Trump card: In scorching critics, UFC management burns Gannett/USA Today & stokes Reebok dumpster fire
By Zach Arnold | July 24, 2015
When you’re running the Rolls Royce of MMA operations but your behavior is as goofy as the XFL, it’s easy to see why you get called too cheap and too petty when you disown the people who helped make your company what it is today.
The UFC/Reebok six year, $70 million deal was a clunker in principle and has produced predictably disastrous results in execution. In and of itself, UFC making independent contractors wear uniforms while killing off their sponsorship money was ludicrous, greedy, and unnecessary — especially during a time when the company is dealing with an anti-trust lawsuit.
In the process, Reebok has drawn unprecedented level of scorn from fight fans for decisions that UFC management has made before and after the Reebok deal. The wrath of anger has been directed towards the wrong entity. However, Reebok is the sitting duck because they’re the business partner that decided to work with UFC. After the firing of Stitch Duran over his comments about cut men losing sponsorship revenue due to the Reebok uniforms, Reebok found itself on the defensive:
UFC fans: We have no input on decisions of UFC employment or fighter compensation. Our focus is providing the best gear for fighters & fans.
— Reebok (@Reebok) July 22, 2015
The anger online has been palpable – canceling Fight Pass subscriptions, threatening to boycott lower-level UFC PPVs, and direct fire aimed right at UFC’s designated lightning rod Dana White.
When you have a raging dumpster fire burning out of control, you don’t pour more lighter fluid on the dumpster fire. However, this is the only way Dana White knows how to conduct & defend business decisions in public.
Dana’s response to the Reebok & Stitch Duran criticism has been typically childish. USA Today, a content partner with MMA Junkie, took notice of Dana’s online behavior.
Furious, White trashed his own business partner and outed their relationship:
— NavyekMMA (@NavyekMMA) July 24, 2015
“u know its a bad news day when USA Today does a story about my Twitter. About time they covered us without being paid @USATODAY”
It’s one thing to pick a fight with a fan online. It’s another thing to pick a fight with a major corporation and leave Reebok & Gannett to fend for themselves based on anger produced by your own bad behavior. The newspaper industry may be having a rough time financially but Gannett doesn’t need the UFC. UFC needs Gannett. There are reasons UFC is supposedly paying Gannett for coverage.
Ascribing motives to the behavior of UFC management about the way they treat their business partners is a dangerous idea. I can’t say with certainty what they are thinking in Vegas. Perhaps this was a warning shot from UFC against MMA Junkie/USA Today to try to cower them into silence with an unspoken threat of less money or future scoops. Perhaps it was simply a childish message board-style troll-job hit for a cheap score.
In responding to their critics, the Ringmaster wants you to follow his attack lead and go after his targets for deflection. It would be easy to trash media entities or writers allegedly accepting payoffs for media coverage. For nearly 20 years, I’ve been giving opinions and advice to anyone in public and in private about what the combat sports media landscape really looks like and where the money is or isn’t.
By the same token, it takes two to tango on a pay-to-play scheme. What does it say about UFC that they, in their own words, need to pay off media outlets in order to get mainstream sports coverage? What does that say about the health of their industry as a mainstream sport when UFC has to grease the palms of major media outlets in exchange for coverage?
Dana White isn’t the majority owner of UFC. The Fertitta family owns the majority of UFC. Dana’s destructive behavior is nothing new but the stakes have never been higher. I would assume that if the Fertittas told Dana to shut up, he would shut up. So far, he isn’t shutting up. It’s only getting worse. Reebok has gotten torched for their relationship with UFC. UFC is now torching one of their biggest media partners in Gannett. What kind of message is this sending to potential business partners who might want to work with UFC?
By Zach Arnold | July 22, 2015
Let this sink in for a moment. UFC signed a $70 million dollar deal with Reebok over six years in which Reebok controls what fighters & staff wear at UFC events. Which means UFC killed sponsorships for individuals classified as independent contractors. Which plays right into the current anti-trust lawsuit right now in Las Vegas Federal court.
Throw in the supposed fact that cut-men working for UFC can’t work for other MMA promoters and you may as well scream “restraint of trade!” on the mountain tops.
You might as well also scream “retaliation!” after UFC fired veteran cut-man Jacob “Stitch” Duran for recent comments he made regarding how much income he is losing because of the Reebok uniform deal with UFC. First it was Burt Watson and now it’s Stitch Duran. In a classic Vince McMahon-style move, UFC fired someone they considered on the low end of their totem pole in order to scare the daylights out of agents & fighters.
Amazing watching every UFC fighter managed and associated with Ali Abdelaziz dropping pro-Reebok takes in succession.
