By Zach Arnold | January 10, 2013
When Bellator Sport Worldwide LLC has their Spike TV card on January 17th in Irvine, California at the Bren Events Center, there will be a lot of important eyeballs in state politics paying close attention to how well the event does.
Bellator’s 2013 event scheduling calendar makes it clear that California will be a geographical cornerstone for the company, which is news that Sacramento is happy to hear. It means a second MMA player besides the UFC for revenue for a state athletic commission that Andy Foster is trying to rebuild in a big way.
The January 17th show will be important symbolism on multiple levels. On a regulatory level, expect to see some big names working the show (such as Big John McCarthy and Gene LeBell). LeBell, who has not been booked often by Che Guevara, will see a significant increase in profile under Andy Foster’s watch. That’s a good thing. New blood on the judging, officiating, and inspecting level is coming. One promoter, on background, claims that there will be an emphasis in the future to book officials who have actual in-ring fighting experience. The philosophical change will certainly be different than business as usual.
The Bellator 1/17 main card looks like this:
- Michael Chandler vs. Rick Hawn
- Renato Babalu vs. Mikhail Zayats
- Pat Curran vs. Patricio Pitbull
- Seth Petruzelli vs. Jacob Noe
- Emanuel Newton vs. Atanas Djambazov
The success of the Bellator shows in 2013 is a big deal for CSAC. When it comes to revenue from big boxing & MMA events, the revenue is capped at $100,000 per show for the commission. So, CSAC has a real interest in seeing mid-sized promoters do well in the state. The UFC show on 2/23 in Anaheim (Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche) is drawing lukewarm business. One Sacramento source says that the numbers UFC is doing for their show advance are to be expected because of a few reasons: 1) California remains a boxing-first, MMA-second state in terms of fan preference; 2) there’s a lot of MMA shows in California which means that you can sell a fair amount of tickets but not draw as big of gates because your price point has to be lower; 3) the majority of the activity is in Southern California, meaning that the Northern California shows often get second-tier fights as opposed to the major money bouts.
What happens behind-the-scenes at the Bellator show on a CSAC level will give everyone an indication of where things are heading for 2013 politically… and the politics are hot-and-heavy right now in Sacramento.
Multiple sources report that Che Guevara has been on a 30-day leave since last December. These same sources indicate that much of the booking sheets for January & February events are ‘incomplete’ and have many gaps for booking assignments. However, some regular names do appear on the booking sheets. One name that is drawing fire in certain CSAC quarters is the name of Rose Saavedra, a person who works in the office of Dr. Richard Gluckman. Dr. Gluckman is considered a one-stop-shop doctor for fighters looking to get medical tests done so that they can be cleared to fight in the state. The complaints being voiced about Saavedra getting booked as a show inspector has to do with potential conflict-of-interest issues since the inspectors are in charge of the health & safety of fighters. If a person close to a well-known doctor who is doing the medical testing of fighters is acting an inspector, you can understand why there is some scrutiny & concern being voiced.
The future of Che Guevara remains the key question for California combat sports in 2013. Up until now, he has been well-protected and insulated in Sacramento at the Department of Consumer Affairs. This is a man who got his job after DCA chased out Dean Lohuis in a disgusting manner. It was Che Guevara, not Dean Lohuis, who screwed up on the illegal hand-wraps that Antonio Margarito got caught having before his 2009 Staples Center fight against Shane Mosley. And, yet, DCA & the AG’s office (Karen Chappelle) put Che in a position to become the Chief Athletic Inspector. One tool used by DCA against Lohuis in order to establish a power structure of Che Guevara & Bill Douglas was the usage of their internal DOI (Department of Investigation). DOI is DCA’s group of wannabe police officers who don’t legally have the same powers as a typical policeman. However, they are the ones who frequently confiscate computer equipment whenever they want to investigate or pressure someone. DCA is loaded with investigators making over $70,000 a year. They’re stooges. Henchmen. Call them whatever you want.
