By Zach Arnold | October 9, 2008
LA Times report and San Jose Mercury News report. Additionally, posts at MMA Convert and MMA Opinion. Steve Barry’s article at MMA Convert catches Jeremy Lappen supposedly changing his story on the bonus structure of Elite XC contracts.
I’m not bullish on anything happening here as far as a positive outcome in this ‘investigation’ is concerned. It will be the standard, “We didn’t manipulate the fight” response from Elite XC, the Florida commission will probably go along with it, and then we’re all supposed to hope this thing goes away and vanishes forever.
The credibility of this whole investigation boils down to one question — does the Florida Boxing Commission think that promoters telling MMA fighters to do ’stand up’ fights constitutes an ethical breach in the sport? Based on previous Commission answers in media reports, the answer so far appears to be ‘no.’ If the FBC thinks there’s no ethical breach, then this ‘investigation’ is meaningless. If the FBC thinks it is a breach (and Gary Shaw has more than given them ammunition based on his comments to The LA Times), then this investigation might actually go somewhere.
Let me be very clear here with my opinion on this matter — telling fighters to ’stand up’ for fights is manipulating a fight. Gary Shaw is on record as saying that it’s not unethical to do this in MMA. You can spin this 5 million ways if you would like to that this kind of policy is not ‘fixing’ fights, so let me suggest the following… Go up to one of the major MMA bettors in Las Vegas and try to tell them with a straight face that a promoter suggesting or ordering a fighter to do a ’stand-up’ fight in MMA is somehow not manipulating the outcome of a bout. You will be promptly laughed at.
In addition to focusing on the concept of promoters being able to tell MMA fighters to do ’stand-up’ fights, there’s also the concept of certain fighters having specific bonuses (a “KO” bonus but not a “submission” bonus) but not all fighters getting this bonus option. The idea that certain fighters are given certain type of fight-performance bonuses without that information being publicly disclosed is a questionable practice, in my opinion. Don’t think gamblers wouldn’t like to know which fighters have or don’t have “KO bonus” provisions in their contracts? A selective bonus structure like this could certainly influence the way fighters compete at fight events, and it’s the kind of information that could certainly sway how much money is bet on a fight and who it is being bet on in Vegas. This bonus structure is not similar to UFC’s bonus structure because the UFC awards bonuses for best KO, best submission, fight of the night, etc. after each fight event. In other words, the promotion is not approaching certain fighters with certain types of bonuses that could persuade a fighter to change their behavior.
Can’t keep a straight story in public
Let’s focus in quickly on a point that Steve Barry raised at MMA Convert. Jeremy Lappen told Josh Gross of Sports Illustrated the following on Wednesday:
Petruzelli (10-4) said he received an additional $20,000 to $30,000 for the short right hand that snapped Slice’s jaw after 14 seconds into the main-event fight. While EliteXC Fight Operations Chief, Jeremy Lappen, declined to discuss a dollar amount, he confirmed the presence of a guaranteed knockout bonus in Petruzelli’s revised fight contract, which also included a higher purse for the trouble of fighting Slice.
EliteXC, it seems, does not view submissions, widely thought of as the most technical aspect of MMA, as an overly important portion of an exciting fight.
“We don’t give submission bonuses,” Lappen said. But Petruzelli “knew a knockout bonus was possible before the fight.”
Now, take a look at what Lappen said to Franklin McNeil of ESPN & The Newark Star-Ledger on Thursday:
“We offered Seth Petruzelli a knockout bonus, a submission bonus and “fight of the night” bonus. If we were trying to influence the fight, why would we do that?
You just got caught contradicting yourself, Mr. Lappen, by your own conflicting statements within the timespan of 48 hours. What conclusion am I supposed to come up with by reading these two articles and these two entirely different, contrasting statements? You are part of corporate management in Pro Elite, which runs Elite XC. Pro Elite is a publicly-traded company that, in theory, is supposed to be more scrutinized in terms of business activity than a privately-operated business. Could Pro Elite be investigated by an entity for this scandal outside of the Florida Boxing Commission?
The most damaging aspect about this scandal involving Elite XC is that the parties involved have made conflicting statement after conflicting statement publicly. It’s all documented and on the record. This isn’t some anonymous blog site posting rumors involving hearsay. It’s quotes directly involving Petruzelli, Lappen, and the Shaws. None of them have a similar story and all the Florida Boxing Commission has to do is read the major MMA web sites to find out the sourcing of all of these quotes (whether it be from radio interviews, newspaper articles, or press release statements.) That’s what makes this case so damning for Elite XC — every time they’ve tried to respond and deny an allegation, they end up conflicting their past statements in the media with new statements that go against what they said in the first place.
There are plenty of questions that can and should be raised in an investigation, but I suspect that few if any will actually be asked or if anyone in Elite XC will be heavily scrutinized on this front. (Again, this is my personal opinion.)
If you’re wondering about my skepticism in regards to this investigation, this article might explain my feelings a little bit.
Speaking of Pro Elite, here’s their latest SEC filing in regards to the role CBS played financially in last Saturday’s event in Florida.
Just who is potentially affected by this Elite XC scandal?
- The sportsbooks and MMA bettors in Las Vegas. If Las Vegas thinks that fights are being fixed or manipulated, are they going to want to put any betting lines on the board for the public to place bets on? Maintaining the utmost credibility when it comes to fights in the United States is a major deal. That’s why fixing a fight or bribing a fight to manipulate the potential outcome of a fight is a felony and gets you jail time.
- The stockholders of Pro Elite. Investors in Pro Elite cannot be happy right now, both with the current financial numbers the company has produced in 10k filings and also with this current scandal. An investigation into the company’s activity based on this scandal could be bad news for company management.
- The MMA industry as a whole, particularly UFC. There are people inside the MMA industry who have spent their entire lives trying to build this sport up, only to now see the sport get a black eye because of the Kimbo Slice situation. Dana White justifiably should be upset with what is going on here. A match fixing or manipulating scandal could do legitimate damage to the credibility of Mixed Martial Arts in the United States.
- The fans. There are plenty of boxing fans who now watch MMA because it’s a more exciting product. The last thing this business needs is boxing-style corruption seeping into this young, fresh industry that is gaining more and more steam. Fans deserve true, legitimate outcomes to fights.
How do you think CBS would feel about an SEC investigation into Pro Elite, given the amount of money that CBS has put into the company so far? It doesn’t matter if the amount of money is peanuts for CBS, the fact is that they put money into the company.
- The Elite XC PR disaster continues, even with the wrong focus on the scandal
- Bad news for Elite XC — big media outlets focus on the Kimbo/Petruzelli stand-up scandal
- How about that good PR for Elite XC?
- We want real answers, not fanboy interviewing questions
- Report: Ken Shamrock was going to be ‘paid to stand with him as well’
- The PR spin on the Seth Petruzelli/Kimbo Slice situation
- Can Elite XC management be prosecuted for this?