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Fox Sports: "Zach Arnold's Fight Opinion site is one of the best spots on the Web for thought-provoking MMA pieces."

For mobile & tablet users, access our boxing & MMA headlines here

By Zach Arnold | November 22, 2017

To make our site theme more compatible with mobile & tablet devices, we had to trim off the news sidebars. We’ve developed a temporary solution to address this problem: separate feed pages.

Access the latest MMA headlines here.

Access the latest boxing headlines here.

As you might notice, some RSS links we are trying to access don’t load properly or are dead. We are searching for updated RSS feed links. Send us some tips.

Help wanted

We need your advice on finding a two-column theme compatible for PC, mobile, and tablet devices. E-mail me at zarnold9000@gmail.com with all suggestions. If you can’t help us out with technical advice, send us a donation to help pay for a solution. We can and will make this happen.

Topics: Media, Zach Arnold | 5 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Judge in Mark Hunt’s lawsuit against UFC says doping is part of assuming the risk

By Zach Arnold | February 15, 2019

When Mark Hunt’s attorney was squawking in late 2016 about filing a racketeering lawsuit against UFC and Brock Lesnar in Nevada over Lesnar’s failed doping test, I warned that this was not necessarily a serious legal tactic. Racketeering was a marketing tactic and that’s about it. The threats over concealment and unjust enrichment along with breach of contract carried more substance.

Racketeering got the case in Federal court. If it lost out, it would likely move the case to state court.

The judge in the lawsuit telegraphed her skepticism in June of 2017. This week, the judge carried through on her remarks and dismissed every cause of action except breach of contract.

This was not a surprise. The surprise was in the legal logic to dismiss the case and what a bad, no-good, terrible ruling it is for those looking to employ legal strategies in the future against fighters caught doping.

Opening his own can of worms

Remember the circumstances of what went down. Mark Hunt fought Brock Lesnar while negotiations were going down to sell UFC. Hunt has his attorney go public with legal threats. Hunt follows through with legal threats.

Then, inexplicably, Hunt goes public in an interview supposedly claiming slurred speech and sleeping problems due to damage suffered as a fighter.

UFC promptly pulled Hunt from fighting in Australia. He loudly protested. How much did Mark Hunt hurt his legal case in America?

In dismissing a majority of the causes of actions, judge Jennifer Dorsey claimed that Brock Lesnar’s doping did not negate Mark Hunt’s consent to fight. In other words, he assumed the risk.

The judge cited a precedent involving a case regarding a player intentionally hit with a baseball. Yes, the baseball can be a deadly weapon, but it didn’t exceed “ordinary range” of activity.

You can argue that doping makes athletes bigger, faster, and stronger but somehow you can’t legally prove that it actually impacts “ordinary range” of physical activity during an MMA fight?

The whole point of doping is to impact your “ordinary range” of activity in a sport. You wouldn’t use drugs to not enhance your performance.

If this is the temperature in the legal system for tolerance of doping, attorneys looking to clean up the sport face an impossible task.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Site issues with links

By Zach Arnold | January 20, 2019

You’ve seen the problems in the last couple of months with this site processing the various RSS links on the sidebars. The best way to describe the issue is that it’s like having a home with clay pipes that are clogged with tree roots. New plumbing is needed.

We will fix the issues. Hopefully, the sooner the better. A new site design and new processing for feeds is necessary. Complicating matters is that RSS is going out of style and trying to aggregate feeds is becoming a more difficult challenge.

Topics: Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

ESPN+ records massive subscriptions for their new UFC “sewer sport”

By Zach Arnold | January 20, 2019

ESPN rabblerouser and raconteur Dan Le Batard rudely and inappropriately treated guest Ariel Helwani as trash on his radio show. Le Batard correctly blitzed Disney management for promoting a “sewer sport” in exchange for saving the company with its new Over-The-Top subscription service.

Le Batard isn’t wrong in calling UFC a “sewer sport” for the way they promote Mixed Martial Arts. You have to call a spade a spade. UFC reinforced this notion by promoting Greg Hardy in the company’s semi-main event fight in Brooklyn. Hardy promptly lost by disqualification due to using a knee on the downed opponent.

The price for promoting a “sewer sport”?

Dave Meltzer reports that ESPN+ signed 525,000 new subscribers due to the UFC Brooklyn event headlined by Henry Cejudo destroying TJ Dillashaw. What makes the numbers so startling is that there is a heavy UFC presence over the next six months on ESPN+. Regardless of how successful Top Rank boxing cards have been on ESPN & ESPN+, there is no comparison to the subscription power that UFC is providing so far for Disney.

