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UFC’s Nate Diaz running into Nevada conflict of interest buzzsaw in punishment hearing

By Zach Arnold | October 14, 2016

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Athletic Commission boards across the country are a bizarre mixture of business and politics. Nevada’s athletic commission board is no different. Francisco Aguilar, former Chairman, is an attorney for Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf. Anthony Marnell is a casino owner who filed for a marijuana license despite the Gaming Commission warning him to back off. Marnell got his marijuana license. And Nick Diaz became a Nevada whipping boy.

The most interesting character on the Athletic Commission, however, is long-time board member Pat Lundvall.

Pat Lundvall loves the show trial aspect of Nevada State Athletic Commission meetings. She’s been an attorney for nearly three decades. It’s a chance to flex power against those with limited power (at best) in an administrative civil hearing.

Lundvall hammered Conor McGregor over his water bottle throwing incident with Nate Diaz at the UFC pre-fight press conference before their re-match in Las Vegas. She pushed for a $150,000 fine (turned into $75,000) plus 50 hours of community service plus McGregor’s involving in filming an anti-bullying PSA (public service announcement). The Attorney General’s office had recommended a $25,000 fine and 25 hours of community service.

After the state of Nevada removed the state Athletic Commission from general funding, the AC has had to shift to self-financing & budgeting mode like every other athletic commission. The result has been an aggressive money-grabbing campaign against licensees. There has been a direct campaign to force licensees into “plea agreements” containing the word “guilty” instead of liable.

Given the Attorney General’s office recommendation of a $25,000 fine for Conor McGregor, a question had to be asked: did Conor McGregor turn down a plea deal with the AG’s office? We may now know the answer to this question: he may have not been given the chance to do so.

According to a charging document obtained by Erik Magraken, Nate Diaz has been summoned to meet the Athletic Commission. That charging document does not specify a punishment, therefore forcing Diaz to appear rather than accept a “plea agreement”:

Facing no other options, Nate Diaz’s team is going to throw themselves to the mercy of Pat Lundvall and the Athletic Commission board. There’s also another good reason Nate Diaz shouldn’t fight Pat Lundvall: she’s representing California’s Franchise Tax Board in the state of Nevada in a famous lawsuit filed by inventor Gilbert Hyatt. Hyatt, an inventor who moved from California to Nevada to avoid paying state income tax, was audited aggressively by California’s tax collectors for alleged unpaid taxes. The state claimed he owed $7.4 million and now that amount has ballooned up to $55 million in penalties. Hyatt and California ended up going all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said Hyatt had the right to sue the state agency in Nevada but that his damages would be capped to $50,000. The attorney representing California in that lawsuit is… Pat Lundvall.

Which brings us to the possible conflict of interest. Pat Lundvall’s client is California’s tax agency. She will be overseeing a disciplinary hearing involving Nate Diaz in Nevada. Nate Diaz’s brother, Nick, famously said after UFC 158 that he hadn’t paid his taxes and that he would probably go to jail over it. This forced Cesar Gracie to go public and say that Nick had paid $100,000 in taxes over the last two years. Jonathan Tweedale was quoted as saying that Cesar had supposedly not taken care of Nick’s tax issues.

If the California Franchise Tax Board has audited either brother in the past ten years, that should raise a warning flag over Pat Lundvall’s ability to give a fair and impartial hearing to Nate Diaz given who her legal client is. Nate Diaz, unfortunately, has no choice but to tread lightly and roll over when he faces the Nevada State Athletic Commission for punishment over the water bottle throwing incident.

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