By Zach Arnold | January 1, 2016
Breaking News : The rating of RIZIN new years eve show. It is 7.3 %. It is huge success comparing for a few year reting of FujiT-V.
— enuhito(English) (@enuhito_eng) January 2, 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:
- RIZIN was the first MMA-themed NYE show for Fuji TV in 10 years. Remember the glory days of the Man Festival?
- 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.
- 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?
To those complaining about Rizin, stop. You already won. UFC won and MMA is pure sport now.
— Liver Kick (@LiverKickdotcom) December 31, 2015
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.
By Zach Arnold | December 24, 2015
UFC starts shifting Fs1 main events to FP, UFC just created an internal competitor to fox .. Price goes up when they do new deal couple yrs
— FrontRowBrian® (@FrontRowBrian) December 24, 2015
Anderson Silva will fight Michael Bisping on February 27th in London. The event will not air on Fox Sports — it will air on UFC’s Internet site instead.
The obvious question: what’s the motive? The conventional wisdom is that UFC is trying to boost the value of their OTT (over-the-top) play in order to gain leverage when the Fox Sports deal expires. If that’s the wisdom, I don’t buy into it at all.
UFC has value for Fox Sports 1. It does not possess value for big Fox. The network TV cards simply aren’t promoted right. After the Cain Velasquez fight went so quickly, so did the amount of advertising by the television network.
The problem for UFC is simple — ESPN is in rocky shape long-term. Disney knows it. I would not be shocked to see major firings at ESPN early next year over the bloated new TV rights deals signed with the NBA and other sports properties. ESPN was very interested in Al Haymon’s PBC because he was paying the bill, not ESPN. So far, the PBC experiment has been lackluster to say the least.
The combination of ESPN tying itself up with significantly bloated TV rights deals along with cord shaving/cord cutting means Disney has a real problem on their hands. Their most recent filing with the SEC shows some damage. A couple of years ago, ESPN would have been in prime position to poach UFC away from Fox. Now? Not so much. ESPN has been rather generous in giving UFC publicity and Dana White has played ball with them much more than he has Fox Sports 1.
If ESPN isn’t in the picture for leverage, then UFC has to create something as a leverage point to create even the appearance of a bidding war. Or, in this case, an Over-The-Top play.
I wasn’t bullish on WWE Network but at least I got the logic. Jonathan Snowden said that WWE Network and other OTT plays would take the concept of PPV and shoot it in the head. WWE Network is proving that the cost for obtaining complete control over distribution of your product is significant because people aren’t willing to pay as much for your product in the future.
UFC Fight Pass is boxed in a corner. Fight Pass is not meant to be like WWE Network in moving away from PPV but it’s also not meant to be simply a niche multimedia portal. The problem is that when you try to be all things to all people, it usually disappoints.
I have no doubt that Anderson Silva’s return fight will boost subscriptions to Fight Pass. How many subscribers will it be worth? Can you get more than 50,000 additional subscribers?
When you have an announcement on this level, you usually don’t see it buried in a Christmas Eve news dump. We’re living in interesting times.
By Zach Arnold | December 20, 2015
If you missed the Fox UFC broadcast from Orlando on Saturday night, you didn’t really miss much. Rafael dos Anjos obliterated Donald Cerrone in 66 seconds to retain the UFC Lightweight title belt. It was a great showing by the champion. It also derailed the momentum for a Cerrone fight with Conor McGregor. I suspect both UFC & Team Conor are not thrilled by this.
We’re one step closer to Conor McGregor vs. Frankie Edgar. It’s a fight the fans want to see. It’s a more marketable fight than a McGregor vs. RDA fight.
There was so much talk between McGregor and Cerrone. It was a fight worth tens of millions of dollars for UFC. Now it’s gone.
One of the interesting points made by Donald Cerrone in his trash talking leading into the Orlando fight was about USADA and the IV ban. He pointed out the obvious: a lot of physiques for top fighters has changed. It’s created more chaos. USADA busted Mirko Cro Cop but Mirko was sloppy. Most MMA fighters who use drugs are not the smartest about hiding it. Combine the USADA testing, the IV ban, and the focus on weight cutting and what you have is an environment that is dramatically changing the fight product we are watching.
There was a California State Athletic Commission meeting this past Thursday in Los Angeles with representatives from the Association of Boxing Commissions, UFC, and Bellator in regards to what to do about IV vans and weight classes. ABC’s proposal is to do away with the modern weight classes and go with 10 pound increments up to 205 pounds. Rather than go with 230 pounds or 235 pounds as Cruiserweight, you would have a 225 pound weight limit and the current Welterweight limit of 170 pounds would be abolished.