ESPN+ is a matter of life or death for Disney in professional sports. It must grow fast in order to maintain survival given the way cord cutting is accelerating. Disney paid a fortune to buy the rights to UFC programming. So far, so good.

What the monumental successes of both Jon Jones last December and Saturday’s Brooklyn event show is that there is no bottom for UFC in terms of paying any sort of price on the basis of fairness or morality. The dirtier, the better. The sleazier, the more seductive the product is. Disney has gone all-in with the swamp and there’s no turning back. Their future depends on UFC.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The Floyd Mayweather fight was costlier for RIZIN & Fuji TV than first anticipated

By Zach Arnold | January 4, 2019

The only good news for Nobuyuki Sakakibara is that Floyd Mayweather’s paycheck for the “exhibition fight” with Tenshin Nasukawa was $9 million and not $100 million USD.

Otherwise, it was an awful night for Japanese combat sports on New Year’s Eve 2018 television.

Tokyo Broadcasting System, which used to be home to mega K-1 and Inoki NYE events, finished with a 6.9% overall rating for their SASUKE show (athletic variety) plus Macau boxing event featuring Kazuto Ioka.

Fuji TV, which was home to powerhouse PRIDE, finished with a high of 7.5% for RIZIN for Floyd Mayweather’s fight. The overall ratings were 5.7%, 5.0%, and 6.9%. The day before Floyd’s fight, the Teiken Promotions boxing triple-header with Masayuki Ito, Ken Shiro, and Takuma Inoue pulled a 6.3% rating (8.8% in Kansai area).

The boxing numbers are a mixed bag but not a total surprise. The RIZIN rating figure is a big problem. Network executives don’t put up millions in cash for a distant fourth-place number in the high stakes Japanese ratings game of NYE.

If you’re intrigued by what used to go down politically with television producers on NYE events, go back and look through our archives. The level of detail and planning with ad agencies like Dentsu is exhaustive and extensive. Getting Mayweather for $9 million bucks was cheap by his standards but not cheap by anyone else’s. This hurts.

Where it hurts Nobuyuki Sakakibara is future investment. Yes, he proved that he could book Floyd Mayweather. There is some credibility built-in this maneuver because it will likely convince a private financier to perhaps open up a checkbook for a future show. However, the much more lucrative and bigger investment is with a Japanese network television partner.

If the Floyd Mayweather experiment had rallied a bigger number, such as 10%, the circumstances would be different today. That’s how important an extra 2% in the ratings would have been.

Topics: Boxing, Japan, Media, Zach Arnold | 10 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Andy Foster brilliantly gambled on being both the California fight boss & acting like a quasi-UFC agent to gain fame and power

By Zach Arnold | December 30, 2018

California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer Andy Foster was essentially exchanged a B-level Anaheim January UFC event for a mega last-minute Jon Jones UFC fight in December. All on the premise that Jon Jones somehow was the world’s most unfortunately unlucky drug testing fighter. Marc Raimondi has a great article on MMA Fighting explaining how UFC, Jon Jones, and California managed to profit on what social commentator Scott Adams labels as the “confusopoly.” You wanted a clean sport? Well, you’re just going to have to accept all the confusion that comes with it.

This kind of gamble of being “pro-fighter” and “promoter-friendly” has been the hallmark of Andy Foster’s tenure as Executive Officer of the California State Athletic Commission. It is paying off. California is back to being a $2 million a year state because Nevada’s commission is in complete disarray and the other big boy athletic commissions have failed to take advantage of the situation. Given California’s income tax situation, it’s a rather remarkable accomplishment.

That accomplishment has been buttressed by some very friendly circumstances.

First, UFC spent big cash through their Sacramento lobbyist Tim Lynch at Platinum Advisors to act as the political muscle on behalf of UFC & Andy Foster’s interests. Not a single fight writer has ever, curiously, delved into this topic. Of all of the early success Andy Foster had in California, a significant amount of credit belongs to the cash UFC spent — not only to control the outcome but to exert heavy influence over the Athletic Commission.

Second, California is back to collecting taxes on pro-wrestling shows while doing no work whatsoever. The amount of revenue on the budget sheets from wrestling is rather large. There hasn’t been any fight over this development.

Third, UFC managed to keep their best possible outcome with Andy Foster staying in California when it all but looked like he was heading to Nevada after Keith Kizer chaotically resigned. The world would look a whole lot different if Foster had left for Vegas. Vegas politicos didn’t want the Southern boy in power. What they didn’t gamble on was the Fertittas selling UFC to outside owners and relegating Nevada’s commission to lower-tier status in terms of political power.

