Florida’s commission jacks up prices, approves faulty rings, allows a transgender fighter to compete in women’s MMA tournament
By Zach Arnold | March 5, 2013
Keeping disgraced wife of former boss Tom Molloy, Jami Alise (McClellan) Molloy, and Molloy’s lifer-since-1985 assistant Christa Patterson on Florida state payroll? Check.
Putting a state auditor, Cynthia Hefren, with no combat sports experience into the role of running Florida’s commission? Check. Paying her an average of over $2,000 per show for a calendar year? Check.
Putting a Molloy-favored pro-boxing, anti-MMA referee (Frank Gentile) with no real world management qualifications in position of handling Hefren’s business at fight shows? Check.
Putting fighters like Valentijn Overeem in a ring deemed by the commission to be faulty & lacking in structural integrity, leading to accidental falls outside the ring? Check.
Allowing a transgender fighter named Fallon Fox (SI story here) to fight in a women’s MMA tournament without checking her medical records for themselves? Check.
On her application, a copy of which was provided to SI.com, Fox stated that she held an MMA combatant’s license issued in 2013 by the California State Athletic Commission. However, CSAC Executive Director Andy Foster confirmed that Fox’s application for licensure was still under review, though the fighter and her manager, Brett Atchley, believed she had received notice of her licensure in the mail in late February. Licensure secured in other jurisdictions — particularly in a key state like California — can weigh heavily on a regulatory body’s review of a new applicant’s information.
In addition, Fox admits she did not disclose her transgender history, and presumably the pertaining medical documents that would have accompanied her Florida application, because she was not asked to.
“CSAC staff handled this without notifying me of the unusual circumstances,” said Foster. “Because this is the first of its kind situation, this matter should have been referred to me for review under the commission’s medical review panel, which ultimately makes a decision in how to proceed in a case like this. I’m taking appropriate actions to make sure this protocol is followed next time.”
(Read the comments section of this article to see the criticism directed towards me on this point.)
The Florida promoter wants Fallon Fox to continue fighting in his women’s tournament. Memo to Florida promoter: if Ericka Newsome, the female KO’d by Fox, didn’t know she was fighting someone of transgender status… then the promoter should be concerned about getting his ass sued in court (along with Florida’s commission).
It’s time for Florida DBPR nitwits Ken Lawson and Tim Vaccaro to save their sorry asses by firing the sorry asses of Frank Gentile & Cynthia Hefren instead of being cowards and keeping them on state payroll.
Killing the club circuit in Florida
It’s the classic scenario you get when you put a pencil-pusher auditor in a position of running a combat sports commission. Instead of recruiting promoters to run shows in the state, you jack up the licensing rates and hope that the rates combined with state budget money gets the books back in the black rather than actually growing activity of boxing & MMA in the state.
The state, which drew 50 shows for a calendar year, is on pace to draw about 40 events this year. They’re not in the same league as New Jersey, Nevada, Texas, or California in terms of activity — and yet they are now going to charge licensing prices that you would see in those states.
Ring Announcer – California: no charge, Florida: $100
Booking Agent – California: no charge, cno, Florida: $100
Judge – California: $150, Florida: $100
Manager – California: $150, Florida: $100
Matchmaker – California: $200, Florida: $250 (asst. matchmakers $200)
Participant – California: $60, Florida: $100
Physician – California: no charge, Florida: $100
Promoter – California: $1,000 fee for unlimited amount of shows, Florida: $250
Referee – California: $150, Florida: $100
Rep of booking agent – California: no charge, Florida: $100
Second – California: $50, Florida: $100
Timekeeper – California: $50, Florida: $100
Trainer – California: $50, Florida: $100
Concessionaire – California: $0, Florida: $100 (plus cut of revenue)
By jacking up the prices, the bean counters are killing off any hope of a club show scene in the state. It means fighters will have to fight on tribal land or out of state rather than becoming stars in their home state. The excuse has long been that Florida is an “event-only” state where big names sell but the club shows don’t. Well, you can’t have a grassroots scene if you choke the golden goose and force promoters out. Florida is a state with 10 different media markets and millions of tourists visiting each year. This should not be hard in terms of getting a genuine grassroots scene going. Instead, you can throw that out of the window with the new licensing costs.
We all know what the zero sum game here is for Cynthia Hefren: get the books to look profitable rather than improve the actual health of the combat sports scene in Florida, get out of dodge and get a raise to work another job for the state of Florida and use the commission as résumé enhancement.
Unfortunately for Hefren, the following stains on her watch are anything but résumé enhancements.
Ruling a fight a no-contest for a faulty ring used by other fighters
There was an event at the BankUnited Center at the University of Miami (Coral Gables campus) on February 23rd under the banner of S1, which is some sort of hybrid stand-up MMA with-no-ground-game deal. Florida allows these kinds of weird events to happen often, which is another story in and of itself. The Florida commission classified it as a kickboxing show.
The main event featured Valentijn Overeem vs. James Wilson.
Both Overeem and Wilson fell out of the ring once. Then there was another accident. As you can see from the photo, the ropes were so loose and low that it was only natural an accident would happen.
The scandal here, of course, is that the show was even allowed to go on with a ring that was deemed to be lacking in structural integrity. Rather than stop the show from taking place and getting a new ring, the show went on and the main event putting the two combatants at risk for serious injury. Sending a third-rate PR flack to the Tallahassee Democrat or Miami Herald and saying there will be “an investigation” is utter BS. Gentile & Hefren didn’t do their jobs in putting a stop to the show and put the fighters in a (legally-defined) ultrahazardous sport in serious risk. It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen and the fighters would be in their rights to sue the state for allowing this circus to go on.
Allowing a transgender fight to fight women without checking medical records
Florida’s record under the disgraced Tom Molloy for checking up on medical suspensions and records from other states speaks for itself. It was professional malpractice. Well, the malpractice is continuing in the state of Florida.
Not doing basic due diligence on medical records for a fighter has now put Florida in a shameful position. They let a transgender fighter KO a woman. Even if Florida’s excuse here is that the fighter in question (Fallon Fox) didn’t list transgender status on licensing paperwork, that doesn’t excuse the fact that Hefren & Gentile didn’t bother checking medical paperwork. Gentile was at the weigh-ins for the show last Friday in Miami. There are no excuses. Just like the ring situation with Valentijn Overeem and James Wilson, Florida’s commission put the health & safety of fighters at risk by not doing their jobs as professionals.
Someone could get paralyzed or killed by their actions. If the trajectory of BS doesn’t change, it will be sooner rather than later.