
On the surface, these aren’t earth shattering changes that would provoke major outrage. However, the process in which this this new pay scale was formulated, who was behind it, and the reasons for why it is being implemented has set off the alarm bells.
By Zach Arnold | August 12, 2014
Last week’s logic: The brawl between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones at the MGM in Las Vegas will be used as a weapon against MMA by critics.
Last week’s worries: “Did the feud peak too soon before the fight on September 27th?”
This week’s worries: The fight got postponed until January 3rd, 2015.
So much for the UFC being able to pad their 2014 PPV numbers. Not so much now. Now the company is scrambling to issue refunds to those who bought tickets but those refunds can only come from where consumers bought their tickets from.
Jon Jones, September, and Nevada do not mix. Jones got injured and so his fight got pushed back. Meanwhile, Alexander Gustafsson is rightfully saying that since the fight got pushed back due to his injury that he should step back in the front of the line. That ain’t happening, but he has a legitimate gripe. And Daniel Cormier is stuck on the sidelines for months. He’s now knocking Jones for backing out of the 9/27 date due to injury because Cormier was going to fight on a busted knee.
What a different one minor injury makes. UFC 178. 1 million buys to 100,000.
— FrontRowBrian (@FrontRowBrian) August 12, 2014
It’s been a really lousy year for UFC in Las Vegas outside of the Ronda Rousey fight, which in the end reportedly drew 500,000 buys on PPV. Vitor Belfort already blew up their May event there and he’s one more failed drug test away from blowing up their December show. The UFC will now be running three shows in Las Vegas in the time span of two months. Something has to give. One of those shows isn’t going to draw. Which one will it be?
It’s not the end of the world but having fights get canceled so often can shake the trust of the fans. Make no mistake, however… issues regarding domestic violence involving active fighters is a much bigger problem than any postponed or canceled fight. Domestic violence is a societal problem and not an MMA-exclusive problem but MMA is an ultrahazardous business that cannot afford to have that kind of stigma and crime associated with it in any way. Unacceptable.
By Zach Arnold | August 11, 2014
It is very interesting to watch WWE take shots at UFC’s programming value by essentially declaring that the repeat value of a pro-wrestling match is much more significant than the repeat value of watching an old UFC or boxing fight. I don’t doubt the power of watching old wrestling classics. I think a lot more of today’s wrestlers should be involved in tape study.
However, WWE is underestimating somewhat the value of re-airing old MMA and boxing fights. The Tuesday Night Fights re-branding lives on two decade after the franchise was ended by USA Network. Watch a Regional Sports Network and you’re bound to see some old Tuesday Fight Nights material. The same with boxing matches from the last few years. The UFC has turned the art of re-airing old fights into a cottage industry with the shows they aired on Spike and now on Fox Sports 1. Their DVD business isn’t hot but DVD biz isn’t solid unless you’re like Netflix. Fight Pass has done steady numbers so far, although fee increases in the future will sap the subscriber numbers. For all of the power of WWE’s tape archives, their Network subscriber numbers have reached a ceiling of around 700,000. The only hope they have is through international growth.
There is one thing that is not in doubt, however, and that is the appeal of combat sports mega stars in the television and movie business. The Rock is what everyone, including Ronda Rousey, aspires to be. Dave Batista. And you can certainly add Steve Austin and Randy Couture to that list.
Discovery motions will name informants, witnesses in alleged extortion of California State Athletic Commission
By Zach Arnold | August 8, 2014
There was a media circus Thursday afternoon in San Francisco at the District Court with a flood of status conference hearings involving California state senator Leland Yee, Chinatown figure Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, Yee’s fundraising consultant Keith Jackson, and about 25 other individuals who were named in a superseding Federal indictment relating to all sorts of allegations from extortion to transferring ballistic missiles. Not exactly your garden variety criminal case.
Despite a gag order being enforced on both the prosecution & defense teams, there was quite a bit of procedural news that came out of Thursday’s court sessions. First, prosecutors are confident that many of the defendants will agree to plea deals and turn State’s evidence against the biggest fish in the case. The LA Times notes that there will be several trials involving the defendants rather than one large circus.
“Breyer concurred Thursday that the case must be split but postponed the decision until after all evidence is turned over and sensitive issues involving the wiretaps and identities of informants and agents are resolved.”
Let the discovery motions begin.
