If the schmuck throwing tacos at Victor Ortiz used a bottle instead, California would be lawyering up
By Zach Arnold | May 1, 2016
StubHub Center and the California State Athletic Commission avoided a catastrophic confrontation on Saturday night and should be counting their blessings.
Victor Ortiz was knocked down twice in his loss to Andre Berto on the Al Haymon Fox show. After getting knocked out, Ortiz was attacked by a spectator after the fight. The attacker hit Ortiz in the face with tacos and started a brawl.
You can watch the video of the attack for yourself and spot all the problems:
- Attacker hits Victor Ortiz in the face with tacos at point blank range
- The video clearly demonstrates premeditation on the part of the attacker
- No one in the crowd stops the premeditated attack on Victor Ortiz
- After battering Ortiz, attacker touches an athletic inspector trying to halt the confrontation
- A ring second, in defense of Ortiz, throws something at the attacker and the attacker punches him
- Attacker has second altercation with another cornerman and squares up to punch
- Attacker throws a punch at cornerman and touches two more athletic inspectors
- Attacker continues to instigate others after Ortiz is escorted away
You don’t have to be a genius to see how dangerous this situation could have gotten. Here is a close-up image of the attacker:
We are offering a cash award to anyone who can provide identification of the attacker
By Zach Arnold | April 29, 2016
The last two days have been a real test of Executive Officer Andy Foster:
- Boxer Francisco Vargas, booked to fight Orlando Salido on June 4th at StubHub Center, tested positive for clenbuterol
- The drug test was administered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency
- The two boxers paid for VADA drug testing, not California’s athletic commission or Golden Boy
- Golden Boy quickly went into damage-control mode for Vargas, using the “home cooking” defense
- 24-hours after news of the VADA test failure went public, California granted Francisco Vargas a temporary license dependent on a modified drug testing program
The differences between enforcement of UFC & USADA drug testing versus independent VADA testing are substantial. Athletic commissions do not have to honor third-party drug testing results. California will honor only their drug testing results. UFC made a choice to honor USADA results since they are paying the bill for it. If UFC wanted to stop honoring USADA results at any time, that’s their prerogative. To their credit, they have hung tough and enforced drug testing failures. VADA, on the other hand, is paid for by fighters. In addition to state athletic commissions, promoters also can ignore such drug testing results and not lift a finger. Golden Boy clearly fell into this camp with Francisco Vargas.
I don’t like this situation but I can’t say anything negative about what California is up to right now. The failed VADA test makes Francisco Vargas look like a schmuck.
Francisco Vargas is currently working with trainer Rodrigo Mosquera. Mosquera was suspended in late 2013 for manipulated boxing gloves but managed to work a December 2013 event. Mosquera then went to work a New York fight in January of 2014 while on temporary California suspension. Mosquera was scolded by a California athletic inspector for trying to give a boxer advice from the crowd of a show in Montebello. Mosquera was granted a new license shortly thereafter. Mosquera will be working with Vargas for his June 4th fight against Orlando Salido.
By Zach Arnold | April 26, 2016
UFC is now stuck on a sports network building around Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock, and Skip Bayless. Really in tune with MMA's audience.
— FightOpinion (@FightOpinion) April 26, 2016
The murder-suicide pact between Fox Sports 1 and ESPN is going to financially reward those who deserve it the least. It’s going to torture sports fans and sports executives alike. ESPN created the fertile conditions for the ugliness ahead and the Fox empire is going to inflame an already polarized playing field.
With fees for sporting events escalating to an unmanageable monstrosity, sports networks are slashing & burning budgets for production staffs while shifting their cash into opinion talkers. Spend less on hard news, more on blather. Go for emotion, tribal identity, and analogies over reason & logic on the persuasion scale. We’ve reached a point in television consumption where Skip Bayless is considered as iconic, if not more so, than Mike Tirico.