— papadopoulos (@pdlmma) July 22, 2015
What’s amazing to watch unfold with UFC right now is how the Reebok deal has managed to not only buttress the legal arguments made in the anti-trust lawsuit but also provide Bellator with an opportunity to attract free agents by allowing fighters and staff to hire their own sponsors like an independent contractor should be able to in the first place.
What’s even more amazing is this: UFC is going to the mattresses over $11.7 million dollars a year and we don’t even know what the breakdown is regarding cash versus gear/merchandise from Reebok.
- From the outside-looking-in, does this sound like a company that can entice grade A blue-chip athletic prospects from other sports to professionally fight full-time without significant sponsorship cash?
- Given their current behavior, does this sound like a company with great growth potential?
- Does this sound like a company where management is so paranoid about being penny-wise that they’re being pound-foolish?
Stitch Duran wasn’t just a cut-man. He was a cog in the machine that oversaw fighter safety in the same way Burt Watson made sure the fighters were taken care of. UFC is so scared of criticism, mild or manic, about their $11.7 million dollar yearly deal with Reebok that they’re firing people who helped make the organization what it is today. They are so thin-skinned, so paranoid, and stuck in an internal bubble to understand what kind of messages they are sending to those in the business world who could be future business partners.
After the public relations hell Reebok has gone through, why would you want the headaches of being a business partner with the UFC if that coveted 18-to-34-year old demographic is ready to savage your brand on social media?
$ matters. My long-term bearish argument against Dana/Lorenzo UFC ownership is they would be too cheap & petty and lose top prospects/staff.
— FightOpinion (@FightOpinion) July 22, 2015
What’s going to damage UFC’s ability to grow long-term isn’t one firing or one scandal. It’s going to be a slow stunting of growth by a thousand paper cuts. A myriad of self-inflicted & impulsive wounds. This is a company that can help create mainstream stars like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor when they want to. They just want total control in the process. They can’t help themselves make more money because they’re too proud to give up any sort of control of the market they dominate. They’re happy to cash in but not risk any control in exchange for the possibility of greater rewards.
The smaller the concession or slight, the angrier management reacts. Small-time carny logic from a sports property with high visibility. They hate the Camel’s nose in the Vegas desert circus tent. UFC is its own worst enemy.
By Zach Arnold | July 16, 2015
You can’t trump star power in combat sports, even with ugly Reebok uniforms.
Ronda Rousey was making waves at the ESPY awards in Los Angeles with another remark about Floyd Mayweather. Her troll game is supercharged. Fedor was making names because he’s coming out of retirement. The Russians want his next fight. Nobuyuki Sakakibara and those desperate to stay relevant in Japan would be interested in Fedor’s services.
However, the real money for Fedor is in UFC. He knows it. UFC knows it. They may have struck out on Fedor/Brock Lesnar and Lesnar/Mir bouts… but Fedor vs. Frank Mir is still a real possibility and would be a fight that makes sense for all parties involved.
First, keeping Fedor away from the Japanese would be a good thing. Who’s he going to fight in Japan this time around? Satoshi Ishii’s star is dead. Kazuyuki Fujita?
Second, keep Fedor away from Viacom. Fedor vs. Kimbo Slice is the fight they would want to promote and it would sell on PPV. The casual American fight fan would want to watch it. It would give Bellator a big image boost if they could pull off signing that fight.
Third, UFC needs some exciting fights for the Heavyweight division. Todd Duffee got hammered by Frank Mir in San Diego on Wednesday night. Nobody is sure how many fights are left for Cain Velasquez. Fabricio Werdum is the Heavyweight champion. If Fedor could find a way to beat Frank Mir, you could immediately book Fedor vs. Werdum in a revenge match.
The dawn of a new era in California
While Nevada is busy holding workshops to hash out the new rules & regulations on beefing up their drug suspension policies, California is ramping up the penalties. Assembly Bill 469, which would jack up monetary penalties up to 40% purse fine for a positive drug test, is in Appropriations. It’s only a matter of time before it gets passed.
Which means that minimum suspensions of at least two years for fighters who test positive is here to stay. Physiques and fight performances for some veteran fighters will undoubtedly be altered. The question is whether or not the new drug testing policies will impact UFC the same way MLB’s clamp down attempts on steroids has impacted their sport in the last few years.
The San Diego card was B-level, at best, on paper but turned out to be a wildly violent affair. Jessica Andrade. Tony Ferguson. Frank Mir. My goodness.
A part of me felt bad watching Josh Thomson struggle in what may be his last UFC fight. He’s 1-3 in his last 4 UFC fights and has lost 5 out of his last 7. The scorecard loss to Ben Henderson in January of 2014 derailed his career. It’s cute for Dana White to yell at fighters to not leave it in the hands of the judges but you can’t control what you can’t control when you’re in a three or five round fight. One bad decision by a judge can cost a fighter millions of dollars.