We mention DOI because multiple sources with knowledge of CSAC affairs has indicated to us that DCA is using DOI to conduct an ass-covering general investigation regarding the way business is being conducted with CSAC. Given DOI’s past behavior and their tactics with individuals like Dean Lohuis, it is interesting to note that individuals who have been questioned by DOI or will be questioned by DOI are advised to have a lawyer present in order to prevent DOI’s Barney Fifes from pulling any stunts which have a whiff of police power.
In the past, we have asked the question as to why so many big wigs in CADEM (the California Democratic Party) are so interested in what is happening with CSAC. It just makes no sense. The state is drowning in billions of dollars of debt and yet CSAC remains a sacred cow to them politically in terms of control & manipulation. While we still don’t have a clear answer as to what the $ motives are, what we are finding out through various document dumps is that the names of individuals involved is extensive & deep in Governor Jerry Brown’s political circle.
According to a September 20th, 2012 letter sent by former CSAC member Mike Munoz to Governor Brown’s office, Munoz spelled out how he and others were not re-appointed to CSAC because they didn’t vote to fire George Dodd at the infamous El Monte, California meeting last June. Munoz named Nettie Sabelhaus as Governor Brown’s political fixer that told him to fire Dodd if he wanted the California state Senate (turf of Darrell Steinberg) to confirm his CSAC appointment. Munoz didn’t vote to fire Dodd and as a result was jettisoned out of CSAC, along with politician-wannabe Linda Forster and Mark Burnett lawyer Brian Edwards.
Nettie Sabelhaus is an important name to surface. She worked for Darrell Steinberg’s Rules committee at the Capitol. Jerry Brown appointed Sacramento lifer Denise Brown to the top of Consumer Affairs. In order to protect Brown’s appointment at DCA, she had to get confirmed in the state Senate. Getting George Dodd, DCA’s whipping boy, out of CSAC was a way to ensure confirmation. Steinberg and Gov. Brown do not always see eye-to-eye, but Brown having a lifetime California fixer like Sabelhaus (who is close to Steinberg) was a way for him to protect Denise Brown and allow DB to appoint her own person to CSAC. In the past, I’ve remarked that you don’t survive Sacramento politics like Denise Brown has since the days of Jimmy Carter unless you are ruthless and know how to have the right connections. We now know the names of who was involved on DCA’s side of the civil war against CSAC.
What about the sunset?
There are some important names in the CADEM power circle who are interested in sunsetting CSAC. However, the safe money appears to be that the Senate’s Business & Professions committee will grant CSAC a continuance since Denise Brown got her man (Andy Foster) appointed.
What makes this scenario fascinating is that there will be some whipping boys at the public hearings. Someone will be scapegoated and excoriated. Will it be Che Guevara? One Capitol source indicates to us that the April hearing will more or less be a cover to push the fraudulent findings from the Bureau of State Audits which claimed that the state never had to pay full-time state employees time-and-a-half pay when working as athletic inspectors. That, of course, is false. The state has to pay full-time state employees time-and-a-half because it’s the law. They can come up with their own legal interpretations and memos, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re too lazy to change the laws and get into a political fight with unions in the state. We mention this situation because a source with knowledge of union affairs has indicated to us that both Federal and state union leaders are now aware of the BSA’s fraudulent findings and are considering putting up a fight on behalf of the inspectors.
The real issue with CSAC’s budget blowing up had to do with the way Che Guevara booked his closest friends & political allies, giving certain individuals inspector gigs where they traveled more than 50 miles to a show. That results in a $18 meal voucher and a hotel room for each show worked. Plus there are the inspectors who want to be featured prominently on television as if they are big stars. Throw in the stories about wet bars for Lemoore shows and DCA management renting Cadillac Escalades to go to a commission meeting and you can pretty much see why things became a total fiasco.
So, you have the exorbitant travel costs. Throw in the fact that most of the inspectors Che favored couldn’t do a box office correctly and you ended up with Sacramento losing up to 7-figures over the last few years in missing revenue.