UFC is likely going to stay with Fox Sports, although ESPN certainly would have interest under any normal circumstance. We’re not living in normal times. ESPN is bleeding talent. They’re slashing & burning production employees. Disney, which is making money hand over fist, is scared to death of what is going to happen to ESPN in the future. UFC should be a sure-fire target for ESPN acquisition. The acceleration of losing personalities could play either way here for Bristol.
By Zach Arnold | April 20, 2016
God knows what is really going on behind-the-scenes between Conor McGregor and UFC. It didn’t take a genius, however, to see that McGregor would soon attempt a leverage play for more money and, ultimately, his goal of co-promoting future events. This goes against the entire credo of UFC’s business model.
With no real ammunition left, Conor McGregor had one card to play — retirement.
Nobody is taking the threat seriously. McGregor needs money and exposure. Despite the beliefs of some in MMA media circles, Conor McGregor is not bigger than the UFC. Using the retirement card plays right into UFC’s hands. It ices McGregor out of the sport of MMA. Unless he wants to take his chances and fight in Europe or Japan, UFC will gladly watch him sit on the sidelines like Randy Couture and waste his time. If McGregor does promote his own fight, UFC will easily obtain a judgment against him in the United States and transfer that judgment over to Ireland for enforcement.
You can already see the legal wheels spinning in the minds of UFC executives.
By Zach Arnold | April 19, 2016
Price: $10.96 USD
Personal rating: 7.5 out of 10 stars
Recommendation: Buy the book
FTC disclosure: I received an advanced book copy last week in the mail for review.
Josh Gross tackled one of the most controversial events in the history of combat sports with vigor and research. His final work product is a 282-page book that is incredible in its scope of information compilation. It took me three days to read the book, go through my notes, and re-read certain sections to absorb all of the details but it was well-worth it.
The book is an easy read but requires some patience and diligence to comprehend the massive amount of history surrounding the Ali/Inoki fight and why celebrating or remembering its 40th anniversary this Summer is so important to the current fight business climate.
By Zach Arnold | April 19, 2016
The Nevada State Athletic Commission just got a rude financial awakening. The public agency is being shifted from the state’s general funds to self-funding. As a result of this budgetary transition, Nevada’s commission will now have to pay legal fees to the Attorney General’s office just like California’s commission has to.
At Tuesday’s meeting in Las Vegas, the commission revealed that they have been given a six-figure legal bill for past work from the Attorney General’s office to pay. Additionally, there is grave concern that many of the fighters who get busted for doping are not paying legal fines assessed in disciplinary hearings. Deadbeats. As a result of this problem, it is expected that Nevada will now start asking promoters and fighters for bond money to cover legal fees in prosecuting disciplinary hearings. Also, the commission made it clear on Tuesday that they may end up being more selective in who they prosecute going forward and how they handle legal affairs.
This news cuts both ways. It means Nevada won’t be as inclined to take on speculative disciplinary hearings. Conversely, it leaves Nevada’s commission more vulnerable to lawfare from promoters and fighters who will use the prospect of draining the athletic commission’s budget as a weapon. It happens often in California, especially with sensitive claims such as gender and racial discrimination at play.
By Zach Arnold | April 17, 2016
I often use the word Pyrrhic when discussing combat sports. It means winning a battle but losing the war. Short-term thinking. There’s a lot of reckless behavior in combat sports. You get numb to it.
The perfect definition of Pyrrhic is booking Kimbo Slice in London after he got busted by the Texas Athletic Commission for steroids while nearly killing his opponent in the process. Addendum: Yes, of course, an awful weight cut and bad fight shape contributed mightily to Dada 5000’s health scares.
The perfect definition of Pyrrhic is a promoter and a television network continuing a relationship with a Japanese promoter who was tainted by a negative media campaign as a front man for questionable business dealings and scrubbing such history from your own TV network’s archives.
In a regular sports journalistic setting, a sports promoter pushing a drug-busted carnival act while freely associating with a business partner that your rival’s investigators labeled as “not a suitable character” would be poisonous. In combat sports, media writers will glorify such behavior. It does not mean that such behavior getting a free-pass is good. It’s self-destructive.