There will be a court hearing on Monday discussing wiretap evidence and it is expected that this evidence will be turned over to defense lawyers by the end of the month. The next court date after Monday’s meeting is expected to happen on November 12th, 2014.
There’s also a twist in the case: one of the FBI’s undercover agents was yanked from the Federal investigation due to allegations of $ misconduct. You don’t say.
Given Yee’s high-profile name and the interest in the case, there’s a pretty strong possibility that we will find out soon who exactly the Feds claim was targeted for extortion. Everyone wants to know who the Feds claim Yee & his fundraiser Keith Jackson were extorting in regards to an NFL team owner and individuals who wanted to keep the California State Athletic Commission alive.
Until this information is released via the courts, no proclamations can be made as to which individuals were allegedly extorted, who may be unindicted co-conspirators, and who may have been working for the Feds as informants. It would be reckless to make declarations right now when we don’t know all the facts of the case.
Given the fact that nobody on the outside-looking-in knows who was exactly targeted, there is only so much investigating you can do. However, the motive in the Federal indictment is very clear: money. We have been scouring through lobbyist disclosure records, political contribution records, and publicly-listed business relationships to try to figure out why Leland Yee & Keith Jackson allegedly thought they could score cash & connections from individuals who wanted to keep the Athletic Commission alive.
And this led us to carefully re-watch the video of a state senate committee meeting from April 29th, 2013 regarding SB309 — the bill that would extend the life of the Athletic Commission by two years. And given the claims made in the superseding Federal indictment, what we watched on video has raised some new & very intriguing questions.
By Zach Arnold | August 6, 2014
On July 29th, we wrote about a superseding Federal indictment in San Francisco naming disgraced California state senator Leland Yee, Yee’s fundraising consultant Keith Jackson, and famous Chinatown mobster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. One of the allegations in that Federal indictment is that both Yee & Jackson tried to extort money out of multiple individuals who wanted to make sure that the California State Athletic Commission was not sunsetted. Sunsetting the Athletic Commission would have allowed the Department of Consumer Affairs to regulate combat sports in hiding with zero transparency. This isn’t something that DCA would be unhappy about.
The indictment claimed that individuals related to CSAC and “the Mixed Martial Arts industry” were targeted by Yee & Jackson for extortion. Naturally, the next question we asked was whether or not the UFC was the target of the supposed shakedown. After all, the Fertitta Empire contributes a lot of money to California politicians and to Sacramento lobbying firm Platinum Advisors LLC for legislative affairs regarding the Athletic Commission, internet gambling, and tribal casinos. There are monied interests at stake.
The indictment from a grand jury relating to the Athletic Commission is based on Individuals A & B being allegedly approached by both Leland Yee & Keith Jackson in early March of 2013. The indictment claims that Yee was directing Jackson to solicit money from A & B to Keith Jackson Consultancy and to also solicit campaign contributions for Yee’s Secretary of State bid. The indictment was specific in noting that the Athletic Commission regulates “Ultimate Fight Championships.” UFC was the only promoter directly named for CSAC regulation.
In any sort of criminal indictment involving allegations of extortion, follow the money. That’s what we initially tried to do despite the fact that the indictment alleges that the individuals being extorted were supposedly told to pay Jackson rather than make a direct contribution to Yee initially. In our initial search of California contribution records, we discovered that Station Casinos LLC donated $1,500 to Leland Yee’s Secretary of State campaign in December of 2013. The Federal indictment claims that Yee’s extortion campaign over CSAC was from March of 2013 through December of 2013. Nine months.
As we soon discovered (in our August 2nd article), Leland Yee was gifted tickets by the UFC for their April 20, 2013 San Jose Arena event. This event took place nine days before an April 29th, 2013 Sacramento state senate meeting to discuss SB309, the Athletic Commission extension bill. The Federal indictment claims that Yee and Jackson were telling individuals A & B that he wasn’t going to vote for SB309 unless Jackson was supposedly paid for “heavy lifting.” At that April 29th, 2013 senate meeting, Yee wasn’t singing the praises of the Athletic Commission… but he was curiously singing the praises of Andy Foster.
After seeing this display of support, we decided to re-read the superseding Federal indictment one more time to make sure that we didn’t miss anything. It turns out that reading the indictment again has given us a new… perspective on how many people may have been supposedly targeted.