The whole game changed when Nevada’s athletic commission was forced to self-finance and was no longer attached to a general state budget fund. It turned Nevada’s commission into any other state AC.

UFC correctly gambled on Andy Foster staying in California. UFC 232 was the blossoming fruit from the poisonous tree.

You scratch my back, I scratch yours. He promised $2 million dollar years in California and, by God, he’s doing it. At what price or what level of integrity, who cares. There isn’t a better comment to sum up Andy Foster’s no-risk-move in approving Jon Jones for UFC 232 in Inglewood than this comment by veteran MMA writer Luke Thomas:

Andy Foster’s easiest — but largest — gamble was assuming that not a single soul in the fight or local press would ever take him on regarding any controversy or scandal. Andy Foster can act like a quasi-UFC agent while drawing a sweet Sacramento paycheck.

Consider some of the various stories the press has soft-balled or ignored over the last five years:

These situations would have gotten every other major athletic commission big boss fired.

What Andy Foster discovered was that there was no one to stop him from doing what he wanted to do. The lobbyists. The attorneys at Consumer Affairs. The paper pushers. He managed to use the people who thought they were using or controlling him in the first place.

Combined with naked ambition, zero fear of a toothless press corps, and a lack of employee will to file lawsuits and you have a formula that no longer requires UFC or Andy Foster to tip toe around what matters the most to them.

There’s nothing stopping Andy Foster from making 2019 his biggest and most lucrative campaign to date.

Topics: CSAC, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | No Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The public officially delivers a verdict on Jon Jones: He owes nobody nothing, especially UFC

By Zach Arnold | December 27, 2018

Jon Jones told a reporter on Thursday that they sucked for asking why he’s had trouble with multiple drug tests. From his perspective, he understands something that the rest of us don’t really want to accept. The public at large does not care about steroid usage except:

1) if it involves a fighter the public hates or;

2) if the cheating is so sloppy, the PED is garden-variety gym quality, and the doping is performed so recklessly that it’s deserving of mockery

Fail a test for a random steroid and people shrug. Ask for a hall pass for testosterone in order to function like a man once again and the response will be loud.

The verdict is in: Nobody cares

UFC 232 has officially sold out in Inglewood at The Forum. On short notice, ticket sales roared for UFC after relocating the event from Las Vegas to Southern California. Jon Jones is the big ticket. When you’re the big ticket, you run the show.

The fans had an opportunity to send a crystal clear message about USADA’s drug antics. It was a chance to call out UFC for being sleazy. It was a moment to tell Jon Jones that he’s reached rock bottom.

None of those things happened. The fans don’t care about USADA drama. At this point, it’s as relevant to the public as media members talking about each other in profile pieces. UFC financially dodged a big bullet and their gamble paid off to run in California with their quasi-agent Andy Foster providing cover.

(We’ll have more on Andy Foster this Monday. It’s appropriate to give him the proper attention.)

As long as Jon Jones can beat people up, people will care about him. His last fight with Alexander Gustafsson was exceptional. Another exceptional fight will give an extra two years of top-flight momentum. That’s how this works.

The rules of protest

Protesting and fighting only works if there is real or perceived momentum. What momentum is there for regulators and promoters to be scared straight? Zero. Unless Sacramento loses cash, nobody is going to raise the alarm. More shows, more money, more events to be seen at and get camera time.

Want clean sport? USADA was supposed to give you clean sport. Instead, it’s become as polarized as Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into Trump.

What are you going to fight about? What are you going to fight for? The only thing that matters to people is money. Right now, nobody is losing money. You can’t win a battle if someone’s ox isn’t getting gored.

Topics: CSAC, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

UFC called sleazy & embarrassing for moving Jon Jones fight to California (Andy Foster) after Nevada drug test

By Zach Arnold | December 24, 2018

I want to congratulate Jon Jones, attorney Howard Jacobs, and the rest of Jon’s representatives for completely humiliating and embarassing the biggest power brokers in Mixed Martial Arts. In the process of highlighting the legal sketchiness and authority presented under color of law, the biggest-name regulators in combat sports have been absolutely exposed.

Two weeks after the California State Athletic Commission granted Jon Jones a new license after failing a USADA drug test, the same Athletic Commission attempted to use their governmental authority to make Jones enter into business with a private third party entity. Jones and his team wisely rebuffed this administrative demand and called the bluff. It worked.

