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Why did the UFC lobby the California legislature over cheerleaders?

By Zach Arnold | March 29, 2016

UFC is the only major combat sports promoter that lobbies in California. They use a high-level Sacramento firm called Platinum Advisors LLC. Their point man is Tim Lynch. He has some of the biggest clients, including the Golden State Warriors. It’s also the lobbying firm of Liberty Dental, the company of California State Athletic Commission chairman John Carvelli.

Like clockwork, UFC spends 6-figures a year lobbying in Sacramento on behalf of issues related to the California State Athletic Commission. Given California’s importance, a 6-figure price tag is a cheap date if you ask me. They own the power.

Part of this power comes in strange & unusual ways. One bill the UFC tried to influence in 2015 was Assembly Bill 202, known as the Oakland Raiders cheerleader employment bill. The intent of the bill was to have California law apply to cheerleaders for sports franchises, thus converting these cheerleaders from independent contractors into employees with full labor rights. It also would have provided the possibility of… unionization. The Assemblywoman who wrote AB 202 was a labor leader.

Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law last July.

How did UFC end up being excluded from having to classify their Octagon girls as employees in California? A look at the final text of the bill reveals…

(1) “California-based team” means a team that plays a majority of its home games in California.

(3) “Professional sports team” means a team at either a minor or major league level in the sport of baseball, basketball, football, ice hockey, or soccer.

Bingo. No application of this law to combat sports and to a non-California company like UFC which doesn’t use the team franchise business model.

This is how UFC flexes their muscle in the lobbying game. They have political control over the state Athletic Commission. The Fertittas have tentacles in the state’s gambling economy. They can do this because nobody else in combat sports is even trying to play the game. Bellator and other promoters can enjoy the fruits of UFC’s political lobbying but when push comes to shove, UFC is the first to get what they want because they actually bother to show up to do the dirty work. Even when it comes to cheerleaders.

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

If USADA has only caught 5 UFC fighters & only 40% of the tests are out-of-competition…

By Zach Arnold | March 28, 2016

… is USADA drug testing as effective at catching cheaters as Nevada’s out-of-competition drug testing policy?

Answer: Yes and no.

If you follow MMA betting wizard Luca Fury on Twitter, you know that the game has changed for real since the implementation of USADA’s drug testing program. Since the implementation of USADA testing, it is now smarter and more profitable to side with the underdogs than the favorites. You used to hit on an occasional 3-to-1 underdog here and there but now your chances of making money simply with underdogs is greater than ever before. It’s not a coincidence. When you have a sport with doping problems comparable to horse racing, any threat of out-of-competition drug testing immediately creates more randomness for success in a sport that was already way more random and harder to predict than other sports to bet on.

And yet, Larry Pepe on Pro MMA Radio recently made an extremely compelling argument about how much USADA’s drug testing program is more or less about public relations first rather than a drug testing program with actual teeth. The “more bark than bite” argument.

If you support USADA’s UFC drug testing efforts, you simply can point out the obvious. Given that MMA fighters make less money than athletes in other sports, they’re not as likely to get the high-end designer performance-enhancing drugs. And if there’s anything history has taught us over the last 15 years, especially during the Testosterone Replacement Therapy era, it’s that MMA fighters are notoriously sloppy at cheating. They’re just not as good at it as their athletic counterparts in other major sports.

Continue reading this article here…

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

Not again! Andy Foster/California State Athletic Commission approved booking of 60 year old, 200-pound female boxer who got rocked

By Zach Arnold | March 27, 2016

“That is one heavy chick! 295 pounds!” … “That is absolutely awesome! 59 years of age! This is legendary!”

Nearly two years ago, we wrote a controversial article about Keela Byrd Byars, a late 50-something 200-pound boxer who had been trying for years to get licensed by the California State Athletic Commission. She could never administratively get licensed by the state of California.

Her luck changed when Andy Foster and the California State Athletic Commission board granted her a temporary license.

In May of 2014, Keela Byars fought a four-round fight for promoter Ed Holmes of All-Star Boxing in Southern California against a 40-something female boxer who was nearly 300 pounds. Watch Keela Byrd Byars’ debut fight. She shouldn’t have won a single round. Three California judges (Pat Connolly 40-36, David Denkin & Donald Howard 39-37) ended up giving her a unanimous decision. Even the announcers couldn’t spin it.

“I almost wanted one of Keela’s right hands to just connect just to stun her back a little bit.”

Byars could barely hit a 300-pound target in four rounds. The video speaks for itself.

