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Ronda melts down the internet; if UFC can’t convince fans of real challengers, then what?

By Zach Arnold | February 28, 2015

A crazy amount of storylines from Saturday’s UFC 184 event at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

First, Brock Lesnar showed up to meet Dana White. Lesnar was reportedly supposed to appear on RAW this past Monday, only to not appear on television. Here’s Lesnar playing off two very powerful businessmen with ease and he’s doing it around Wrestlemania time. WWE has always structured their booking for Wrestlemania. To have such upheavel with their champion heading into the Santa Clara event is remarkable.

There was madness all over the card from top to bottom. Ronda Rousey dispatched of Cat Zingano in 14 seconds, leading ESPN anchors to pontificate if she should be fighting male fighters now. If you thought last year’s malarkey about Ronda fighting Mayweather was scripted PR insanity, the calls now for Ronda vs. male fighters is going to ramp up in a big way. Interesting that ESPN anchor Kevin Connors point-blank asked Chael Sonnen if UFC pulled the wool over the eyes of the public by trying to sell Zingano as a credible challenger to Rousey.

The semi-main event featured the UFC debut of Holly Holm. Before the PPV card started, Dana White remarked that he would expect to see some jitters from Holm and that it may take some time for her to get acclimated to fighting on such a big stage. He couldn’t have been more on point. She’s not ready to fight Ronda at this point in time.

It’s obvious that Cyborg is who Ronda will face in her next big fight, but can Cyborg make weight or will they bite the bullet and fight at a catchweight of 140 pounds? If Cyborg can’t fight until the end of the year against Ronda, who do they match Ronda with on one of their Summer cards?

Addendum: Bethe Correia makes a lot of sense. I’m not sure if the public will buy her as a serious threat even though the heat between her and Rousey is very real. It may not matter now, given that Ronda is reportedly going to film a movie soon.

Interesting headline at Fox Sports: Ronda Rousey is the UFC’s Mike Tyson but that’s not necessarily a good thing

Jake Ellenberger and Roan Carneiro brought the chokes and it was a little scary to see what was done to Mark Munoz. The referee, Jerin Valel, let the choke go on for way too long. He was third-in-line behind the usual hands, Big John McCarthy and Herb Dean. Jason Herzog did not referee on the card.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 22 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

A legislative push to extend the California State Athletic Commission into 2020

By Zach Arnold | February 27, 2015

On Wednesday, California state senator Jerry Hill (D – San Mateo) introduced Senate Bill 469. The bill would extend the life of the California State Athletic Commission by four years. Currently, the Athletic Commission is set to sunset on January 1, 2016. SB469 will extend that sunset date by four years to 2020.

The juxtaposition of this news to what is happening in the pre-trial motions of the Leland Yee case is interesting to watch play out. Yee’s lawyer is reportedly asking for extra time until August before they have to make a final decision on whether or not to play Let’s Make a Deal with the Feds. That trial is/was scheduled for June. One of the allegations the Feds leveled against Yee and his political consultant was the charge of supposed extortion against the Athletic Commission. If Yee roll the dice and heads to trial, the Feds will have to show their evidence regarding these allegations.

In other Athletic Commission-related news, no movement to report in both the Assembly & Senate Budget Act 2015 bills that would increase the spending authority from $1.2 million a year to $1.44 million a year.

On a curious side note, recent lobbying records publicly filed by Zuffa LLC & Station Casinos LLC in Sacramento show both donations & expenditures involving Assemblyman Luis Alejo. Three years ago, Alejo was pushing Assembly Bill 2100 in California. AB 2100 would have allowed MMA fighters to tap into the Boxer’s Pension Fund and would have subjected promoters to regulations regarding adhesive/coercive contracts. AB 2100 predictably died.

As for this weekend’s activities in Southern California, quite the slate with Golden Boy at Fantasy Springs, Invicta, and then UFC at Staples Center. Here’s this Washington Post article: The best fighter in male-dominated MMA might just be a woman. Jake Rossen at ESPN has an article asking whether or not MMA gyms have a sexual harassment problem. He manages to tie in Ronda Rousey’s judo career into the discussion.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

A public service announcement for a California State Athletic Commission survey

By Zach Arnold | February 23, 2015

Dear Valued Stakeholder,

The California State Athletic Commission is beginning the development of its strategic plan for 2016-2019. The Department of Consumer Affairs, SOLID Planning Solutions (SOLID) is assisting the Commission with its strategic planning process.