*****

Update: Dave Meltzer reports Jon Jones has agreed to third-party drug testing. I understand why Team Jones would give in on this given the completely one-sided leverage here and the impromptu fight in California, but it is horribly depressing to see a governmental body violate the law without any consequences whatsoever.

*****

Days later, Nevada said a Jon Jones drug test raised issues and that they wouldn’t license him to fight NYE weekend.

Rather than continue with the Las Vegas card, UFC packed its bags and requested their number one agent Andy Foster (California State Athletic Commission) for permission to run the Forum in Inglewood. He full-throatedly agreed. Nothing illegal about the action but the sleazy treatment of fans and fighters by UFC has created quite a fury.

If there is one lesson I have learned over the years when covering regulators… that lesson is that the public does not care one bit about a regulatory scandal until their ox gets gored. Until fans and fighters lose money, nobody cares about illegalities. Nobody cares about mistakes. Under normal circumstances, Andy Foster and his right-hand man Mark Relyea would have been fired for exposing veteran referee Marcos Rosales to a fighter who supposedly tested positive for HIV.

Nothing has changed (publicly). Nobody has been suspended. Mark Relyea is apparently still on track for getting promoted. He hasn’t had to publicly testify about what happened. His friends and family continue receiving bookings as athletic inspectors for television events. He continues to draw a paycheck of over $40,000 a year.

Things that matter don’t matter to the public until fans start losing money. That is currently happening as we speak. However, in the grand scheme of things, UFC moving the Jon Jones fight to Inglewood won’t hurt them.

What I am significantly more interested in seeing play out is the now public war between California, Nevada, and the other big boy athletic commissions. Nevada finds itself facing some isolation under new UFC ownership. Things were a lot friendlier and cozier under Frank & Lorenzo Fertitta’s control.

Topics: CSAC, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 5 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

California State Athletic Commission doctors meeting over “unwarranted invasion of privacy” of fighter

By Zach Arnold | November 7, 2018


Andy Foster’s right hand man, Mark Relyea

On October 6th, 2018, we published our official letter to the California State Athletic Commission regarding referee Marcos Rosales claiming exposure to an HIV-positive fighter by athletic inspector Mark Relyea and Executive Officer Andy Foster.

When we sent the letter to board members of the Athletic Commission, we were hoping for some sort of response. Private, public, formal, informal. We got no response. Our two month investigation into this story produced documentation that led to us to ask some very serious questions.

At no time have we ever identified the name of the GLORY kickboxer who tested positive for HIV in California. We did this on purpose. While others might be worried about various legal issues in disclosing the fighter’s name, we were and remain more than prepared to fight off any cause of action related to invasion of privacy.

There’s a very important reason we have not disclosed the HIV-positive fighter’s name: the fighter is not our target. The fighter plays a pivotal role in the story but our target are the regulators who allowed a fighter the state of California classified as HIV-positive to compete in GLORY on March 31st.

Our instincts over decades of media experience taught us to immediately expect a re-framing of chief athletic inspector Mark Relyea’s alleged mistake(s) into a media strategy attacking us for victim shaming a fighter.

Four weeks after board members and doctors affiliated with the California State Athletic Commission were mailed our letter on this story, the Sacramento front office posted an official agenda for a November 10th (Saturday) doctors meeting in Los Angeles. Someone at either the Athletic Commission or their bosses at the Department of Consumer Affairs thought the following would be a productive message to send:

CLOSED SESSION

13. Pursuant to Government Code Section 11126(c)(2) the Committee will discuss matters that constitute an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of an individual licensee or applicant.

Unless there has been another incident involving an exposure of HIV or Hepatitis that we don’t know about, there is good reason to believe that this is all about what happened on March 31st at the GLORY event in Long Beach.

The choice of wording here reflects very poorly on whoever made this announcement. Either: a) the doctors are the ones being accused of an “unwarranted” invasion of privacy or b) the doctors are discussing what to do because of the damages claim filed by Marcos Rosales and our subsequent letter addressing what we discovered through public records is now being characterized as an “unwarranted” invasion of privacy.

What’s an unwarranted invasion of privacy is exposing other licensees to a fighter who you claim is HIV-positive and let fight because of your own internal admission of mishandling of medical records by chief athletic inspector Mark Relyea. The Athletic Commission internal memo threw him under the bus ten days after the GLORY show by requiring all inspectors to check in with the Sacramento office on fighter medicals for approvals without changing statutes or the Code of Regulations.