Speaking of judges, referee/judge Mike Beltran had a curious night in San Diego. Holly Holm had a one-sided fight and won every round but Beltran gave a round to her opponent. In the Ferguson/Thomson fight, neither Beltran nor judge Derek Cleary gave Ferguson a 10-8 round despite Andy Foster pushing for more 10-8 rounds.
By Zach Arnold | July 11, 2015
The Hulk Hogan effect.
Every WWE wrestler in the 80s wanted to be on the Hulk Hogan A-level cards when the promotion toured on split squads. When Hogan drew money, everyone else drew money. The same principle applies to Conor McGregor.
Like I said before, UFC, MMA biz, everyone involved in this industry is 100% in on a McGregor win. Losing not an option. $45M riding on this
— MMA Supremacy (@MMASupremacy) July 12, 2015
His win over Chad Mendes on Saturday night was a triumph in the UFC’s undying belief that McGregor will be their number one ace as a drawing attraction. With Jon Jones constantly in trouble, the company needed someone reliable who could become The Next Great White Hope.
The Reebok uniforms are part of UFC’s growing dumpster fire when it comes to labor relations. The uniforms are trash. But as long as UFC can continue to produce the Conor McGregors of the world, there will be a thousand fighters who will buy into whatever UFC management is selling for a miniscule paycheck in hopes of winning an imaginary lottery ticket.
The main card for UFC 189 turned out to be a fantastic watch, especially in contrast to the amusing garbage produced by ESPN with their Al Haymon PBC debut on the Mouse. When UFC is hot, it is hot. When it’s not, it’s an abomination.
I do not doubt the marketing talent & fighting ability of Conor McGregor. You shouldn’t either after his fight performance against a disappointing Chad Mendes. However, that doesn’t excuse the absolutely shallow & pathetic behavior on display by UFC management in regards to the way they have insulted the intelligence of the fans and slimed other fighters who have given their best to Zuffa.
On Friday, UFC threw a curve into the mix with a “confrontation” backstage between McGregor and Urijah Faber. A classic pro-wrestling tease. In the two weeks before Mendes/McGregor, UFC management spent every waking breath tarnishing and denigrating Jose Aldo as a man and as a fighter. A man who was touted as the Number One Pound-For-Pound fighter in the world found his credibility and reputation getting trashed as if he was Ariana Grande. Those ribs really weren’t hurt. He didn’t want to fight because he couldn’t make weight. He didn’t want to fight because he is scared of McGregor.
These attacks didn’t come from McGregor’s camp. Well, technically, they did come from McGregor’s camp because UFC management is his camp given the reports of the mansion treatment. UFC management doesn’t even blur the lines of impartiality any more. They have completely erased those lines. No wonder Al Haymon loves his boxers screaming “Call Al Haymon!” after every fight like Keith Thurman did on Saturday night in Tampa.
To top off the absurdity, UFC pulled a WCW-style skit where McGregor arrived to the MGM Grand Garden Arena with a police escort for his own protection… except nobody was actually around mobbing him. And then there was Sinead O’Connor.
Mendes is all class in defeat. He's no dummy, he knows he's in Zuffa's good book forever now. Shoutouts to this muscly man.
— Jordan Breen (@jordanbreen) July 12, 2015
For his efforts, Chad Mendes will forever be a UFC company man after his recent 8-fight contract deal and loss to Conor McGregor. At least until they cut him or decide that he’s a “coward” for not taking any fight they throw at him. Life is just a work and everything is professional wrestling.
UFC 189 Main card results from the MGM Grand Garden Arena
- Featherweights: Conor McGregor defeated Chad Mendes in R2 in 4′57 by TKO.
- UFC Welterweight title match: Robbie Lawler pounded Rory MacDonald and won by TKO in the first minute of R5.
- Jeremy Stephens defeated Dennis Bermudez in R3 in 32 seconds by TKO.
- Welterweights: Gunnar Nelson defeated Brandon Thatch in R1 in 2′54 by submission (choke sleeper).
- Bantamweights: Thomas Almeida defeated Brad Pickett in R2 in 29 seconds by KO (knee).
- Welterweights: Matt Brown defeated Tim Means in R1 in 4′44 by submission (guillotine choke).
By Zach Arnold | July 1, 2015
Good news for UFC — California state Senator Leland Yee copped a plea deal with the Feds in his racketeering & extortion case, so the prospects of UFC management or Andy Foster of the California State Athletic Commission possibly having to hit the witness stand dropped. We’ll see if the wiretap evidence is kept under seal or not by the Federal judge in the case.
And that’s about it for the good news lately for UFC. Really. UFC’s reverse-Midas touch these last several months is more or less standard operating procedure.