As a stakeholder involved with the profession, you have an important perspective and stake in the success of the Commission. Your completed survey will provide input as to how the Commission is doing by identifying strengths, challenges, and current trends to consider for the future direction of the Commission.

Thank you for taking time to participate in this short survey. All responses are anonymous. This will allow us to add your feedback to our analysis as we prepare our strategic plan.

SURVEY LINK: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CSAC2016SP

Thank you for participating in this survey. Your valuable input is appreciated by the California Athletic Commission. If you have any questions or additional comments, please contact Ted Evans in SOLID Planning Solutions at (916) 574-8394 or Ted.Evans@dca.ca.gov.

Topics: CSAC, Media, Zach Arnold | No Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Will UFC’s 2015 NYE super fight feature Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar?

By Zach Arnold | February 22, 2015

A proposal so crazy yet so obvious, it just might work a half a decade later. Too bad Frank Mir didn’t call out Brock Lesnar after tagging Bigfoot Silva in Porto Alegre:

Sunday’s fight between Bigfoot Silva and Frank Mir was highly ironic given their… updated… stance on testosterone usage that they declared a few days ago.

There are lots of impactful match-ups for UFC to book this calendar year but Mir/Lesnar still carries more marketing punch than anything on the horizon sans Jon Jones/Anthony Johnson. Stacked cards are valuable but so is veteran star power. Plus, Mir vs. Lesnar is a fight that’s on the edge of UFC Heavyweight importance — neither guy is as good as Werdum or Cain, but they’re good enough to be taken seriously with such a shallow talent pool in the division. Mark Hunt and Roy Nelson are still fighting.

As for UFC’s card Sunday night in Brazil…

A brutal night for the favorites.

Onto Staples Center for Ronda Rousey vs. Cat Zingano. I’m not sure most casual fans know the other fights on the card… Hey, Gleison Tibau is fighting a month after his split decision win in Boston.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

Andy Foster in California doubles down on using anonymous judges for performance reviews

By Zach Arnold | February 21, 2015

First, a summary of events that transpired at the February 18th Los Angeles meeting for the California State Athletic Commission:

Onto the details…

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The devil is in the details for UFC’s new drug policy

By Zach Arnold | February 18, 2015

There were high expectations heading into Wednesday’s Las Vegas presser with Dana White & Lorenzo Fertitta. How would they handle the public relations for all of the recent failed drug tests?

If you listened to Jordan Breen and Greg Savage on Cheap Seats, the expectation games for Wednesday’s presser was very high. Just what exactly would be concretely established by UFC given their history over the last five years with several high-profile fighters using testosterone? Dave Meltzer wrote an article comparing MMA’s drug plague to tackling America’s national debt.

Wednesday’s presser started out horrifically, got better after the first few minutes, and then got muddied with “we haven’t fully determined what the details are” answers in the media Q & A session.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 8 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Law and leadership, not shadow tribunals, is the way to fix bad officiating in California

By Zach Arnold | February 15, 2015

There is a problem with the quality of judging & officiating of certain boxing fights in the state of California. There is a built-in procedure to handle the discipline of referees & judges who have demonstrated a lack of proficiency in performing to the standards of their required job duties:

Call the officials in question to attend a State Athletic Commission meeting. Give them the right to a public, private, or public/private combination hearing regarding their job status. If you’re going to suspend them and/or strip them of their license, you have the Athletic Commission as a whole make that determination.

Here’s what you don’t do if you want to avoid litigation.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, Media, Zach Arnold | No Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Friday news dump: Sacramento tells commission to not give fighters testosterone exemptions

By Zach Arnold | February 13, 2015

There are two intriguing & news-worthy developments happening right now with the California State Athletic Commission and the political bosses that oversee the operation at the Department of Consumer Affairs in Sacramento.

One development is very much welcomed and the other development is very much crap. We’ll address the latter in another article soon forthcoming.

Onto the positive news. Awet Kidane, the big kahuna that oversees the 4,300+ workers at DCA in Sacramento, is now the second DCA boss in a row to tell the Athletic Commission to back off of Dr. VanBuren Ross Lemons’ dream of a Therapeutic Use Exemption policy. Dr. Lemons has repeatedly sold his policy idea as one which would make the process of granting TUEs for fighters needing testosterone as rare and supervised. The counter-argument, which the doctor and others have not been able to generate a response to, is this:

Why should there be a policy to allow any fighter to use testosterone when its a banned substance in the first place?