The hush-hush nature of this story was ridiculous to begin with because it didn’t require naming the HIV-positive fighter in order to address the errors that led to what happened. Instead, it’s been cover-up after cover-up. Now that a damages claim has been filed by Marcos Rosales and members of the Athletic Commission board are officially aware of what happened, suddenly it’s time for Sacramento to reframe the matter by deflecting heat from Mark Relyea and Andy Foster and onto the whistleblowers.

A rather novel strategy if you’re trying to keep things quiet.

Topics: CSAC, Media, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

Behind-the-scenes drama heading into GLORY kickboxing’s New York show: champion Pavel Zhuravlev’s future

By Zach Arnold | October 26, 2018

Pavel Zhuravlev is GLORY Kickboxing’s Light Heavyweight interim champ. And now, according to GLORY’s web page, he’s gone?

Update: Nope, but just another listing on the fighter roster. Not ranked. What?

Nearly seven months after fighting at GLORY 52 on March 31st, 2018 in Long Beach, Pavel Zhuravlev finds his name – and his career? – erased from some GLORY promotional material.

***

Update (10/27/2018): Pavel Zhuravlev’s name remains on the site but is not listed in rankings. Why? You have to keep pressing “list more” at least twice to find his name at the bottom of the “All Light Heavyweights” list due to alphabetizing. This is the interim champion and promoted #1 challenger to champion Artem Vakhitov.

***

Zhuravlev is one of GLORY’s most popular, big name fighters. He’s had over 80 professional bouts. Zhuravlev applied for a new license with the California State Athletic Commission in the middle of March 2018. Here’s a screen shot of his California license application:



Click on image to enlarge

Then, something mysterious happened. A public records request reveals that the Athletic Commission put Zhuravlev on an indefinite medical suspension on April 3rd, 2018. Here’s a screen shot from the Association of Boxing Commissions’ MMA fighter suspension database:



Click on image to enlarge

On June 15th, GLORY Kickboxing published an article on their web site claiming that Zhuravlev had suffered a hand injury. GLORY was building up to a champion vs. champion fight between Pavel Zhuravlev and Artem Vakhitov. The great irony is that Vakhitov had been dealing with his own serious hand injury.

The GLORY article stated that Zhuravlev would return to action in Fall of 2018.

Fast-forward to mid-October 2018. Pavel Zhuravlev’s fighter profile and ranking has been removed from the site’s main page. (still here, though.) No acknowledgement of Zhuravlev as the interim Light Heavyweight kickboxing champion on the site’s main page (but still on his profile).

***

Update (10/27/2018): Pavel Zhuravlev’s name remains on the site but is not listed in rankings. Why? You have to keep pressing “list more” at least twice to find his name at the bottom of the “All Light Heavyweights” list due to alphabetizing. This is the interim champion and promoted #1 challenger to champion Artem Vakhitov.

***

What changed between June 15th, 2018 and October 15th, 2018 in the relationship between GLORY kickboxing and Pavel Zhuravlev?

Unless we are not privy to any sort of financial dispute over future bookings… money doesn’t appear to be the main issue.

Unless we are not privy to any sort of matchmaking dispute regarding fights against future opponents… booking doesn’t appear to be the main issue. Zhuravlev has been in 83 fights and won 72 of them. He will fight any challenger.

If money and matchmaking are not the main issues, then why isn’t he fighting Artem Vakhitov in a title match?

This question brings us back to California’s indefinite medical suspension of Pavel Zhuravlev.

On Zhuravlev’s California fighter license application, here is the medical waiver Zhuravlev signed:

I further authorize the Commission or its successors to release any medical or other personal information with respect to my application or licensure to the organizations, individuals or groups listed above as well as additional parties with a vested interest in my current license status with the Commission, including but not limited to my current Manager, a Commission licensed Promoter of an event that I am participating in and to other regulatory bodies. The Commission will release this information only to those individuals, athletic commissions, or similar regulatory bodies that have a need to know, as determined by the Commission. The disclosure of records is required for official use, including investigation of my fitness for licensure by the Commission. I understand that the recipient of my information is not a health plan or health care provider and the released information may no longer be protected by federal privacy regulations.

Not withstanding the many state and Federal legal questions this waiver should naturally illicit…

  1. What has the California State Athletic Commission told GLORY kickboxing about Pavel Zhuravlev’s medical status?
  2. What has Pavel Zhuravlev told GLORY kickboxing about his medical status?

Has somebody been caught deceiving, either through omission of fact or lying about fact(s)?

The bottom line

The promotion is not talking. The California State Athletic Commission is not talking. Pavel Zhuravlev is not talking.

If this was UFC, Top Rank, Golden Boy, Al Haymon, or another major fight promoter, this would be a much bigger story. Instead, the top kickboxing promoter in the world has managed to fly under the radar with this act of revisionist history low-profiling — all while heading into a major New York event.