By booking Kimbo Slice and promoting him for a London fight in July, Bellator is daring the Texas Athletic Commission to suspend Kimbo before his July fight. If Texas does nothing, Bellator will promote the fight as planned. If Texas suspends him, Bellator has the option to either keep the fight going or yank it if the political heat becomes too great. On paper, this looks like a no-lose situation. Logically, it looks incredibly stupid and a no-win situation. We’re talking about promoting Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson in 2016 while fighters like Will Brooks are on the sidelines.
Scott Coker & Spike TV just handed public relations gifts to both the Texas Athletic Commission and to UFC. They made Texas – Texas! – look like responsible adults. Or maybe not…
90 day suspension for anabolic steroid and elevated level of testosterone is a complete joke https://t.co/bDTF7PsTel
— Jason Floyd (@Jason_Floyd) April 18, 2016
And pushing drug-busted Kimbo Slice makes UFC’s recent fighter suspensions of individuals such as Yoel Romero & Lyoto Machida more legitimate. UFC took the financial hit and suspended fighters who failed drug tests. Spike TV & Scott Coker went in the opposite direction. Bellator chose a Pyrrhic victory. They’ll be promoting the useless carnival fight while sending the subliminal message to fighters that they’re the place to be if you want to not get punished for doping. Fighters First, right?
The message from Spike TV is clear to MMA fighters who are using performance drugs: we’re open for your business.
There won’t be much media pressure right now on the parties involved because most combat sports writers care more about access rather than any other life principle. Tell a story, sell a fight, live the dream. That could very well change once Bellator and Spike TV start doing business in New York and have to answer questions from legitimate media outlets as to why they are booking the drug-suspended Kimbo Slice and doing business with a person like Nobuyuki Sakakibara.
If Scott Coker & Spike TV were the NHL & NBC, NBA & ABC/Turner, or NFL & Fox/CBS/NBC, there would be a five-alarm media fire right now about what’s going on with Kimbo Slice. If the media pressure ratchets up, we’ll find out very quickly if Bellator is willing to die on a hill to defend a business relationship with a person like Nobuyuki Sakakibara. At this point, the only thing Sakakibara offers is an occasional event for booking Bellator fighters in Japan. That’s about it.
As for booking drug-suspended Kimbo Slice in London, it’s awful timing given what recently happened in Ireland with fighter Joao Carvalho. The British tabloids will not be as charitable & forgiving as their American counterparts to Bellator. Hope it’s worth it to the suits at Spike TV.
By Zach Arnold | April 15, 2016
There has always been one critical question about UFC’s purchase of PRIDE’s assets: why did the Nevada Gaming Commission allow the deal to happen?
The Nevada Gaming Commission is extremely tough on business dealings involving questionable individuals and walking acts of moral turpitude. We knew the Fertitta family had extraordinary power but even they aren’t the biggest fish in Nevada.
One of the nagging sub-questions about that asset purchase was this: UFC hired Spectrum Gaming to cover their ass on the issue of “due diligence” with PRIDE. In other words, legal cover for dealing with Nobuyuki Sakakibara and company. When Spectrum Gaming gave cover to UFC for the PRIDE asset purchase, I couldn’t believe it. Why would these entities risk their reputation for that guy even at UFC’s benefit?
Paul Gift’s report at Bloody Elbow details some extremely interesting findings if you followed the timeline of PRIDE’s implosion:
- According to court filings, Sakakibara was looking to unload PRIDE in February of 2006. This is significant because it shows that Sakakibara, knew the end was coming with Fuji TV after Shukan Gendai’s negative campaign. The cat was out of the bag. They were looking for an exit strategy.
- The final purchase price to buy off Sakakibara alone was $3.7 million USD + $9 million (non-compete) + $1.5 million. A $14.2 million USD pay-off to prevent Sakakibara from being their Japanese rival.
- UFC allegedly used the Spectrum Gaming due diligence report to stop the flow of cash. In other words, UFC knew exactly what caused PRIDE to implode, got Sakakibara out of the business, and then turned around and told him to get lost.