In April of 2012, we spoke out against the proposed TUE policy. In late 2014, a new push was quietly made to grease the skids to get the TUE proposal passed with a largely hidden 45-day comment period. That period ended on December 15th, 2014. On December 15th, DCA’s number one sent the Athletic Commission a letter stating his formal opposition to implementing any such TUE policy.

Here is the text from that letter, which was released late Friday afternoon:

Dear Chairman Frierson:

[DCA] has great concerns regarding the California State Athletic Commission’s proposed regulations for the establishment of a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) process. I would like to commend the Commission’s thoughtful efforts to craft a fully realized regulatory process. However, serious procedural and policy concerns remain and I urge the Commission to withdraw this proposal and cease moving forward with the establishment of TUEs in California.

Despite the Commission’s best efforts, the proposed regulation still lacks completeness in both transparency and specificity. For example, the regulation is silent on the physical review of the TUE application, a process that must be as transparent as can be made possible. As written, members of the public and licensees are not provided clarity as to whether the application is reviewed by the Medical Advisory Committee, the full Commission, the Executive Officer, or some combination thereof. The proposal also does not specify if the application, and the review of it, would be made public or kept confidential. Additionally, there is language that indicates retroactive exemptions could be made possible, and this is simply unacceptable given the gravity and history of this subject.

More importantly, the need for this regulation proposal has yet to be justified. This is particularly true provided that existing law already grants the strongest protection for our licensees by prohibiting the use of forbidden substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. This regulation exposes licensees of the Commission to unnecessary risk that goes above and beyond those inherent in their chosen profession. The risk that is taken by allowing licensees of the Commission to use, among other substances, synthetic testosterone, is extraordinary. This raises numerous concerns, not the least of which is that the opponent of any fighter with an exemption for the steroid could be at a dangerous disadvantage to someone who has been training, and is performing, with the help of that substance.

Fighter safety would be jeopardized in more ways than it would be protected, which is why states like Nevada have placed outright bans on TUE’s, and the Association of Ringside Physicians, “supports the general elimination of [TUEs] for [TRT].” By following Nevada’s example of not allowing any exemptions, and preserving the restrictions in existing law, the Commission will send the strongest message possible which is that our athletes will continue to compete on an even playing field and in a manner that will not jeopardize their health and safety. Ultimately, this demonstrates the Commission’s commitment to upholding its mission statement by ensuring the health, safety and welfare of the participants in regulated competitive sporting events in California.

For this reasons I reiterate my encouragement that the Commission not move forward with the adoption of proposed section 424. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your proposed rulemaking. If you have any questions, please contact Christine Lally, Deputy Director for Board and Bureau Relations at 916-574-8200.

Sincerely,

Awet Kidane, Director
Department of Consumer Affairs

cc:
Reginald Fair, Deputy Secretary, Legislation, Business Consumer Services and Housing Agency
Christine Lally, Deputy Director for Board and Bureau Relations
Melinda McClain, Deputy Director for Division of Legislative and Policy Review
Andy Foster, Executive Officer, California State Athletic Commission

If Dr. Lemons wants to save his TUE proposal, he will have to whip the other votes and I’m very skeptical that he will be able to do so at this point in time.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

The quick & dirty on any changes coming to California State Athletic Commission board

By Zach Arnold | February 4, 2015

The terms of California State Athletic Commission board members Dr. Christopher Giza, Dr. VanBuren Ross Lemons, and John Frierson expired on January 1st, 2015. Dr. Giza’s spot on the board is a Governor’s appointment. Dr. Lemons’ spot on the board is a state Senate Rules Committee appointment. Mr. Frierson’s spot on the board is an appointment from the Speaker of the Assembly.

The next meeting for the Athletic Commission is on February 18th in Los Angeles.

According to California Government Code section 1774, Governor Jerry Brown has up to 90 days to attempt to get Dr. Giza, Dr. Lemons, and/or Mr. Frierson reappointed to the Athletic Commission board. Any reappointments would have to be approved by the state legislature. If an incumbent is not reappointed within the 90 days after their term initially expired, then that incumbent’s seat becomes vacant.

In short, the February 18th meeting in Los Angeles could be the last CSAC meeting for Dr. Giza, Dr. Lemons, and/or Mr. Frierson unless Governor Brown decides within the next month (or two) to keep them around for a few more years.

If the Governor decides to reappoint any of the three incumbents, they are still subject to confirmation in the legislature. If the legislature gives their blessing, then the incumbents will be granted full terms again.

If the legislature doesn’t give their blessing, the incumbents will have to give up their seat a year from the date of reappointment.