YAY! In honor of today's UFC Kit unveiling, we've got 20% anything in our http://t.co/d8RXQAXgY7 store with promo code: GIBLERT
— E. Casey Leydon (@ekc) July 1, 2015
Where to begin? UFC calling Reebok fighter uniforms “fight kits.” A $70 million deal with Reebok that has been lampooned with zeal by everyone. How much of it is product and how much is actually cash? UFC is now starting their USADA drug testing program. They’ve banned fighters from using IVs after weigh-ins due to the serious problem of weight cutting.
And they got their ass kicked again in trying to get legislation passed for MMA in New York. It’s one thing to buy off Sacramento. It’s another to buy off Albany. As soon as the clock ran out in Albany, UFC was seething with outrage on Twitter about “corruption.” Yes, the folks in Las Vegas are seething with rage about corruption.
Under normal circumstances, the Reebok deal would be the most embarrassing notch on UFC’s 2015 business campaign. As Zane Simon appropriately noted, UFC’s Reebok rollout says a lot about both companies in the global marketplace. This is what you get when you want full control and envision a sport where every fighter’s image by Corporate is scripted as a generic puppet that is largely over-tanned, ripped, and covered in tattoos. Where guys are labeled independent contractors but are restrained from obtaining sponsors due to “Fight Kits.” Where fighters can’t afford to pay for month-long training camps in locations like Mexico City. Where fighters are trashed with glee by management not just on their way out but when they’re on top.
Rampage Jackson long ago joked that Las Vegas thinks they can put a bunch of guys in a cage labeled “UFC” and that it will sell. We’re about to find out now with those dreadful “UFC fight kits” just how much having UFC uniforms sells shows and sells uniforms.
We’ll find out shortly when Chad Mendes, filling in for Jose Aldo, fights Conor McGregor on short notice. UFC set up Aldo to get trashed by McGregor on a pathetic “world tour” public relations pit stop. A guy who has been champion for years was treated as the ultimate jabroni. UFC managed to string the fans along as much as possible before pulling the plug on Aldo’s title fight because of a rib injury. And now Aldo is being portrayed as the coward, the guy who’s afraid of UFC’s mini-version of Seth Rollins. Except, as far as I know, Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns didn’t actually live at one of Vince McMahon’s properties while getting the push of a lifetime.
It must be nice to be the #UFC press office and know there are people out there who will write down literally anything you try to sell them
— Jonathan Snowden (@JESnowden) July 1, 2015
Right out of the UFC playbook, we have Mendes vs. McGregor for yet another UFC “interim” title. How many more interim title belts can you have? I suppose we’ll see what the value of marketing an interim title belt is if the DA in Albuquerque is able to string a court case together against Jon Jones.
If McGregor beats Mendes, he’ll do so on short-notice. If Mendes beats McGregor, the UFC’s multi-year investment will be flushed down the toilet in exchange for a rematch between Aldo & Mendes that I’m not sure the mainstream casual fan will care about.
The UFC wants you to respect them as some sort of major sports conglomerate but they want you to scrutinize them as if they were a proverbial mom & pop shop.
It’s the fight business. When it rains, it pours. The problem is that so much of the crap UFC is facing has been entirely created by their own doing. They may not pay a price right now but they will pay a price later for mismanagement. UFC is not going away any time soon. Whether or not UFC is sold in the future, that’s a different question to ponder for another time.
The real concern MMA fans should have right now is not whether the sport has “peaked” or what the growth potential looks like. The real concern is whether or not the money that currently exists is going to exist in 10 years. PRIDE was able to bring in the best talent in the world because they had a massive contract with Fuji TV. Once the Fuji TV money was pulled due to the yakuza scandal, the jig was up. UFC faces a situation where they need to figure out how to maintain their current revenue streams to a point where they keep the status quo. Growth prospects look limited in a best-case scenario.
It’s all about the future. Fighting for UFC can bring you some fame. It can bring you some money. But for most fighters, it won’t. Most fighters will continue to have to work day jobs. The money for sponsorships isn’t going to be there in the foreseeable future. Fighter pay remains anemic. The prospects of intrusive drug testing make a “UFC lifestyle” less desirable. Money is the mother’s milk of politics and the fight business. Floyd Mayweather is making $220 million a fight and has the Showtime media platform to boost his earnings prospects. Where is that platform for UFC fighters?
If the UFC wants to remain relevant, they’re going to have to be able to attract athletic talent away from other sports. No matter how UFC spins it, their economic model & management structure is their own worst enemy. Reebok discovered the hard way that associating yourself with UFC can bring tremendous public relations heartburn to your own brand.
