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« | Home | »

Golden groans, rope-a-dope edition, on the denials of California’s regulators

By Zach Arnold | July 1, 2014

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I wanted to share with you three interesting mini-stories that I think will give you a glimpse into the turmoil right now happening with the California State Athletic Commission.

Last week, we wrote about an athletic inspector not paying attention to the trainer/chief second of GLORY kickboxer Gabriel Varga applying vaseline on the fighter’s shoulders after rubbing the petroleum substance on Varga’s head. That’s a no-no in California’s rules. I didn’t name the inspector on purpose, as I figured it was unfortunately enough for those who knew the person and what kind of ridicule there might be.

But I didn’t expect the athletic inspector to out himself on this web site and double-down by challenging me to prove the claims. Here’s Joe Ulrey challenging me to provide further evidence of the observations made.


Here’s a 12 second video clip of Joe Ulrey ignoring everything in front of him

The incident happened during the ring introductions for Gabriel Varga’s second fight on the Spike TV broadcast from the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood. Of course, if Joe had been watching Varga then he would have already known the answer to the question he asked on the site. People make mistakes and as long as you are willing to show the effort to be motivated and improve, then that’s all you can ask for. But when you have athletic inspectors showing up at events and approving shoddy tape jobs on gloves that could perhaps be hiding skinning or you have inspectors ignoring what’s going on right in front of their face on national television, it has to be called out. I called this behavior out on social media last Saturday night during the UFC’s San Antonio show when inspectors were doing anything but watching their own fighters. Same standard applies here.

And here’s a response to today’s article from the athletic inspector in question.

Don’t tug on Superman’s cape. Especially if the cape belongs to a feisty octogenarian like John Frierson, Chairman of the California State Athletic Commission. It’s amazing to see that he picks up on the political shenanigans that others half his age don’t mention at meetings. And last week’s conference call was a brilliant illustration.

A lot of time has been spent by the Athletic Commission body on trying to figure out how to regulate kids pankration. The three main players in the deliberations happen to be the new guard brought on board when Andy Foster came to California: John Carvelli (the point man from Governor Jerry Brown’s office who is a dental lobbyist), Martha Shen-Urquidez (power hungry lawyer who often goes to Southern California fighting events), and former boxer-turned-appeals lawyer Mary Lehman. Those three have exhaustively tried to come up with a plan on what to do on kids pankration. Last week, they decided on moving forward with granting the USFL a year-long delegation to sanction kids pankration events using rules such as no chokes allowed while wearing headgear, mixed gender fights, so on and so forth.

Carvelli, Shen-Urquidez, Lehman, Frierson, and Andy Foster w/ DCA lawyer Spencer Walker and DCA legislative analyst John Perry (runner-up for Executive Officer job to… Andy) were on the call. Dr. Christopher Giza was a no-show. Dr. VanBuren Ross Lemons called in to participate. However, he was told by Spencer that he could not participate because the address he was calling from was not listed on the agenda for the June 26th meeting. Therefore, he got iced out. And John Frierson was absolutely furious that the front office, controlled by Consumer Affairs, did not post the address Dr. Lemons was calling from in order for him to participate. The agenda was posted on June 13th and no edits were made before the June 26th call.

On the merits, Spencer Walker was correct. He likes to flex his legal muscle to impress others. The Ralph M. Brown Act, which I’ve become all too familiar with, doesn’t require commissions to post phone numbers for conference calls if the public wants to listen in. However, the Brown Act does require all participants from a commission or bureau on a conference call to have their address posted so that members of the public can go to the location where the members are calling from if they want to issue a public comment. It’s absurd.

You have to consider the reasons why Frierson got upset about this. He, Lemons, and Giza are on their way out at the end of the year. They’re the old guard and they’re going to be pushed out with Carvelli taking over. Occam’s Razor would lend you to believe that the front office was too lazy or forgot to put Lemons address on the agenda. However, given the outstanding/pending lawsuits against the Athletic Commission, you can understand why certain people would have a very jaundiced, cynical view about DCA’s behavior on these matters.