Two years later, Byars — now allegedly in her 60s, was booked for an Ed Holmes All-Star Boxing event on Saturday night at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel against a 9-6 fighter named Laura Ramsey (age 46). This was Byars second ever fight in California and she lost.

We received communication, unsolicited, from people at the show on Saturday night who were absolutely appalled by what they were seeing. The referee for the fight was Jack Reiss. What an grossly unfair situation to put him in.

Take note of this comment at The Sweet Science:

One guesses that the California commission consented to license a 60-year-old woman for fear of legal reprisals if they turned her application down. In our litigious society, the scent of trial lawyers lurking about often dictates the actions of government bureaucrats. In theory, denying Keela Byars a boxing license would have opened up the state to a lawsuit on grounds of age and/or gender discrimination. (There are two attorneys on the California commission, Martha Shen-Urquidez and Mary Lehman, the latter of whom is a former professional boxer.) It should also be noted that the commission promised to be extremely vigilant in seeing that Ms. Byars was properly matched.

The athletic commission has every right to reject a fighter based on health & safety grounds, especially someone who is in their late 50s/early 60s and HAS NEVER FOUGHT PROFESSIONALLY BEFORE. In Nevada, fighters over the age of 35 are required to petition the commission for approval. Standard operating procedure. Athletic commissions also are supposed to send officials to check out current skill levels during sparring in order to prevent massacres from happening in the ring or cage.

In other words, a racial or gender discrimination lawsuit by a licensee against the state of California would go nowhere. It would require filing a claim with the Government Claims Board. If they rejected, then you would likely petition for a writ of mandate given that it’s a licensing issue rather than a workplace/employee issue. The cost of bringing such litigation would have likely stopped a person in their tracks, especially since you have to pay attorneys up front for writ of mandates in hopes of getting your fees on the back-end if you prevail. It would simply have been easier to go to another state, with a terrible athletic commission, to get licensed to fight.

But why go to another state when California is ready to license you? Take note of what was stated in official California State Athletic Commission documentation in May of 2014:

You want to talk about lawsuit fears from a licensee? Forget an age or gender discrimination lawsuit. Lawsuits from licensees that state athletic commissions worry about? Wrongful death & negligence/duty of care lawsuits. Combat sports are legally classified as ultrahazardous for good reason.

Exit question: How will an athletic commission like California respond to a lengthy Nevada suspension of promoter Roy Englebrecht for perjury/forgery (acts of moral turpitude) if they don’t care about integrity in boxing? It’s time for the Department of Consumer Affairs to step in and read the riot act before things completely spin out of control.

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

California promoter Roy Englebrecht admits “mistake” regarding Nevada perjury & forgery charges

By Zach Arnold | March 23, 2016

Things just escalated very quickly for California-based combat sports promoter Roy Englebecht and the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Nevada, which temporarily suspended both Englebrecht and boxer Zab Judah over allegations of falsified paperwork, revealed more details on Wednesday morning regarding the pending charges being filed against both men.

The pending charges against Roy Englebrecht

Nevada’s Attorney General office claimed on Wednesday morning that promoter Roy Englebrecht not only committed perjury regarding paperwork he filed on behalf of Zab Judah but also claimed that he was guilty of forgery and violation of state law regarding possession of Judah’s social security number to put on the fighter’s application form.

According to the Athletic Commission, Englebrecht was summoned to meet with Executive Director Bob Bennett on March 10th regarding the commission’s investigation into back child support that Judah allegedly owed. That investigation supposedly revealed that:

The commission claims that Englebrecht was notified of Judah’s back child support owed and asked to find a replacement fighter for the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center event that was scheduled to air on CBS Sports Network. A replacement fighter and promoter could not be found in time to save the show.

According to the AG’s office, Englebrecht supposedly admitted to Bob Bennett that he had filed licensing paperwork on behalf of Zab Judah and that 1) he had not only forged Judah’s signature but 2) also put the fighter’s social security number on the paperwork.

What was not addressed at Wednesday’s meeting by either the athletic commission or Roy Englebrecht was motive as to why Englebrecht, rather than Zab Judah or Judah’s manager, filed the licensing paperwork with Nevada in the first place.

The athletic commission requested a continuation on the temporary suspension of Roy Englebrecht until a formal complaint is filed against Englebrecht. That complaint will supposedly allege that Englebrecht committed multiple specific intent crimes of moral turpitude.

Under oath at Wednesday’s athletic commission hearing, Englebrecht gave testimony without an attorney speaking on his behalf. Englebrecht did not dispute the pending allegations brought against him. Englebrecht stated that he damaged the trust between him and the athletic commission.

“I damaged that trust and failed you.”

Englebrecht said that he would “accept full responsibility.”