By Zach Arnold | June 25, 2015
- California State Athletic Commission leveled four separate charges against Alexander Shlemenko, including a violation of a drug test (50-to-1 testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio) and not properly/accurately filling out paperwork at Bellator event in Fresno
- Each charge against Shlemenko carried a 9 month suspension and $2,500 fine
- The commission hammered Shlemenko with a combined 3 year suspension and $10,000
- Shlemenko’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not focus on the science but rather the process and precisely interrogated witnesses
- California State Athletic Commission admitted that they do not do split drug testing samples (A & B samples) any longer due to inconvenience
- Jacobs challenged both the State and the doctor heading UCLA’s drug lab as to why the State does not collect A & B samples now despite a contract between UCLA & CSAC allegedly stating that A & B samples should be collected according to Federal guidelines
- UCLA lab head claims that since CSAC is not a WADA signatory that therefore they are not legally bound to collect A & B samples but rather can run their drug testing collection protocols as they see fit
- An argument was made that since there is nothing in the California Code of Regulations regarding the collection of drug testing samples that therefore there are no guidelines regarding A & B samples
- Jacobs countered that past clients he has represented in front of the Athletic Commission from 2007 to 2012 have had A & B samples taken for drug testing
- The director general of WADA recently argued that B sample drug testing should end
- The 7 members of the Athletic Commission board chastised Jacobs for attacking the process and for not giving Mr. Shlemenko time to answer questions and offer testimony
It’s entirely possible that Alexander Shlemenko is guilty as sin for failing a California State Athletic Commission drug test with a 50-to-1 Testosterone-to-Epitestosterone ratio. And it is possible that the three year suspension levied against Shlemenko by the Athletic Commission board will get reduced by a state judge when Shlemenko’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, files a writ of mandate seeking an appeal of what happened on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
Starting at the 1 hour and 20 minute time mark in the embedded video, you can witness a two-hour long hearing regarding the suspension of Alexander Shlemenko.
By Zach Arnold | June 13, 2015
Also, with his gi BJJ, no-gi sub grappling and MMA achievements combined, Fabricio Werdum is a pretty damn rare martial artist in general.
— Jordan Breen (@jordanbreen) June 14, 2015
Remember when Fabricio Werdum was brought into Mirko Cro Cop’s camp as a training partner? A master of butt-scooting? Yeah, that guy. The guy who was going to make Mirko into a world champion. After Fedor/Mirko, the paths for Mirko and Werdum became totally different.
10 years later, Werdum has not only lived up to all of the hype as a submission wizard and magician but has managed to submit three of the greatest heavyweights ever in Mixed Martial Arts history.
The altitude played a huge role in the fight performance for everyone on the UFC 188 card. It was crap. No way to get around this fact. There’s also no way to get around the fact that Werdum’s experience and guts can never be questioned. His win not only is historical but also opens up the Heavyweight division in several ways.
We’ve seen so many fighters, especially in the bigger weight classes, be hyped up as special and all-time prospects. Most of the time, they fail and fall flat on their face in spectacular fashion. Werdum beat the odds. Rafael Cordeiro is the Godfather. The ghost of Rudimar…
Father time catches all. Cain’s body is his own worst enemy. And he’s not getting any younger. He’s still the scariest athlete I’ve seen in Heavyweight MMA. I expect a re-match, perhaps for a New Year’s Eve show in Las Vegas. Please, for the love of God and country, do not push the idea of Werdum vs. Andrei Arlovski.
As for the semi-main event between Gilbert Melendez and Eddie Alvarez… the less said, the better.
- UFC Heayvweight title match: Fabricio Werdum choked out Cain Velaquez in R3 in 2′13.
- Lightweights: Eddie Alvarez defeated Gilbert Melendez by split decision.
- Kelvin Gastelum defeated Nathan Marquardt after 2R by TKO.
UFC 188 was a garbage card. It was the complete opposite of the UFC event last weekend in New Orleans headlined by Dan Henderson vs. Tim Boetsch. I can’t recall a time where the UFC product has become so manic. It’s either really good or really terrible. When it’s great, it’s fantastic. When it’s terrible, it is abominable.
It has been a problem for a while now but the commentating disconnect between Mike Goldberg & Joe Rogan with their analysis of who is winning a fight versus the reality of the in-cage action is exacerbated right now. I could not come up with a more glaring example than the commentary given during the Henry Cejudo/Chico Camus fight. They were hyping Camus hard. His takedown defense. His supposed display of offense. If you didn’t listen to the commentary, it was a pedestrian 30-27 or 29-28 win for Cejudo. Bowling-show ugly, yes, but still an easy win. The commentators made it sound like Camus was winning all the way. At some point, management behind the scenes and on TV needs to display some honesty or else they will be completely tuned out by the fans.
Efrain Escudero’s choke-out of Drew Dober in under a minute made for quite the highlight.
As for TV coverage of the event? Very little. FX covered the prelims because Fox Sports 1 was covering a car race. Fox Sports 1 didn’t have post-fight coverage due to covering the men’s U-20 match between America and Serbia. ESPN focused on Chicago’s Game 5 Stanley Cup win over Tampa.