Topics: CSAC, Media, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

UFC 183’s double drug testing failures leads us to ask these basic questions…

By Zach Arnold | February 3, 2015

Anderson Silva reportedly tested positive for two different kinds of steroids on a January 9th Nevada State Athletic Commission-administered drug test. Silva fought Nick Diaz this past weekend in Las Vegas.

First question: Why are fighters allowed to fight if they fail a pre-fight drug test?

Second series of questions: If the Nevada State Athletic Commission is doing pre-fight drug testing of fighters, are they receiving the results of such drug tests before the fight actually occurs? If not, what is the point of doing pre-fight drug testing? What is the purpose of pre-fight drug testing other than to catch fighters doping and suspend them before they fight while allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs?

As for where this leaves Silva’s future career prospects, is a fight with Chris Weidman officially off the table? Is the only fight left for Silva, at this point in time, a not-as-dreamy-as-used-to-be super fight with Georges St. Pierre?

Silva was also reportedly not the only fighter to fail a drug test. Nick Diaz allegedly failed a Nevada State Athletic Commission post-fight drug test for… marijuana. Last week, we asked the following questions on Twitter:

Additionally, what is the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s future stance going to be regarding testing fighters for cocaine like they did with Jon Jones? Is it going to be the official position of the Commission that cocaine is a performance-enhancing drug? If not, why continue to test for cocaine metabolites in the future? If cocaine is considered a PED, why hasn’t Jon Jones been formally suspended?

Addendum

I knew Anderson Silva was quite the popular fellow, but the general sports media decided to cover his positive drug test as a big deal. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports is calling for Anderson’s retirement.

Anderson Silva is proclaiming his innocence for the positive drug test result. He’s proclaiming his innocence via Dr. Marcio Tannure, who also happens to be the doctor for Brazil’s MMA commission.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 22 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Your 2014 California State Athletic Commission salary figures

By Zach Arnold | February 2, 2015

Tax records courtesy of The Sacramento Bee:

The lawyers:

Doreathea Johnson (DCA deputy legal advisor) – $144,000
Spencer Walker (DCA top lawyer) – $119,000

The front office:

Andy Foster (Executive Officer) – $91,600
Sophia Cornejo (Assistant Executive Officer) – $71,500
Heather Jackson – $37,600

Athletic Inspectors

Mark Relyea – $39,200
Larry Ervin – $16,700
Dave Rasmussen – $12,900
Raul Oseguera – $11,600
Nichole Bowles – $11,000
Robert F Judge – $10,800
Rick Estrada – $9,400
Brett Correia – $7,950
Brian Morris – $7,860
Rudy Barragan – $6,560
Mike Guzman – $5,680
Joe Ulrey – $5,300
Armando Gutierrez – $4,390
Roy Farhi – $4,080
Burton E Alejandre – $4,000
Jim Russell – $3,840
Derek Enns – $3,670
Chris Crail – $3,190
Sacory Dillard (detective at Pechanga?) – $3,150
Joe Borrielli – $2,760
Danny Cruz – $2,600
Anthony Olivas (now fired) – $2,560
Louis Perry (private investigator) – $2,340
Gene Fields – $2,290
Dwayne Woodard – $2,240
David Pereda – $2,170
Frank Gonzales – $2,040
Sean Wells – $1,900
Ivan Guillermo – $1,850
Hanley Chan – $1,850
Ernesto Martinez – $1,830
Armando Melendez – $1,740
Steve (taxman) Sims – $1,670
John Tohill – $1,450
Gil Urbano – $1,450
Carlos Moreno – $1,060
Derik Lipe – $920
Bruce Rasmussen – $915
Gil Martinez – $770
Brad Ehrman – $710
Lily Galvez – $656
Monica Larson – $640
JD Foreman – $628
Tim Huff – $598
Kurt Larson – $578
Mike Bray – $573
Sarah Waklee – $544
John (Juanito) Ibarra – $506
Kevin Highbaugh – $493
Greg Fajardo – $411
Jeffrey Ervin – $400
Michael Diego – $369
Brad Landon – $263
Erin Brown – $150
Rose Saavedra – $134

TOTAL – $215,328

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 28 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

No more Chris Weidman fight at Staples Center and… no more Anderson Silva?

By Zach Arnold | January 31, 2015

Wanderlei Silva said it was “worse than WWE.” Anderson Silva cried after winning the UFC 183 main event fight with Nick Diaz by unanimous decision.