“I made a mistake. It was poor judgment.”

The problem for Roy Englebrecht is that perjury and forgery are specific intent allegations, not general intent crimes of mistake.

After accepting the preliminary allegations made against him by the athletic commission, Englebrecht went into a mini-stump speech about being a 70-year old fight promoter with an extensive 31 year history of promoting club shows all over the country and never once bouncing a check or screwing over regulators.

“I feel I am a true fight promoter.”

The Attorney General’s office stated that they would issue the formal complaints against both Roy Englebrecht and Zab Judah in the coming weeks and allow them due process to formally respond to the charges. It is expected that formal disciplinary hearings against both Judah & Englebrecht will take place in May.

Nevada’s athletic commission excoriated Englebrecht on Wednesday morning, asking how they or other athletic commissions could trust his word or the word of fighters working with or associated with Englebrecht in the future given his admission of both perjury and forgery in the Zab Judah case.

The major shoes to drop soon

  1. Will California honor Nevada’s temporary suspension of Roy Englebrecht?
  2. Will California honor Nevada’s formal suspension of Roy Englebrecht after May’s disciplinary hearing? Englebrecht has events coming up in April, May, and June. A formal suspension of Englebrecht would cost both he and the California State Athletic Commission significant cash in lost revenue.
  3. When Englebrecht is suspended by Nevada’s athletic commission, will the California State Athletic Commission allow Englebrecht to run events under the rent-a-license Promoter-In-Name-Only scheme that we often see in action for Southern California fight events?

Last week, we requested formal comments from both Englebrecht and the California State Athletic Commission regarding Nevada’s suspension and neither camp responded to our requests.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

New York MMA legislation is still a big deal… but will the bureaucrats get it right?

By Zach Arnold | March 22, 2016

American politics swim upstream from popular culture.

For nearly a decade, proponents of Mixed Martial Arts have done everything in their power to get MMA legislation passed. As long as Sheldon Silver existed, it wasn’t going to happen. The beneficiaries of this political roadblock were the New Jersey and Pennsylvania athletic commissions. Over time, those commissions not only embraced MMA but took pride in actually regulating events. I don’t worry about the Nick Lembos of the world in terms of competency.

I worry about the Michigan, Texas, and New York athletic commissions — a lot. Places with big markets, toxic politics, and bureaucrats who half-heartedly care about combat sports other than getting some event tickets for themselves, friends, and the donor class.

For long-time friends and associates who have fought their asses off in New York to get the sport regulated, I salute their heart and determination. Jim Genia is a hero and one of the highest-character people I’ve ever dealt with in combat sports.

We know how the New York playbook likely is going to work. Scott Coker and Bellator will attempt to beat UFC and run the first major MMA event in the state. UFC will come in and run Madison Square Garden once, then run some Fight Nights over the next couple of years before largely abandoning the East Coast for a once-a-year type schedule. All the financial promises of bringing in tens of millions of dollars is just blowing smoke.

I will still appreciate the magnitude of UFC finally running Madison Square Garden and I hope the fans who show up to MSG demonstrate their support as well. It will be hard to have a dead crowd if Jon Jones is headlining the MSG event.

The combat sports regulatory system of dysfunction in New York was out of control. At least there will be a framework moving forward. However, that framework does not guarantee good regulation. New York’s athletic commission is so far behind the learning curve, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will continue to demonstrate a higher level of competence. My lowest expectation of New York is that they can match Texas in competency and that’s just awful.

The politicians were a decade behind the curve in approving MMA legislation. The populace has moved on. UFC fighters are featured on television all the time. Ronda Rousey didn’t need New York to become a household name. New York missed an opportunity to become part of the conversation and to become part of the UFC’s history in regards to their push to become a mainstream sports topic. New York politics never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

There is a great irony, however, in New York passing MMA legislation now during a time when there is so much political & media scrutiny on contact sports like the NFL over the issue of concussions & CTE.

Which reminds me what a great time it is to plug Jim Genia’s book, Raw Combat: The Underground World of Mixed Martial Arts

Exit question: Now that the Fertittas have accomplished their goal in getting New York MMA legislation passed, does it accelerate or cement their timeline in selling UFC?

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

What happens if Nevada drops the hammer on promoter Roy Englebrecht and costs California $?

By Zach Arnold | March 16, 2016

Veteran California boxing & MMA promoter Roy Englebrecht is in a hell of a mess and it could not only cost him money but also cost the state of California money if the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspends him.