By Zach Arnold | June 3, 2015
1 year ago: THEY NEED MORE TESTING. Today: THIS IS CRAZY THERE IS TOO MUCH TESTING. Never change, trolls.
— Jeremy Botter (@jeremybotter) June 3, 2015
1. Who will ultimately pay the highest price for financing UFC’s new drug testing program? The fighters?
2. Will the improvement in drug testing level the playing field or will it create a competitive disadvantage with top fighters being able to afford their own designer drugs?
3. Why did UFC decide on working with USADA as a partner and not with Dr. Margaret Goodman & VADA?
4. How many more fighters would UFC catch using VADA-style testing as opposed to USADA-style testing protocols?
5. Given USADA’s behavior in handling Erik Morales’ failed drug test, can USADA be fully trusted to handle test failures the right way?
6. How compatible will UFC’s drug testing program with USADA be in relation to the drug testing programs set up by various state athletic commissions, including California (which is on its way to implementing its own out-of-competition program)?
7. If missing a Nevada commission drug test can cost you years in suspension, how can this be reconciled with USADA’s policy of three missing tests = a test failure?
8. Given that UFC is implementing their own company drug testing program in addition to the drug testing done by state athletic commissions, can UFC use a failed drug test for negotiating leverage with a top fighter in order to take a pay cut in exchange for the failed result not going public?
9. UFC & USADA will suspend a fighter for one year if they test positive for marijuana metabolites. However, Nevada’s punishment for a marijuana test failure can be 18 months or longer for repeat offenders. Whose punishment do you go with if a fighter fails both a USADA and NSAC drug test for marijuana metabolites? Concurrent or stacked suspensions?
10. In international sport, there is a court of appeal regarding drug testing. What administrative recourse does a fighter have after failing a UFC company drug test? Arbitration in a UFC-friendly venue?
11. How do you define “aggravating circumstances” for a failed drug test in a statutory manner?
12. How will UFC suspend a fighter who doesn’t fail a drug test but gets caught when arrested with drugs?
13. How you do resolve conflicts regarding Therapeutic Use Exemptions between the TUEs USADA grants and the hall passes from athletic commissions? (E.G. Fighters fails state athletic commission drug test, proclaims a TUE from USADA for permission to use a certain drug)
14. How many top athletes outside the MMA world will want to come and fight in UFC if they think the sport is cleaner? Conversely, how many fighters or future prospects will avoid fighting in UFC due to the new drug testing program?
15. Will UFC force fighters to sign new contracts (like they did after PRIDE acquisition) with modified contractual language to request permission for this new drug testing program? What if a fighter currently under contract says “no”? Can that fighter petition a Vegas court for declaratory relief and become a free agent? Arbitration?
16. If a fighter fails a UFC/USADA drug test and is given a suspension longer than the time left on that fighter’s contract, is such a suspension enforceable a) legally in court and/or b) with all the various state athletic commissions?
17. Will fighters be tested with the same drug screens or will certain fighters be tested for certain drugs and other fighters tested differently?
18. Why was Jeff Novitzky hired by UFC if USADA is the agency running UFC’s drug testing program?
19. Who will see the actual USADA drug testing results besides UFC? Will all positive test results be released to the public? Given that USADA is working for UFC and not for an athletic commission, how will the public be able to access all results given that it is done by a private, not public entity? The honor results with whatever is posted online?
20. If a fighter wishes to appeal a drug test result and has to appeal the result in Las Vegas, are the fighters inherently at a disadvantage due to how many attorneys have worked for the Fertittas in the past and therefore can’t take on clients due to conflicts of interest considerations?
By Zach Arnold | May 28, 2015
Did that headline grab your attention?
We recently discussed the UFC-lobbied Senate Bill 469 in Sacramento that would set up out-of-competition drug testing of all licensed fighters for California fights. UFC has spent $30,000 through their lobbyist Tim Lynch at Platinum Advisors to muscle this bill on their behalf and, indirectly, California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer Andy Foster. Nothing illegal at all. Just good old fashioned politicking.
Unlike Nevada’s recently proposed changes where promoters have to pay the bill for out-of-competition drug testing, California SB 469 sticks the cost onto the state Athletic Commission. The big question was how the Athletic Commission was going to be able to finance this proposition. SB 469 proposes two new ways to finance this endeavor.
The first method is to completely destroy the purpose of the state’s arbitration system by shifting the costs of such hearings onto the parties involved in disputes. California’s arbitration system allowed indigent fighters or managers to be able to get a fair hearing in order to resolve contractual battles. It was a system that didn’t require a party hiring an attorney. Given that most low-level fighters cannot afford legal representation, California’s arbitration system was a way to go to the Athletic Commission and determine a resolution from adhesive contracts.