A game of Survivor

The front office affairs are a mess right now for the Athletic Commission. It’s not the fault of one person. It’s a leadership crisis in general at Consumer Affairs. You either love Sacramento or you really hate the place, especially if you relocated to the area from Atlanta. Andy Foster’s wife, who just gave birth to their first child, is going through a lot in her life right now. Being closer to home would be a comfort. However, there are currently no job vacancies available at the other major athletic commissions. Florida would be the perfect spot but state auditor Cynthia Hefren took the job because she got a big pay raise out of it. With no options available on the table, Andy has to stay in California for now. But what do you do when family wants out of Sacramento?

You allegedly consider relocating to Los Angeles. And it’s not a bad idea, on paper. Most of Andy’s business affairs take place in Southern California: going to shows, training sessions, arbitration hearings. There’s been a lot of travel back and forth from Sacramento to Los Angeles. So, trying to convince Consumer Affairs to let him open up shop at the Bureau of Automotive Repairs or another state building probably isn’t a bad idea. Plus, he could spend more time with Jack Reiss and John McCarthy. But a word of caution: the last man who had an office set-up in Southern California to handle Athletic Commission affairs was Dean Lohuis and when Consumer Affairs decided to turn on him in a big way, they sent their wannabe police officer goons from their internal Division of Investigations. They raided Dean’s computers and trumped up all sorts of false charges. As a result, they had to pay a price for that behavior. The minute Consumer Affairs decides that they’ve had enough of Andy, who would protect him from a DOI invasion if he relocated to Los Angeles?

To summarize: many of the athletic inspectors aren’t following the rules when they know better and have decided to circle the wagons even when there’s video evidence of malfeasance. You have a front office in Sacramento that treats promoters and fighters as if they are the ones doing those parties a favor by answering the phone. You have awkward conference calls that are interminably long and take forever in producing real, consequential action to the most pressing needs on the ground. And now a move may be on the horizon for the Executive Officer from Sacramento. At least when the Nevada State Athletic Commission puts on their dog-and-pony show, they’re organized and speedy.

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

5 Responses to “Golden groans, rope-a-dope edition, on the denials of California’s regulators”

  1. stak says:

    Didn’t see the importance the first time and still don’t get the point of this blog entry. Why make several entries about something literally no one cares about? You’re never going to be able to change minds or get people to care about anything. You would think you would have figured that out by now.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      California and Texas are the two biggest states in terms of activity for combat sports regulation. It’s a largely under-covered field for news & information. It doesn’t have to always be exciting to read but certainly worth documenting, especially when you have regulators off the rails. Has a direct impact on the managers, fighters, and people in the business who make this their profession. Believe me, they care what about is written here.

      I write about all sorts of inside-baseball topics related to combat sports on the site. If I worried about currying SEO favor, I would have decided long ago to post 50 articles per “UFC Fight Night” show.

      • C says:

        As a person who manages fighters, I may not find these articles as entertaining as a mystery novel or a Jim Murray column, but I certainly enjoy reading them because they give me good insight as to what is going on in our industry.
        I understand that fans only care about what’s going on when two guys get in the ring and fight, but all these behind the scenes issues are what enables those fighters to perform and perform at their best. So Zach keep up the GREAT work.
        -C

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    Jose Aldo out of UFC 176. Will the UFC cancel it from being on PPV? Right now the best fight on the card is Mousasi vs. Souza. And there isn’t much beyond that.

    As a former regular UFC PPV buyer, I have only bought 2 of the 6 PPV’s this year, and not one since Lawler/Hendricks.

    And right now they have 2 PPV’s scheduled for August with not one PPV headline announced. Not good.

    Expansion is killing the UFC.

    • edub says:

      He was complaining about pay a week or two ago. Wouldn’t put it past him to use this as a negotiating tactic down the line.

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