The background

Last Friday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission indefinitely suspended both boxer Zab Judah and promoter Roy Englebrecht. Nevada’s commission is publicly claiming that both Judah & Englebrecht “falsified” paperwork submitted to the commission. The initial media report suggested that Judah & Englebrecht allegedly did not disclose back child support that Judah supposedly owes. Late Friday, it was publicly reported that Englebrecht filed paperwork on behalf of Judah with Nevada’s athletic commission.

It is standard operating procedure for athletic commissions to pay off owed back taxes or child support via the fight money purses.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission/Attorney General’s office has not disclosed their full case against Judah & Englebrecht. They will make their case next week to the public. Therefore, it is impossible at this point in time to fully understand the detailed scope of the allegations.

Judah was scheduled to main event a Saturday fight card at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center. CBS Sports Network was scheduled to televise the event. Roy Englebrecht was the promoter for the show. After Nevada’s athletic commission suspended both Judah and Englebrecht, there wasn’t enough time to find a substitute promoter to save the show. The arena lost the show booking. The athletic commission wasted time and lost money. Fighters on the undercard lost out on pay days.

As a result of the Nevada State Athletic Commission alleging “falsified” paperwork from both Zab Judah & Roy Englebrecht, economic damage occurred with the cancellation of the show. You have fighters, an arena venue, an athletic commission, and a television partner all involved in a show that ended up not occurring.

What is fair punishment and fair compensation?

Next week, both Zab Judah & Roy Englebrecht will be summoned to Las Vegas to address the athletic commission board about the supposedly falsified paperwork. The commission has the option of suspending and fining both men.

For the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, how will the arena recover money from the economic damage caused by the alleged actions of both Judah & Englebrecht? There are two key causes of action to focus on: breach of contract (nonperformance) and misrepresentation (fraud). Misrepresentation carries the weight of economic damages plus punitive damages. Breach of contract does not carry punitive damages.

How do you prove mens rea?

The hurdle is proving intent when alleging perjury.

It’s one thing to argue negligence. It’s another thing to argue fraud in of the inducement by meeting the standard of providing clear & convincing evidence in an administrative hearing.

How do you prove intent rather than mistake via error of omission?

How do you prove that Roy Englebrecht knew about back child support that Zab Judah allegedly owed? The theory of strict liability is one thing — but strict liability does not equal proving intent.

Anything that Judah or Englebrecht say under oath at next week’s athletic commission meeting can and will be used against them in a civil court case, either filed by the Attorney General or by attorneys from business partners involved in the cancelled Las Vegas event. Any statement made at next week’s hearing under oath that the AG’s office determines to be false is under felony penalty of perjury.

The athletic commission could determine that the actions of both Judah & Englebrecht were negligent… or they could determine that the actions were intentional. This would be very significant in regards to how much money both Judah & Englebrecht could, in theory, owe to their business partners in damages from last Saturday’s cancelled event. How significant? Punitive damages means three times the damages originally suffered from breach of contract (nonperformance) if intent to conceal or misrepresent vital information is factually proven.

Steve Carp’s report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper claimed that the fight event was sold out.

Could the Attorney General’s office propose a global settlement for all parties involved or could the Athletic Commission/AG’s office pursue their own line of punishment and allow the business partners in the cancelled Vegas show to file their own civil suit?

California could suffer as well

Given the recent policies imposed by the California State Athletic Commission for the cost of doing business on the independent show level, the net result of those policies has placed a heavier emphasis on bigger shows and less of an emphasis on grass roots events.

Of the remaining grass roots promoters in California, Roy Englebrecht and Ken Thompson are the two most established in the state of California. Englebrecht not only runs events in Orange County but also advertises an endeavor called Fight Promoter University where he and many California-based insiders teach people the ins-and-outs of promoting combat sports. These events can be big-time socializing events with power players in the fight business.

Englebrecht is one of the very few grass roots promoters in the state of California who has not only survived but managed to carve out a profitable market for himself. That, in turn, means real cash for the California State Athletic Commission. Roy means business and business means something to Sacramento.

Roy has several events scheduled for the rest of the 2016 calendar. Those events could very well be threatened if the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspends him. It would put the California State Athletic Commission in a terrible position.

Reaction

We requested an official statement from the California State Athletic Commission on Monday morning. The athletic commission did not respond to our inquiry.

We sent an inquiry to Roy Englebrecht on Tuesday morning asking for an on-the-record comment about what kind of contract he had with the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center. We have not received an official response at the time of publication of this article.

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

The difference between UFC & Bellator gambles? UFC’s cost them millions of dollars

By Zach Arnold | March 5, 2016

You could not have dreamed up of a costlier scenario for UFC. They got schlonged the hard way and created this matchmaking disaster by maximizing risk and minimizing Return on Investment.