It’s time for members of the fight media and for other GLORY fighters to start asking questions as to the promotion’s handling of relations with Pavel Zhuravlev and what impact it will have on their own careers.

Topics: CSAC, Media, Zach Arnold | 5 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The “you cannot trash a religion, a nation” edition of UFC 229 brutalized Disney Dana White

By Zach Arnold | October 7, 2018

Dana White wasn’t speaking to me or you in his post-fight UFC 229 presser. The new Disney Dana was busy trying to say the right things to his new bosses at ESPN while throwing a few swear words to keep the street cred up.

And you better know that Dana isn’t a hypocrite when he says he could continue using footage of Conor McGregor attacking other fighters in a bus because, hey, “it’s part of the story.”

Energy is everything in combat sports. It’s a messy business. What’s old becomes new fast and what’s new becomes old even faster. Dana White is moldy, stale bread. He act is beyond tired. Even the sycophantic writers, including Kevin “please text me!” Iole last night, were pointing out Dana’s hypocrisy between the celebration of Conor Debauchery and condemnation of Khabib Khaos.

Khabib Nurmagomedov is as real as it gets. Disney Dana can’t control that in 2018.

Nurmagomedov had his fight purse frozen by the no-longer-special Nevada State Athletic Commission. Bob Bennett is a punching bag. FBI-level integrity for you. Now the cost for upkeep of that FBI-level integrity will be a massive confiscation of cash due to the Athletic Commission no longer being tethered to the state’s general fund.

And to top it all off, since Disney Dana made it a point that Governor Brian Sandoval is mad, Khabib is going to learn that it would be a shame to lose his visa and career… unless, of course, he decides to have a rematch in Las Vegas again.

UFC, at its genuine and deepest core, is crass. Derrick Lewis talking about hot balls and Joe Rogan saying “I understand.” Joe Rogan has supplanted Howard Stern for the career-making and career-killing interview. Ask Elon Musk.

Khabib railing against UFC’s exploitation of racism, religion, and nationalism was as great of a condemnation as it was a fart on America’s First Amendment. I loved the authenticity.

The greatest part of UFC 229 is that even the announcing team of Jon Anik, Joe Rogan, and Dominick Cruz scoffed at the idea of a rematch between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor being competitive. UFC had to leave that hard sell up to Michael Bisping, whose soliloquy on the toughness and integrity of American immigration policy was as close to an old-school 1980s Mid-South “daddy’s going to deport those evil Russians!” promo as you could get.

Khabib Nurmagomedov isn’t the Putin-communicating champion that the UFC deserves. He would have been an even-better fit in the classic Japanese MMA scene.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 11 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Referee Marcos Rosales claims exposure to HIV-positive fighter by athletic inspector Mark Relyea & California boss Andy Foster

By Zach Arnold | October 6, 2018

On October 2nd, we wrote a formal letter to the California State Athletic Commission. View the three-page printer-friendly graphical version here.


Boss of California athletic inspectors & Andy Foster right-hand man Mark Relyea

This letter is in response to our multi-month investigation regarding a damages claim by veteran boxing referee/judge Marcos Rosales. Mr. Rosales claims that fight celebrity/athletic inspector Mark Relyea & California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer Andy Foster exposed him to an HIV-positive fighter at the March 31st, 2018 GLORY Kickboxing event in Long Beach, California. Mr. Rosales claims that the exposure came as a result of Mr. Relyea not properly handling medicals (blood paperwork from an accredited lab).

Last August, we launched an investigation. Our focus? Obtain as many documents as possible and construct a real chain of evidence.

Through a series of records requests, we requested documents on:

  • fighter suspension records
  • licensing applications
  • general test results regarding how many fighters in 2018 have tested positive for HIV/Hepatitis C
  • policy & procedures manual
  • Who’s Who sheets detailing which records the Sacramento front office needed before a fighter could be cleared to fight

These records, in combination with a review of the state’s Business and Professions Code, would tell us a lot.

In the end, we received partial records. Key information was redacted or censored based on disputable claims of invasion of privacy. Our October 2nd letter was in direct response to the redactions and what legal options can be utilized next.

Our letter to the Athletic Commission members is considered protected speech under California Civil Code of Procedure 425.16 (anti-SLAPP). Here is the text of the October 2nd letter.