- Spectrum Gaming knew all about Shukan Gendai’s negative campaign and couldn’t supposedly produce evidence to their liking from Sakakibara himself to clear his name that had been tarnished in the tabloids, including the allegations regarding “vendor” companies.
The 38-page Spectrum Gaming report on Sakakibara & Dream Stage Entertainment is an amusing read. Some bullet points:
- Spectrum got nowhere when contacting DSE vendors. “Although Spectrum investigators managed to speak to some staff at various Vendors to advise them of our role in the Due Diligence process, none was willing to cooperate. In fact, most Vendors contacted were non-cooperative to the point to refusing to take Spectrum’s calls, or in one case, even threatening legal action.
- UFC agreed to “lower” their due diligence standards with Spectrum by having Spectrum only do online media & Internet research. I’m glad they read Fight Opinion.
- DSE’s accountant allegedly “resigned” after Spectrum started investigating, only for that accountant to show up with Sakakibara during investigative hearings.
- In April 2006, Sakakibara obtained a 10-year loan with an individual named Nobuo Kawagami at an annual interest rate of 10%. Spectrum claimed that Sakakibara did not want to reveal details about the loan or the person issuing the loan. Mr. Kawagami has a cell phone company called Dowango.
- One of the major financial backers when Dream Stage Entertainment was formed was a printing company called Nishikawa Communications, based in Nagoya. Just like Nobuyuki Sakakibara was based in Nagoya for Tokai TV. The first PRIDE event under the DSE umbrella was PRIDE 5, Nobuhiko Takada vs. Mark Coleman at Nagoya Rainbow Hall. Sakakibara bought out shares in DSE from Naoto Morishita’s widow, Nishikawa Communications, and a company called Planet.
- Spectrum claimed that Sakakibara’s right-hand men, including Sotaro Shinoda and public relations flack Keiichi Sasahara (who later went to be a face of DREAM) were non-cooperative.
- Spectrum wrote this bombshell: “Reports have been provided on the five Tier 3 Vendors, and four of the five companies have been found to have links to organized crime entities, and this is not suitable to do business with the new DSE company.”
- Spectrum found out that the Nevada State Athletic Commission sued Dream Stage Entertainment for allegedly being deadbeats on paying the TV tax for a Las Vegas event.
- Spectrum summary on Nobuyuki Sakakibara: “While Spectrum cannot speculate about their precise motives in not wishing to cooperate with the investigation, it is clear that a number of the Directors, especially Sakakibara and Kato, had much to hide, including major conflicts of interest through their personal interests in various DSE vendor companies, opaque financing and possible links to organized crime. Although none of the Directors was known to Japanese law enforcement to be a Yakuza member, media information alleges possible organized crime connections regarding DSE operations and Sakakibara. It should be pointed out that the use of “front companies” or companies that are “one step removed”, such as the Vendor companies, is a traditional method used by Yakuza Organized Crime Families in Japan to hide their association or involvement in high profile companies such as DSE.”
- Spectrum confirmed the long-standing open rumor that Sakakibara was living the high-life at Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, an 18-story condo building. “The utlities for room were subsequently found to be contracted under the name [redacted], whereas the registered owner is Hiroo Kurokawa.”
- Spectrum discovered that Ed Fishman, who tried to buy the PRIDE assets from Nobuyuki Sakakibara, filed a lawsuit against DSE for breach of contract in helping Sakakibara with the PRIDE Las Vegas events.
- Spectrum’s interview with Sakakibara revealed that his claims of filing criminal and civil actions against Shukan Gendai for their negative campaign was all a bluff.
- DSE was under investigation by the Japanese tax authorities for several years.
- Sakakibara told Spectrum that he knew the mysterious Mr. I (Takashi Ishizaka), claiming he knew Ishizaka from the 90s and that Ishizaka is both a manager of celebrities and tied to a real estate company named Aoyama Mainland. However, Sakakibara denied doing business with Ishizaka.
Bottom line? Everyone knew “the truth” going into the business deal. They were all trying to fight each other *after* the deal.