Nate Diaz submitting Conor McGregor. Talk about a Pyrrhic victory. UFC management may be gleeful that McGregor was taken down and had his dreams of boxing-style business dealings shattered but look what it just cost them in the long run. The cherry on top of this sundae is that the Diaz Brothers once again have real power in the sport of MMA. The greatest MMA characters in the history of Western Civilization and giant pain in the asses for Zuffa to deal with. I love it.

Instead of protecting McGregor and canceling his fight due to RDA’s injury, they pressed on with the PPV because they didn’t want to cancel. They booked McGregor against a naturally bigger fighter. Amazing.

If that gamble wasn’t one-sided for you, Dana White swore on his family that he would not book Holly Holm in a match other than a re-match with Ronda Rousey. Instead, Holm’s camp wanted to fight and Ronda needed a longer-than-expected break. Result? Book a “safe” fight with Miesha Tate and half-ass the promotion of it. The result? Miesha won the title and now UFC is chasing its own tail trying to figure out what to do next.

Buster Douglas trended on Twitter after both Conor & Holly lost. Buster Douglas is permanently etched in the minds of every sports fan some 26 years later. Holly losing was *very* bad for her but not a doomsday scenario for UFC given Miesha’s popularity and marketability. Conor McGregor is a doomsday scenario, however.

Neither of these risks by UFC management were necessary but they took them anyways and tactically backed themselves into a corner. Compare this strategy to what we’ve recently seen in Bellator.

Bellator has been booking MMA legends fights. They’ve booked freak show fights. Kimbo Slice is as big of a draw in 2016 as he ever was during the Gary Shaw days. Shamrock vs. Royce was miserable and Kimbo vs. Dada was historic for all the wrong reasons, including Dada’s post-fight hospitalization. But there were no titles at stake. It was simply booking fun fights. The risk was either extreme entertainment or embarrassment.

Bellator just signed Wanderlei Silva to a contract. Right before Bellator announced this signing, there was talk about Wanderlei showing up for the April RIZING event. The talk? About RIZIN promoting an MMA Legends series. Very similar to Bellator. With Wanderlei still on suspension from Nevada, it’s likely that he will fight in RIZIN sooner rather than later. The idea of an MMA Legends series sounds fun on paper but awful in execution. There are risks in promoting this concept but they are not multi-million arbitrary short-sighted risks like UFC is often wont to do. There’s a time for taking risks but the risks UFC often takes are real head-scratchers.

Best case scenario for UFC with the women’s title? Ronda Rousey (Hulk Hogan) losing to Holly Holm (Ultimate Warrior) losing to Miesha Tate (Sgt. Slaughter), with Rousey vs. Tate now having a shiny new angle to another re-match.

UFC was also trending for the wrong reasons after the McGregor fight. Mainly, Floyd Mayweather was trending because of another UFC/media-concocted storyline about a McGregor/Money fight. They deserve the scorn they are receiving online right now.

Topics: Bellator, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 16 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

America’s 2016 Yuge Nevada Nightmare: Hillary, Culinary Union, Trump, and the Fertittas

By Zach Arnold | February 21, 2016

We’re one step closer to the classiest, most luxurious political cage match in American Presidential history — and Nevada will be a major battle between two of America’s most famous egoists.

In one corner, it will (likely) be Donald Trump and the major casino bosses in Nevada including Steve Wynn plus Frank & Lorenzo Fertitta.

In the other corner, (likely) Hillary Clinton with Bob Arum, outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, and the powerful Culinary Union. The arch-nemesis of the Fertitta family.

Complicating matters in this three-ring circus is what side will each casino boss be on. Sheldon Adelson cares most about Israel and is friendly to politicians using military force. Adelson also owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper. Other casino bosses have poured money into Democratic lobbying firm Subject Matter under the American Gaming Association umbrella. Throw in Governor Brian Sandoval and you have an all-out battle royale in a top purplish swing-state.

It’s hard to see a path for Trump to win Nevada… but he has some wealthy allies on his side. Trump’s a huge UFC fan and has been a big supporter of combat sports for decades. If there’s one person who the Fertitta family can count on to not amend the Ali Act, it would be Trump. The Culinary Union in Las Vegas has used their political heft in trying to build momentum for both amending the Ali Act to cover MMA and also in the fight over MMA legislation in the state of New York.

Both the UFC & Trump share a common enemy: the Culinary Union. The Union protested outside of Trump’s palace last August in order to encourage workers to join the union. Two months later, Trump filed a lawsuit against the Culinary & Bartenders Unions. Two months after that lawsuit, workers at Trump International joined the Culinary Union.