*****

October 2, 2018

Dear Chairman Carvelli, Vice Chairwoman Lehman, Dr. Williams, and Dr. Wallace:

The exposure of boxing referee Marcos Rosales to an HIV-positive fighter is one of the gravest errors a regulatory body could commit. The gamesmanship displayed by both legal counsel and DCA in the aftermath has been counterproductive. The California State Athletic Commission has repeatedly expressed health and safety as the top priority. However, the actions on March 31st and the public cover-up afterwards are inconsistent with the commission’s stated values.

Business and Professions Code 18712 establishes statutory authority for lead athletic inspectors to properly collect and review lab paperwork. California Code of Regulations 546 requires lead athletic inspectors to review an original or copy of the blood work. A decade ago, case law established liability for the Athletic Commission regarding 18712. Fighting is legally classified as ultrahazardous. The California Judicial Council details two causes of action: Public Entity Liability for Failure to Perform Mandatory Duty and Strict Liability for Ultrahazardous Activities.

The failure of lead athletic inspector Mark Relyea in properly handling a fighter’s medicals resulted in a fighter, corner staff, and referee Marcos Rosales being exposed to an HIV-positive fighter. Since the March 31st, 2018 incident, there has been a push to get the State Personnel Board to re-establish the Chief Athletic Inspector position. The last time there was a rush to hire someone for CAI, Ernest Che Guevara was promoted under dubious circumstances after Antonio Margarito’s illegal hand wraps. Mark Relyea’s critical error, as addressed by Executive Officer Andy Foster internally 10 days after the HIV exposure, should result in mandatory public testimony under oath to the board about the procedures or lack of procedures that led to this HIV exposure. If Mr. Relyea will not publicly testify under oath, the board should consider disqualifying him from future promotion.

Our multi-month investigation has uncovered many facts that have not been disclosed publicly or fully in private to members of the Athletic Commission as a body. Consumer Affairs has pertinent case information available at any time for disclosure. For example, state agencies have a single Policy & Procedures Manual that all employees can reference. The Athletic Commission, however, produced 14 different manuals in a formal records request.

Just as with the discrimination claim filed by various boxing referees, legal counsel denied any sort of existence of a damages claim filed by Marcos Rosales despite admission on the meeting agenda of closed session to discuss pending litigation. What is being hidden from you? Faulty handling of medical records has been addressed in writing. (Memo enclosed).

Regrettably, legal counsel has censored public documents in records requests. Inspectors, promoters, and matchmakers receive detailed Who’s Who sheets before weigh-ins showing which fighters need which records to be produced for clearance. It is a simple yes/no box with the word NEED. There is no detailed medical information about individual fighters. Since both matchmakers and promoters receive Who’s Who sheets, there is no legal basis for an invasion of privacy claim to hide documentation from public viewing.

As a result of redactions in the Who’s Who records request, I have 30 days to file for a writ of mandate in Sacramento Superior Court. Such a request would not only cost me money but would cost the Athletic Commission money in both attorney fees for the Commission and, upon a court victory, my attorney fees.

There are many lessons to be learned from what happened to Marcos Rosales. Censorship and gamesmanship are not the right lessons. Since intentional transmission of HIV is no longer a felony in California, it is vital that Consumer Affairs informs all members of the California State Athletic Commission the truth regarding what happened and what the plans are for future implementation of policy & procedures to prevent future HIV exposure.

You deserve all of the information in this matter. The public also has a right to know. It would be better for that information to come from you rather than the public seeing it in the media.

Sincerely,

Zach Arnold
FightOpinion.com | zarnold9000@gmail.com

Topics: All Topics, CSAC, Media, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Is Jon Jones publicly screwing up his “USADA snitching” defense or is he playing dumb to cover up secret testimony?

By Zach Arnold | October 5, 2018

“Jon Jones denies snitching on anybody in MMA”

A trained attorney would parse that wording as Jon Jones saying that if he snitched on anyone to USADA, it wasn’t MMA fighters but perhaps someone on the periphery.

I’m not willing to give him that much credit. He’s just clumsy and obtuse when it counts the most in mounting any sort of public defense about his character. This is why you hire trained professionals like Howard Jacobs.

Jon Jones has to down play the snitching clause he took advantage of to get a reduced USADA sentence. There are serious issues of civil, let alone possible criminal liability involved. Jeff Novitzky made his bones as a Federal agent weaponing governmental agencies. His fiancee is currently a Federal agent. He has access to individuals who can get the ball rolling at any time for a grand jury. Grand juries can get whatever evidence they want and indict individuals at any time under a cloak of investigational secrecy.

Would you trust risking your personal freedoms in exchange for associating with Jon Jones because of a paycheck?