Which raises the primary question we asked a decade ago: Why did the Nevada Gaming Commission allow this transaction to happen and allow a due diligence background check happen *after* the transaction?
Sakakibara sued Spectrum Gaming and UFC. They reached a settlement. He got paid. Everybody got what they wanted. Everybody knew what they were getting into. The regulators didn’t stop the transaction from happening. None of this is earth-shattering information but it does confirm the majority of suspicions you had about what exactly went down and why.
By Zach Arnold | April 6, 2016
What do you get when you pair:
- A sports league with no cultural connection to a country and…
- A pay TV channel with a decades-long history of being a graveyard for combat sports
You get the UFC marriage with WOWOW in Japan. It was destined for failure from the start.
IT Media/Business Online in Japan confirmed on Thursday morning local time the end of the UFC/WOWOW television marriage. With no major Japanese stars, there simply wasn’t a financial interest for WOWOW to continue doing business. Why pay a premium for a sports product behind a TV pay wall with no real ties to Japan?
This is less about UFC failing in the Japanese marketplace as it is simply a matter of fact that this was a business relationship that was never going to succeed. UFC was the antithesis of PRIDE. They bought the PRIDE assets out and found out the hard way how hostile the lay of the land was for doing business in Japan. UFC partnered up with Dentsu for a reported sold-show deal that is still on-going but has not really gone anywhere in terms of business growth. At this point in time, UFC’s once-a-year Japanese event is simply perfunctory. UFC was hot for one Saitama Super Arena event… and then it went flat.
Combat sports, more than traditional sports, is entirely built on a cultural & emotional connection. UFC’s marketing of their product was often built on reason and logic. We’re the best fighters in the world. We beat PRIDE. The cage is safer than the ring. Come and watch us. It was a rational argument. Rational arguments in combat sports never work. Tribal identity & analogies always trump reason & logic on the persuasion scale. Japan, more than any other major sports economy, is built on the staying power of nationalism. The UFC was not a Japanese company and was not a company with Japanese stars.
By Zach Arnold | April 2, 2016
The momentum for both Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier was heading on a negative track.
Mr. Jones found himself in an orange jumpsuit and more legal trouble for opening his mouth to a cop who didn’t have a problem looking for an encounter. His public image took a needling for calling the chatty cop a pig. Jones has the worst of all public personality traits for a top-level athlete: socially awkward, ambivalent, obtuse, stunted maturity, passive-aggressive, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde combined with a raw sense of entitlement plus IDGAF mode. It’s not a debate as to whether or not he’s a “bad guy” — he’s troubled and self-destructive. You’ve also seen the media reports about his brother Chandler who just got traded from the New England Patriots.
When you opine that his judgment outside the cage appears to be as awful as his judgment is great in the cage, that’s supposed to be an easy “bad boy” sell on paper. Not for Jon Jones. His rap sheet is as appealing as the proverbial turd in the punch bowl. Nick Diaz gets a DUI and nobody blinks. Jon Jones gets a DWI and the Internet explodes.
People will continue to pay to see Jon Jones destroy opponents, wreck their credibility, and strip away the respectability of his rivals into subordinate status. He did this to Daniel Cormier.
— MMA Supremacy (@MMASupremacy) April 1, 2016
By Zach Arnold | March 31, 2016
He sang like a songbird at last week’s Nevada State Athletic Commission meeting in Las Vegas, admitting wrongdoing in relation to allegations of perjury, forgery, and (possible) charges related to improper use of a social security number and intentional misrepresentation on Zab Judah’s licensing paperwork.
However, the admission of wrongdoing amidst pending charges by Nevada’s Attorney General office isn’t stopping Roy Englebrecht from promoting an event in Orange County next week. Englebrecht sent out promotional material on Thursday for his event next week at the Orange County Fair & Event Center. It will be a hybrid MMA/boxing card.
It is the first evidence that the Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the California State Athletic Commission, has not temporarily suspended Englebrecht given the pending charges in Nevada and his admission of wrongdoing under oath.