Heading into Saturday night’s fight, there was some murmuring that Nick Diaz was having a challenging training camp. Of course, there were rumors about Anderson Silva’s possibly-challenging training camp as well. Two rusty fighters put right back in the spotlight. The end result was no surprise. It probably will come as no surprise that Anderson Silva doesn’t look ready to fight Chris Weidman any time soon.

Chris Weidman isn’t ready for Chris Weidman to fight any time soon, either. With his fight against Vitor Belfort off the Staples Center card in late February, Ronda Rousey vs. Cat Zingano is the main event. There were high hopes & expectations heading into the Los Angeles event, as it has been rumored that over 10,000 tickets were sold for the event. With a new main event, it will be interesting to see if there are a substantial amount of refunds or if Ronda can cement her status as a true marketing ace for UFC.

Saturday night’s UFC 183 card wrapped up a pretty successful January campaign for Zuffa:

Despite the mostly good news for UFC coming out of January’s events, the respectable Iain Kidd at Bloody Elbow claims there is evidence of long-term concerns with UFC’s PPV model. There remains a great debate as to whether or not the WWE Network business model (now claiming 1 million served) is the way to go and that PPV is on its way out. I remain skeptical on any sky-is-falling claims about PPV as a dying business model. If you have fighters who the general public view as stars, you’re going to sell PPVs whether it’s on cable/satellite or the internet.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 21 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

A start to UFC’s 2015 event campaign that has played out beyond wildest expectations

By Zach Arnold | January 26, 2015

UFC’s luck and planning has gone swimmingly so far in 2015. Sure, they’ve caught a few breaks along the way, but it’s a hell of a turnaround from the last couple of years. They just better pray that injuries don’t derail this current gravy train. Conor McGregor is now a full-blown ace. They just better hope that Jose Aldo doesn’t destroy him.

Somehow, they’ve managed to turn the Jon Jones cocaine fiasco into a marketing ploy. Did UFC & Fox intend of creating a campaign to make Jones more sympathetic? I don’t think it’s possible to make Jon Jones a sympathetic figure, but you can certainly sell the fact that he’s as flawed outside the cage as he is perfect inside the cage.

Unless Nevada’s athletic commission was going to suspend a fighter for cocaine usage, I never understood why they tested for it in the first place. Either it’s performance enhancing or its not. The message sent to the general public is that it’s not performance enhancing. For most fight fans, fighters engaging in recreational non-steroid drug usage isn’t a big deal. Jones won in dominating fashion over Cormier and became a GSP-level star in terms of power of attracting the attention of the general sports fan.

Faced with a choice of either Alexander Gustafsson or Rumble Johnson as the next challenger for Jon Jones, both guys presented interesting challenges for Jones and still do. Headbutt or not, Rumble blasted Gustafsson on home soil and has managed to go from WSOF guy to UFC title contender within a year. His personal life has had its ups-and-downs but I don’t really expect many fans to walk away from watching JJ/Rumble at all.

Gustafsson was and is JJ’s kryptonite due to his size advantage. That won’t go away any time soon. You have to feel bad for the guy given that he probably should have gotten an automatic re-match against Jones. Instead, he’ll have to face Daniel Cormier in a very difficult fight. For UFC, it’s a lot easier to sell a JJ/Gustafsson rematch in terms of competitiveness than a JJ/Cormier fight.

Who knows what may pop up in the news between Jones and Johnson as far as personal matters are concerned but marketing the fight itself is going to be a ridiculously easy sell no matter how much Jones is favored to win.

You have to think that Anderson Silva vs. Nick Diaz this coming weekend will draw well on PPV. Then again, my expectations of drawing well are around 400,000 buys. Anything over that is gravy. Nick’s a 3-to-1 underdog but he attracts fans that other fighters do not. Plus, there’s the intrigue of how Anderson Silva will look and whether or not he can still take hard punches. Will Nick be able to put together a myriad of punches to soften him up and get the proverbial kill shot? Unless Anderson clowns around or rides the Condit bicycle for five rounds, this should be a fun fight to watch.

After the Vegas show, you’re looking at Ronda Rousey doing her thing at the Staples Center in late February. Business is reportedly excellent for that event.

As if things couldn’t look rosier to start this year’s UFC campaign, they ended up with the biggest better-late-than-never Christmas gift in New York state Assembly boss Sheldon Silver getting arrested and now divesting his leadership role to a committee of five hand-picked pols. As the Feds continue to push against Silver, the door will open for MMA legislation to actually get passed in the state. UFC running at Madison Square Garden in 2015 would fulfill one of the company’s biggest dreams. It would also make their current lawsuit in New York all but a moot exercise.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 20 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

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