By most standards, arbitration hearings should not cost that much money. At most, a couple of thousand dollars. However, the Athletic Commission refuses to hire independent counsel and instead deals with the Attorney General’s office on all matters. The AG’s office, in turn, socks a fat legal bill to the Athletic Commission. In addition, Andy Foster is having to rely on the San Diego AG’s office rather than Sacramento AG attorneys to help in arbitration matters.
On average, there are about four or five arbitration hearings a year in California. In order to try to finesse budget matters, Andy Foster is going to shift all arbitration costs onto the parties involved in contractual disputes. This completely goes against the spirit and good intentions behind the arbitration process in the first place. The Ali Act allows a fighter a Private Right of Action to sue a manager or a promoter for an adhesive contract. That’s great… if the fighter has access to an attorney and can afford one. It’s not so great if a fighter can’t afford an attorney. California’s arbitration system was created to help fighters who couldn’t pay for legal bills. With SB 469 running full steam ahead, those arbitration financial protections will be fully erased.
And the reaction from those within the fight industry and the media towards this destruction of California’s arbitration system? Dead silence.
Shifting the costs of arbitration onto the parties involved is step one of the proposed financing scheme in SB 469.
The second prong to finance out-of-competition drug testing was announced on Thursday. SB 469 was previously voted and approved by the Senate’s Business & Professions committee on an unanimous vote. Today, the Senate Appropriations committee passed SB 469 on an unanimous vote. In Appropriations, SB 469 was modified to change the punishment system for fighters who fail drug tests. The maximum fine used to be $2,500. That has now changed… to a fine of 40% of a fighter’s purse.
Because the financing mechanism in Senate Bill 469 puts a lot of pressure on the state to find a way to recover the costs associated with out-of-competition drug testing, there will be enormous & aggressive incentive on nailing fighters who are doping because it will be in their economic interest to do so.
By Zach Arnold | May 24, 2015
A nearly six-year long legal battle has ended between Juanito Ibarra, his former clients Tito Ortiz & Rampage Jackson, and a slew of media writers who were sued for libel & slander in Los Angeles federal court. A formal settlement was agreed upon between the two sides on May 15th by Ibarra’s formidable attorney, Samuel J. Smith.
The six years of legal proceedings saw Rampage Jackson burn through numerous lawyers. There were court filings/hearings for sanctions. There were a litany of defendants filing anti-SLAPP motions to strike and a billion different legal lessons to learn for anyone concerned about speech & public participation laws on the Internet. In many respects, the wild and crazy six year legal battle is a blueprint that I would strongly recommend any writers or future writers to carefully study regarding the intersection of Federal & state public participation laws.
Late last week, statements were issued on behalf of both Tito Ortiz & Rampage Jackson in regards to allegations made in the press about Juanito Ibarra’s personal & business character.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson: “Juanito Ibarra and I have resolved the lawsuits that have been pending for a number of years. While we have had our differences in the past, it is all now behind us. Some things were said in the past, which I now retract and I am deeply sorry that they were said. I wish nothing but the best for Juanito in all of his future endeavors and know that he will continue to do the Lord’s work.”
Jacob “Tito” Ortiz: “In 2008, I gave an interview to Punch Drunk Gamer entitled “Wherever I may roam…..I want the Title.” In that interview, I made several statements including the allegation that Juanito Ibarra was a thief who had mismanaged the finances and stolen from and taken advantage of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. I made these remarks based on what Rampage had told me. After several years in court and review of all the available records, I realize that Mr. Jackson and I were wrong. Juanito didn’t steal from or take advantage of Rampage and he didn’t mismanage Rampage’s money?it was all accounted for. I regret the effect my words had on Juanito’s life. Juanito is a trainer and manager of superior skills and the fact is, he helped to make Rampage a champion. Anyone would be blessed to be taught by Juanito. So there is no confusion, and so the public and the MMA, boxing and sports community at large know, I retract all of the negative statements, inferences and accusations that I directed at Juanito and sincerely apologize to Juanito and his family. I am grateful to have ended my dispute with Juanito and look forward to refocusing on building a better MMA community with him.”
Why did they spend all that time and money on attorneys in order to avoid the inevitable outcome of issuing retractions and apologies?
The case was set to go to trial in July. On the Los Angeles court web site, it appears there were attempts to try to bifurcate the defendants (Tito and Rampage) in the defamation case, which would have meant separate trials.
In the end, both sides reached a settlement but it cost a lot of money and each side learned some painful lessons in the process — lessons that you should carefully study if you end up on the other end of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP).