Once the Nevada State Athletic Commission delivers permanent punishment to Englebrecht, the big question is whether California honors the suspension or not. They are legally obligated to honor fighter suspensions but have legal discretion regarding the honoring of promoter suspensions.
Consumer Affairs in Sacramento has a lengthy legal history of revoking licenses from individuals who are guilty of acts of moral turpitude (honesty & trustworthiness). Perjury and forgery falls into this category. DCA targets individuals all the time through their various boards over DUIs, police encounters, theft, and other crimes of depravity. If you are guilty of an act of moral turpitude, you can’t get or keep a liquor license, a license to promote events, a license to be a notary public, a medical license, a nursing license, or a law license.
Behind the scenes, there are rumors that California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer Andy Foster will be spending the month of April in Georgia. It is believed that his number one athletic inspector, Mark Relyea, will be running commission duties from Southern California.
By Zach Arnold | March 31, 2016
An interim belt at 145. Not because of injury. Because the 145 champ is too busy fighting at 170 in a nonsensical rematch.
— FrontRowBrian (@FrontRowBrian) March 31, 2016
Let’s consider the last four months, shall we?
- After knocking out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds, tension filled the air at the post-fight presser between UFC and McGregor’s camp.
- If you believe various media reports, Conor felt he had enough leverage to start asking for co-promotional business deals to promote future events with the UFC.
- UFC supposedly (and predictably) scoffed at the notion that they would ever do any boxing-style business deal with one of their aces.
- In a passive/aggressive manner, UFC booked McGregor against the least-marketed champion ever in Rafael dos Anjos.
- RDA got injured and had to cancel his fight with McGregor.
- On short-notice, UFC booked Nate Diaz as a last-minute replacement. Hey, he’s a 3-to-1 underdog. He’s a Diaz brother. People confuse the two. He’ll attract eyeballs. Easy win. Win-win!
- The fight between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor ends up getting booked at 170 pounds.
- McGregor was simply not the same fighter at 170 pounds and didn’t bring any of the advantages to the table that he did at 145 pounds.
- Nate Diaz, as a Diaz brother is hard-coded to do, destroyed the best-laid plans and won the fight.
- The fight blows away all expectation for PPV buys, with an estimated 7-figure PPV buy rate.
Given all of this, it was an absolute no-brainer that UFC would book Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor for UFC 200. I think it’s hilarious that the Diaz brothers are once again creating chaos in modern day MMA. Everyone will profit off of this carnival. It may not be Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir and 1.7 million PPV buys, but nothing ever will reach that zenith again for UFC. Diaz vs. McGregor is cotton candy for the masses.
It’s also a no-lose situation for UFC.
By Zach Arnold | March 30, 2016
Sacramento and Tallahassee, you two are cheap dates when it comes to the amount of cash required to lobby for legislation.
The UFC has powerhouse lobbying firms on retainer all across the United States. In Florida, their partners are Corcoran & Johnston. In California, it’s the inimitable Tim Lynch at Platinum Advisors. The price tag is at least $15,000 a quarter for retainer. In most cases, UFC is spending upwards of $75,000 as a minimum to lobby & exert incredible influence over state athletic commissions. It’s the cost of doing business. In the grand scheme of things, the amount UFC spends on lobbying versus how much they actually make is chump change. They get great bang for their buck.
That was never the case in New York, however. The company desperately wanted to get MMA legislation passed in New York. Starting in November 2007, the company began an incredibly expensive $2 million lobbying campaign over the next four years that would flounder. It didn’t matter if there were shows in New Jersey or pressers at Radio City Music Hall or fighter interviews on major media outlets. As long as Sheldon Silver was in power in the New York state Assembly, they were wasting their time and money. The lobbyists got even richer.
It’s common knowledge that UFC blew a lot of cash in Albany. What is remarkable however, from a historical perspective, is to look at the actual lobbying records from November 2007 through the end of the 2015 political season to see how much UFC spent, where they spent it, and who benefited from the lobbying largesse. It also reveals the hard changes UFC had to make in strategy to take down some of America’s most corrupt politicians.