How much really is at stake

“I definitely didn’t give up any information on anyone in the sport, nor do I know of anybody who’s doing these things in the sport.”

In order to use the USADA snitching clause, Iain Kidd at Bloody Elbow detailed what is required under the “substantial assistance” clause.

If Jon Jones is telling the truth, he’s taking a public dump on Jeff Novitzky and USADA. He’s dumping on their credibility and on the legal viability of private contracts being enforced. Jon Jones has made many dumb decisions but I don’t think he’s dumb enough to fight Jeff Novitzky given that man’s vast Federal resources.

Take note of what “substantial assistance” means:

where the Athlete or other Person has provided Substantial Assistance to USADA or another Anti-Doping Organization, criminal authority or professional disciplinary body

“Criminal authority.”

A criminal authority like a grand jury. Like the DEA. Like Homeland Security. Like the IRS. Guess who investigated steroid pushing while at the IRS? Jeff Novitzky.

“Professional disciplinary body.”

Like an Athletic Commission.

This is what should worry people in the MMA business. You can either lose your freedom or your money. Jon Jones can’t afford to lose either. Which means he is playing a high stakes game of chicken with USADA.

The protected speech loophole

Earlier, I said that I don’t give Jon Jones a lot of credit for how he publicly defends himself. However, he is occasionally smart enough to hire someone like Howard Jacobs to navigate troubled waters.

Any attorney worth their salt would advise a client caught in the USADA bear trap to not utilize the snitching clause without some sort of protection. Why? Because any accusations made directly to USADA or a private entity regarding drug trafficking or usage is not legally protected speech. There’s no litigation privilege whatsoever. Which means you are devastatingly vulnerable to defamation lawsuits, even in states with an anti-SLAPP motion to strike. Since you’re accusing someone of involvement with drugs not to a public agency, your affirmative defenses shrink.

But read what USADA’s “substantial assistance” clause says. If Jon Jones gives testimony to a Federal prosecutor, a grand jury, or an athletic commission, his speech is suddenly legally protected and any defamation lawsuits against him can be stricken. The whole point of anti-SLAPP motions in states like Oregon, California, Nevada, and Texas is to give the public freedom to contact governmental authorities without fear of losing everything.

If Jon Jones is cooperating with USADA with testimony to an entity like a grand jury, he has to play dumb publicly. He can’t admit what his testimony is or who he gave it to.

Bottom line: Here is our hypothesis. I’m willing to give Jon Jones just enough credit to not be stupid to take USADA head-on publicly and put that entity in a position to lose their entire credibility over the utilization of the “snitching” clause. I’m also willing to give Jon Jones’ legal representation enough credit to advise their client not to give any testimony that isn’t legally protected speech.

Which means, in our hypothetical, that the only “safe” avenue for Jon Jones to rat out anyone over drugs in MMA without facing serious legal consequences is through a governmental agency. His speech would be legally protected from civil suits. And the Feds only want the goods. They don’t want their time being wasted. The same with USADA.

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California State Athletic Commission has the power to suspend Victor Ortiz after rape arrest, so will they?

By Zach Arnold | September 25, 2018

Victor Ortiz was arrested on three counts of rape. Bail was set for $100,000.

Ortiz was scheduled to fight John Molina Jr. this Sunday for a Al Haymon show on Fox Sports 1 in Ontario, California.

The situation is a complete and total loss at this point. For all parties involved, having the fight proceed as planned would create an enormous amount of negative publicity. The problem is that fighters fight in order to get paid. Who’s going to make whom whole?

The biggest loser in this situation is the California State Athletic Commission. They really can’t afford to let Sunday’s fight happen. If Ortiz and his camp don’t back down, then Andy Foster will have no choice but to force a showdown. That showdown is thanks to Business and Professions Code 18842:

The commission, the executive officer and other employees duly authorized by the executive officer, shall have the power to suspend temporarily, any license until final determination by the commission when, in his or her opinion, the action is necessary to protect the public welfare or is in the best interest of boxing or martial arts.

The suspension may be without advance hearing, but the suspended licensee may apply to the commission for a hearing on the matter to determine if the suspension should be modified or set aside. The application for a hearing shall be in writing and shall be received by the commission within 30 days after the date of suspension. Upon receipt of such written request, the commission shall set the matter for hearing within 30 days.

“The best interest in boxing or martial arts” is as close to weasel-wording for a moral turpitude licensee clause as you can get. I would expect the Athletic Commission to enforce 18842 to prevent Sunday’s fight from happening.

Topics: Boxing, Media, Zach Arnold | No Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

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