By Zach Arnold | May 23, 2015
Luca Fury has long argued that fighters who are testosterone users don’t really end up with a winning edge over their opponents. He’s right. Vitor Belfort’s performance at UFC 187 was proof positive. After a spirited flurry of punches, Chris Weidman dispatched of Vitor with relative ease. The whole fight seemed to have an odd hype dynamic heading into the encounter. Weidman went the Randy Orton legend killer route by stating that a win over Belfort would finish off all the Middleweights from the Brazilian-dominated era. Meanwhile, it was ixnay on discussing why Belfort has had trouble fighting in Nevada (read: testosterone). Throw into the mix the tough article by Patrick Wyman on Weidman, Frank Mir, and Fabricio Werdum < "http://www.deadspin.com/why-are-ufc-champions-hanging-out-with-an-accused-russi-1705763244">hanging out with an alleged Russian war criminal and you ended up with a nuttier-than-usual public relations battle on Saturday.
Truth be told, there wasn’t much drama to be expected from Weidman’s title fight. The real interest was in the main event and whether Rumble Johnson would knock out Daniel Cormier. He couldn’t but not for a lack of trying. And Rumble was summarily taken apart. He’s still a very scary man.
The fight result now leads us to a rematch between Cormier and Jon Jones and I’m not sure there are as many fans this time who think Cormier has a chance of winning as there were for the first encounter. It will sell a lot of tickets, however…
By Zach Arnold | May 16, 2015
Official lobbying records from the state of California show that Zuffa LLC, the parent company of UFC, spent $30,000 in Q1 of 2015 to lobby for state Senate Bill 469.
Senate Bill 469, introduced by Senator Appropriations chair Ricardo Lara, would:
- Extend the life of the California State Athletic Commission until the year 2020
- Open the pathway for the Athletic Commission to perform out-of-competition blood and urine drug testing of any licensed fighter
- Allow the Athletic Commission to fine a fighter a percentage of their purse for failing a drug test (as opposed to the current standard $2,500 fine) plus give administrative discretion on imposing fines, giving a fighter 30 days to appeal or else accept punishment
- Authorize the Athletic Commission to recover costs for arbitration proceedings from parties involved in such hearings (contract disputes)
The bill is currently in the Senator Appropriations committee and placed on the suspense file, meaning it will be revisited after a new state budget has been passed.
Intriguingly, a Senate Appropriations committee analysis of the bill claims yearly projected Athletic Commission expenditures of $1.6 million dollars. Recently, the Athletic Commission’s spending authority was pushed from $1.2 million a year to $1.44 million a year. The Senate analysis, curiously, projects annual Athletic Commission revenues at $1.7 million. In the Athletic Commission’s current state, you would be lucky to get a $1.3 million year for revenue. You would have to go back to the days of Armando Garcia to even come close to sniffing a $1.7 million year for revenue. It appears the increased projection for revenue is based on changing the fine structure of fighters who fail drug tests.
The SA committee analysis also claims that out-of-competition drug testing would cost the Athletic Commission $100,000 more each year to implement.
Amusingly, the Senate report also makes this claim:
The Fund is expected to have a reserve of approximately $1 million at the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year, which is sufficient to support the additional expenditures related to this bill while maintaining a healthy reserve for the duration of the sunset period.
Given two recent lawsuit settlements and impossible-to-make monthly projections for revenues that are hit-or-miss, asserting a claim of $1 million dollars in the Athletic Commission bank account at the end of the Fiscal Year in two months seems… ambitious.
UFC’s lobbying firm in California is the Sacramento-based Platinum Advisors LLC. Tim Lynch from PA is UFC’s top conduit at the capitol. John Carvelli, the Chairman of the California State Athletic Commission, uses Platinum Advisors LLC for lobbying efforts on behalf of his Liberty Dental Inc. company.
By Zach Arnold | May 14, 2015
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) May 13, 2015
It started years ago with UFC slapping a “sponsorship tax” on companies who wanted to sponsor individual fighters. The idea was that UFC had a right to get paid for creating the stage for advertisers to market their products to the masses. The idea was also couched in terms of protecting fighters by weeding out deadbeat companies.
Then it morphed into rumors a couple of years ago of UFC creating fighter uniforms in order to control sponsorships.
It’s now morphed into UFC inking a corporate deal with Reebok. It was supposed to revolutionize fighter sponsorships and make UFC a ton of coin. Instead, the UFC/Reebok partnership merely became a pretext for all of the major economic problems between management, fighters, and managers to rise to the surface for all the public to see.
In short, the Reebok sponsorship is being treated as rotten in the court of public opinion by everyone except UFC. The fruit from a poisonous tree.
We had the anti-trust lawsuit filed in San Jose against UFC. Fighters uncharacteristically spoke out in protest of the new proposed pay scale by UFC in regards to how much Reebok money they would get. The protests escalated thanks in part to fighters no longer being able to cut their own nickel-and-dime sponsorship deals. The protests claimed that their nickel-and-dime deals have been reduced to penny-ante Reebok payoffs.