The war between Trump and CU is real. The war between the Fertitta family and CU is real. Now there’s even bigger stakes to be had.

On Saturday, the Democrats held their Nevada caucus and Hillary Clinton won. According to The New York Times, Harry Reid reportedly placed a phone call with the Culinary Union and with casino executives to let their employees attend the caucuses. This helped Hillary Clinton win Clark County by 10%. The Culinary Union was staying neutral in the primary race between Hillary Clinton & Bernie Sanders. Sanders has been making in-roads with Latino & African-American voters but not fast enough to beat Hillary’s coalition of supporters. Sanders continues to do well with younger voters.

When the General Election takes place in November, the Culinary Union and the casino bosses will play a significant role in determining who will win Nevada. With Reid leaving the Senate, the UFC is losing a key political ally on Capitol Hill. UFC needs a political heavyweight on their side. Trump could be that guy. He would absolutely go along with what they want to accomplish. In order to win the Presidency, Trump needs to win Nevada and that means he needs organizational muscle on the ground with assistance from the Fertittas. Not only some muscle in competing with the Culinary Union but also support from UFC’s fan base, largely made up of male voters aged 18-to-35. This demographic matches up nicely with the younger voters who have been supporting Sanders in the Democratic primary. The Bernie Bros.

Why would the Fertittas consider helping Trump out? If Trump wins, 1) the Ali Act doesn’t get amended to cover Mixed Martial Arts, 2) the National Labor Relations Board won’t be breathing down UFC’s neck, and 3) the Feds won’t go after UFC on any sort of anti-trust/monopoly claims.

Conversely, Hillary Clinton will need all the fire power she can get from the Culinary Union, Harry Reid, and Bob Arum in Las Vegas if she wants to win Nevada. It is not a stretch to guess that two of the concessions the Culinary Union could request from Hillary would involve 1) a commitment to amend the Ali Act to cover MMA and 2) pressure in attacking the independent contractor status of UFC fighters.

Other than that, nothing too much at stake in Nevada this November. Just keep Bill away from the Octagon girls.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 26 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

A piece of MMA’s soul and history just died with Kevin Randleman’s passing

By Zach Arnold | February 11, 2016

If you became an MMA fan in the UFC-only modern era of Mixed Martial Arts, you missed out on all the fun. The pre-Zuffa UFC days. RINGS. And eventually PRIDE & Hustle. You missed out on guys like Bas Rutten, Don Frye, Mark Coleman, Gary Goodridge, and Kevin Randleman. They were not only fantastic athletes but great characters. Fun. Full of life. Crazy. Warriors. They made it worth watching 6-hour marathon MMA events at odd times in the early morning hours.

These warriors have paid a steep price, both physically and financially. Some more than others. But they made MMA. They’re the reason I became a writer and why I cared about the sport for so long. True characters. We have characters today but many of them are manufactured personas. Kevin Randleman was not one of those guys.

And now he’s dead at the age of 44 due to heart failure.

I will always remember Kevin for creating some of the sport’s most memorable moments. He found himself in some of the most volatile, wacky predicaments. The guy beat Mirko Cro Cop when Cro Cop was one of the greatest ever. He dumped Fedor on his head. RIGHT ON HIS HEAD! The guy was pure dynamite in the ring and cage. He possessed an element of explosive danger that made his fights so intriguing to watch.

Randleman had very high and very low moments in his career but he was so raw, so talented, and so naturally gifted. The game has certainly changed and gotten smarter with coaches like Greg Jackson. Randleman was a throw back. He made Mixed Martial Arts great and I loved him for it.

Topics: Japan, MMA, Media, PRIDE, UFC, Zach Arnold | 9 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The MMA heavyweight division is a tragic disaster

By Zach Arnold | January 26, 2016

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about the current state of affairs for MMA’s heavyweight division. Injury-plagued and severely lacking in depth, what was supposed to be a cornerstone of PPV sales has gone by the wayside.

Another injury has forced Cain Velasquez out of his fight against Fabricio Werdum, resulting in Stipe Miocic getting an immediate title match. Which promptly lead to Werdum backing out due to his own injuries.

Injuries are nothing new for Cain, but you have to question how much longer he will remain in the sport. Given the horrific lack of talented heavyweights in the sport, he can stick around as long as he wants to. The question is whether or not his body can continue to absorb the punishing training he puts himself through.

Don Frye said it best. In MMA, it’s the training that kills you and not the fight itself.

