By Zach Arnold | January 31, 2014
Last October, we wrote an article about the initial study results regarding brain damage in MMA fighters that the Lou Ruvo Cleveland Clinic center in Las Vegas discovered. In short, there is a difference between boxers & MMA fighters as far as what kind of brain damage is suffered. The kind of brain damage MMA fighters are suffering from will have a more immediate impact on speech & cognitive abilities. Given the four ounce gloves currently being used, this should surprise no one.
While the work being done at the Lou Ruvo center is a positive development, it’s also a heavily politicized development. And when it comes to state or federal politics, this is an area MMA writers almost never touch because of fear or a lack of caring.
Next Tuesday (2/4), there will be a presser in Washington D.C. featuring UFC, Viacom, Golden Boy, Top Rank, Harry Reid, and John McCain. Why would all these promoters & different factions get together in a town like Washington D.C. to trumpet the Lou Ruvo Center?
Two cynical possibilities: One, to slow down any political momentum for amending the Ali Act to cover Mixed Martial Arts & kickboxing in the United States. The way UFC has treated Georges St. Pierre is a good example of why the Ali Act should be amended. Two, to make this public presentation (similar to what the NFL has done with concussions) in an attempt to dampen any sort of future liability in the courts from fighters over lawsuits relating to brain damage & testosterone usage.
Don’t believe me when I say Tuesday’s presser will have some political context to it? Take a look at who is on the Lou Ruvo Cleveland Clinic board of directors: Sig Rogich and Lovee Arum, Bob Arum’s wife. Their association with the Lou Ruvo center doesn’t disqualify the research of the doctors. However, when it comes to politics, everyone has their own agenda.
For those who don’t know Sig Rogich’s political history, click here. To make a long story short: Rogich used to work for Ronald Reagan’s White House. He’s been feuding with Roger Ailes over who gets credit for the 1988 “Tank” ad that sunk Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign. He’s the former chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. He runs a major public relations firm in Nevada & Washington D.C. He’s the top political fixer in Nevada. He’s a top conduit for Lorenzo Fertitta (UFC) and Marc Ratner. He and Lorenzo are very close to Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid and helped Reid in his state campaign against Sharron Angle. Rogich also ran parts of John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. McCain was influential for the Ali Act. Rogich also is the founder of the World Series of Fighting, the unofficial bastard child of the UFC & stalking horse for Bellator. Rogich is also currently influential about the political direction of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
In other words, Rogich is the glue guy for all the various political factions. It’s no coincidence that Tuesday’s press conference is in Washington D.C. The UFC has Rogich and lobbyists at their disposal. Rogich has his hands in all the cookie jars.
And it is because the UFC is backing & promoting top fighters using testosterone (anabolic steroids) that major commissions like Nevada, California, and New Jersey are deciding to issue permission slips. Money is a factor in Nevada, as NSAC Chairman Aguilar recently was quoted as saying in an ESPN article. The proliferation of testosterone permission slips is because of the amount of UFC fighters asking for them. Not boxers. Not Bob Arum. Not Golden Boy. This comes from the MMA side of the equation.
And one of the major reasons fighters use testosterone is because of the brain damage they are currently suffering from after concussive blows to the head. The same kind of brain damage that doctors are doing research on at the Lou Ruvo Cleveland Clinic center.
The shell game — nothing has changed
When legitimate doctors working for various athletic commissions made a public statement against testosterone usage in combat sports, it was a cry for help. These doctors are serious professionals but are not the decision makers who are cowering in the face of promoters & fighters who are pushing anabolic steroid usage.
Dave Meltzer & Bryan Alvarez asked if this statement would have any impact on the current mess. The answer is no.
In California, Dr. VanBuren Ross Lemons is ramming through a new testosterone policy a couple of years after Consumer Affairs (with public comment from yours truly) spiked his initial push. The floodgates will open once again in California.
In Nevada, the stage is being set for the politicians to say yes to testosterone while giving political cover to others who can protest but have no power (like Dr. Tim Trainor). This is a classic political party technique where the Whip gathers up enough votes and then allows some vulnerable pols to vote against the party line in order to maintain clout in swing districts. Andre Agassi’s lawyer is now the NSAC Chairman and he apparently will need to take some remedial classes at the Sig Rogich school of PR because he blatantly has come out and said that money will be a serious factor in the decision-making process as to whether or not Vitor Belfort will get a permission slip to use testosterone for his fight against Chris Weidman.
In New Jersey, that commission’s stance on issuing testosterone permission slips remains consistent.
NJ’s position is that they test the testosterone users and that getting rid of the permission slips would force the current anabolic steroid users into the shadows. In other words, the Chael Sonnen argument from a couple of years ago. In the case of Frank Mir fighting in New Jersey with a TUE, he had to go through the state’s testing procedures. Whatever testing Mir underwent in Wisconsin wasn’t just rubber stamped in New Jersey. But the different standards from different states, whether it be on drug testing or the testosterone permission slips, is troubling.
The bottom line? The commissions are political bodies. They do what is in the best financial interests of the political fixers & promoters. If Sig Rogich, Lorenzo Fertitta, Marc Ratner, Dr. Jeff Davidson, and Dana White stopped supporting testosterone-using fighters, this dilemma would shift into the court system where I think fighters would find it rough to make the political & legal argument under the Americans with Disabilities Act that they should have a right to use anabolic steroids in order to fight in a legally-defined ultrahazardous sport like cage fighting.
Until the press is willing to be honest about the politics behind the machinations, then the debate isn’t truly transparent. The silence from the writers about Sig Rogich speaks volumes.