Look at Cain’s record — he’s had eight fights in six years, five of them against two common opponents (Junior dos Santos & Bigfoot Silva). He’s got an 85% winning percentage. Which makes it all the more heartbreaking. What’s gutting is how much money injuries have cost Cain Velasquez in terms of income. He’s lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. It’s impossible for UFC to trust him as a reliable main eventer, which is even more damaging.

A cursory look at the Sherdog Heavyweight MMA rankings is utterly depressing.

Werdum is injured. Cain is injured (again). Alistair Overeem has max leverage now on UFC but could choose to bolt to a more comfortable environment like Bellator which would also allow him to fight in Japan. Junior dos Santos is not an elite contender at this point in time. Stipe Miocic is your lone bright spot. Andrei Arlovski got destroyed by Miocic. Poor Matt Mitrione got damaged by Travis Browne. Ben Rothwell is a charismatic enigma facing a real opponent in Josh Barnett. Mark Hunt is a zombie. Vitaly Minakov isn’t fighting right now in Bellator. Roy Nelson is Roy Nelson. And Mirko Cro Cop got USADA’d.

This is awful. Let’s book Jon Jones vs. Fedor already.

No wonder UFC fought tooth-and-nail last year for Brock Lesnar’s services.

Topics: Bellator, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 12 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

The Nevada State Athletic Commission wanted Nick Diaz to grovel and is now paying for it

By Zach Arnold | January 14, 2016

Nick Diaz’s five year suspension has been reduced for allegedly failing a marijuana test. The purse fine was also reduced. There were accusations of irregularities in the testing and test results when Diaz fought Anderson Silva.

Given Diaz’s history with the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the Attorney General’s office, it’s not a surprise that he and his legal team were extra cautious when the administrative law body went after him again for marijuana. It’s a civil, not criminal proceeding but any answers given under penalty of perjury could be used against him if the authorities wanted to prosecute him criminally.

But that’s an issue of law. The Nevada State Athletic Commission is more interested in the subjects before them groveling. This time, however, their request for groveling has created further sympathy for Nick Diaz and complete contempt for one of America’s worst combat sports regulatory bodies.

In pleading your Fifth Amendment rights, you do so to protect yourself from self-incrimination. In a civil hearing, judges & juries & administrative officers can make an adverse inference from any one who pleads the Fifth in refusing to answer a question. Pleading the Fifth in a civil matter, such as a deposition, provides great ammunition for a trial lawyer to completely discredit the credibility of an uncooperative witness.

Take the Bill Cosby matter in Pennsylvania as an example. After the prosecutor declined to file assault charges against Cosby, he ended up taking a deposition a year later in a civil suit. Rather than plead the Fifth Amendment, he answered questions about drugs and discussed quaalude usage. That deposition was put under seal until a judge decided to unseal it years later. Now, Cosby is criminally charged in Pennsylvania based on his admissions from the civil suit. His legal team will try to get the criminal charges dismissed based on the prosecutor refusing to file charges the first time around and that Cosby detrimentally relied on his prosecutorial decision, but Cosby wouldn’t have found himself in the position he is today if he had plead the Fifth during civil deposition.

Nick Diaz had every Constitutional right to invoke the Fifth Amendment at his appeals hearing in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The Commission had every right to make adverse inferences from his refusal to answer questions. They punished him hard. And now they are showing their… generosity… by reaching a settlement agreement with Diaz in which he “agreed” that he was wrong to invoke the Fifth Amendment in not answering questions during his appeals hearing.

It’s no surprise that the Athletic Commission backed down once Diaz hired UFC’s counsel to step up to the plate. It’s one thing to save face but it’s another to go all Mayberry-ish in having Diaz claim he was “wrong” to invoke the Fifth Amendment during questioning. Undoubtedly, it was a small price for Diaz to pay to get some of his freedom back. Now that the Athletic Commission approved the agreement and the text of it has gone public, it’s made Las Vegas look even worse. The kicker, of course, is that the new Chairman of the Athletic Commission (Anthony Marnell) found himself in a sticky situation when the Nevada Gaming Commission frowned upon any casino owner applying for a marijuana permit.

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

California legislature preparing to establish task force on weight cutting & dehydration

By Zach Arnold | January 7, 2016

There was a meeting in Los Angeles last month with various promoters and fighters about this issue regarding the California State Athletic Commission. Now there is legislative muscle behind the effort to address this very important health & safety issue in combat sports.

California Senate Bill 587 would establish the following by updating the Business and Professions Code:

18645.5. The commission shall establish a task force to evaluate the impacts of weight cutting, dehydration, and rapid rehydration. The task force may be comprised of physicians and surgeons with expertise in dehydration and rapid rehydration and boxing and mixed martial arts stakeholders, including licensees. The task force, in evaluating impacts, shall consider dangers of certain practices athletes undergo to meet the requirements outlined in Section 18706 and may provide recommendations to the commission that include, but are not limited to, proper techniques to detect dehydration, outreach the commission can undertake to educate licensees about dehydration and rapid rehydration, and the appropriateness of commission weight classifications established in Section 298 of Article 6 of Chapter 1 of Division 2 of Title 4 of the California Code of Regulations.

There will be a meeting on Monday, January 11th for the state Senate’s Business, Professions, and Economic Development committee to get the ball rolling on updating the B & P code.

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

Masato vs. Kid Yamamoto did better in Japanese TV ratings than RIZIN

By Zach Arnold | January 1, 2016

This tweet by Enuhito got fans excited. Fuji TV has been a door mat on NYE since the collapse of PRIDE and its turn towards more South Korean-flavored programming. Enuhito is accurate. RIZIN’s telecast on Fuji TV did impact the ratings for the Tokyo Broadcasting System boxing match between Kazuto Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco (WBA Flyweight title match at Osaka Prefectural Gym). The expected TV rating for the fight amongst network executives was 9 ~ 10% and it pulled a 7.7% number.

However, context matters. Of the five major Japanese TV networks, RIZIN finished last in the New Year’s Eve battle. NHK’s Red-and-White music festival did a 39.2%. It still remains the country’s gold standard for NYE programming, but it’s ratings have taken somewhat of a dent since the NYE MMA wars.

Rankings: 1) NHK (39.2%), 2) Nippon TV (15.3%), 3) TV Asahi/Survivor (10.0%), 4) Kyokugen/Masato-Kid (9.0%), 5) RIZIN (7.3%)

What is notable about Nobuyuki Sakakibara’s return to MMA is the following:

  1. RIZIN was the first MMA-themed NYE show for Fuji TV in 10 years. Remember the glory days of the Man Festival?
  2. Nature abhors a vacuum and there was plenty of opportunity for someone to jump into the MMA space once PRIDE collapsed. K-1 tried and they ended up collapsing. K-1’s game plan turned out to be a Pyrhhic victory. Sakakibara, even on the cheap, came back into the MMA space without many roadblocks.
  3. Yes, Fuji TV finished last in the ratings — and the matchmaking for appealing to Japanese TV viewers was God awful. But from the network’s perspective and perhaps from Sakakibara’s perspective, both sides financially survived. It doesn’t mean they prospered, but they survived to live another day. Maybe. The next appointment is for April in Sakakibara’s home turf of Nagoya.

Perhaps Sakakibara was a student of Trump University and decided a big round number like 1 billion yen for a claim of cost projections sounded impressive?

As for RIZIN itself, I don’t know what the vision of the promotion is. What is the philosophy? MMA on the cheap with a PRIDE filter? Mismatches? Foreign aces? Who knows? What I do know is that there was as much interest outside of Japan as there was in Japan for the show, which is a strangely interesting dynamic. If you followed MMA Twitter, you would have thought that the holy grail version of PRIDE had resurfaced. Instead, it was more DREAM-like with less competitive booking of fights. That doesn’t mean that the two Saitama events weren’t enjoyable or fun to watch, but on a sporting level it was what it was.

If Fuji TV didn’t pay expansive rights fees to Sakakibara, that means he needed to rely more on the house show gates. The 12/29 Aoki/Sakuraba event claimed over 12,000. I could not find an attendance in the papers for the 12/31 show. The promotion claimed 18,000.

Heading into the event, Sakakibara made it very clear that he wants a pro-wrestling connection to RIZIN because he needs that star power. Wrestling is the star manufacturer. The problem for Sakakibara is that there’s only one major wrestling company left in Japan and that company does not want a relationship with him or MMA. Which means he’ll have to try to recruit foreign wrestling stars to try to build up big fights. Easier said than done.

Unless someone steps up to compete with Sakakibara on a regular basis, RIZIN is the only Japanese ball game in town. It does not mean that he is the #2 player in the business. Bellator remains substantially more relevant. Spike TV will go along with the RIZIN circus as long as it provides an avenue for Bellator fighters to appear in on an international platform, look like stars, and win.

On a final side note: It is very interesting that UFC didn’t put up a legal fight with Kid Yamamoto over his bout with Masato. A month ago, one former agent claimed that he would not be surprised to see more foreign UFC fighters appear in Japan, specifically fighters who do not have assets in America and who come from countries where their legal systems do not recognize certain American civil causes of actions. Japan is an interesting test case scenario because you can transfer American civil court judgments over to Japan but it comes at a price.

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

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