I share the same sentiments as John McCarthy that changing the weight classes alone would not have a real impact on preventing extreme weight cutting. A fair amount of fighters have damaged their endocrine systems by cutting weight irresponsibly.
The most interesting note from Thursday’s meeting was Andy Foster’s suggestion that California’s commission attempt to pass an emergency rule/regulation through the state’s Office of Administrative Law to ban the use of IVs by all fighters for California bouts.
By Zach Arnold | December 9, 2015
There were high expectations about Nobuyuki Sakakibara’s return to MMA but for those of us cynical about his financial backing, he produced a card that is the proverbial dog’s breakfast. Which means that UFC’s back-to-back-to-back fight cards on Thursday through Saturday is the real highlight to close out this fight calendar, even though there is an Orlando show a week later.
— MMA Supremacy (@MMASupremacy) December 13, 2015
Thursday’s Fight Night 80 event at The Chelsea/Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas (internet):
- Rose Namajunas defeated Paige Vanzant (-140 favorite) in R5 2′25 with a choke sleeper hold.
- Michael Chiesa (-120 favorite) defeated Jim Miller R2 2′57 with a choke sleeper hold.
- Sage Northcutt defeated Cody Pfister in R2 41 seconds by submission.
- Thiago Santos defeated Elias Theodorou after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Aljamain Sterling defeated Johnny Eduardo in R2 4′18 by submission.
Namajunas came into the fight as even money or a slight underdog, which goes to show how much people still buy into the UFC hype machine. She beat down PVZ as badly as GSP beat up Jon Fitch in Minneapolis. There is a long ways to go for Paige to develop into a top fighter…
Friday’s Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale event in Las Vegas (Fox Sports 1):
- Frankie Edgar defeated Chad Mendes in R1 2′28 by KO.
- Tony Ferguson defeated Edson Barboza in R2 2′54 by submission.
- Evan Dunham defeated Joe Lauzon after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Ryan LaFlare defeated Mike Pierce after 3R by unanimous decision.
Frankie had zero trouble with Mendes and the troubles for Alpha Male in Sacramento continue. Zero surprise that Tony Ferguson would be involved in another ultraviolent fight. That’s all he does. The haves rose up and the have nots sunk further.
Saturday’s UFC 194 event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (Fox Sports 1/PPV):
- UFC Featherweight title match: Conor McGregor defeated Jose Aldo in R1 13 seconds by KO.
- UFC Middleweight title match: Luke Rockhold defeated Chris Weidman in R4 3′12 by TKO.
- Yoel Romero defeated Jacare Souza after 3R by split decision.
- Demian Maia defeated Gunnar Nelson after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Max Holloway defeated Jeremy Stephens after 3R by unanimous decison.
- Urijah Faber defeated Frankie Saenz after 3R by unanimous decision.
Faber challenged TJ Dillashaw (or Dominic Cruz) for a title match. Been there, done that. The only intrigue is whether or not Dillashaw would humiliate Faber and hurt business for Alpha Male.
The officiating in the Romero/Jacare fight was a mess. Classic example of a fight that Jordan Breen begs 5 rounds out of instead of the standard 3.
Gunnar Nelson went into the fight against Demian Maia as a favorite. Yes, a favorite. And Maia did what you expected him to do, which was stop the winning streak of an up-and-coming star.
Luke Rockhold looked great against Chris Weidman. Chris Weidman did not look great. He took a beating. Poor guy. His title fight was barely advertised heading into the show.
With PVZ, Weidman, and Ronda all in the losing column, Conor McGregor was the last chance to save Dana’s weekend from turning completely sour. All the noise heading into the fight, from the humiliating press conference tour series where Conor stole Aldo’s belt to Aldo having problems with the proposed USADA IV ban to Aldo’s wife claiming Dana made him fight injured, there was acrimony everywhere to be found. McGregor wiped everything away with a 13 second KO.
“THIS IS GREAT FOR BUSINESS!” screamed Jonathan Coachman on ESPN.
By Zach Arnold | November 23, 2015
When Buster Douglas downed Mike Tyson at the Tokyo Dome, there was a halo effect but it lasted for a few months. WWE wanted Mike Tyson for Saturday Night’s Main Event and instead called an audible by booking Douglas as a referee to help Hulk Hogan. Remember the milk drinking promo afterwards? Douglas would go on to fight Evander Holyfield and lose. Douglas was not favored heading into the fight and showed up in worse shape than the Tyson fight.
Holly Holm now has a similar halo effect. She’s being celebrated everywhere in America, except of course on Fox Sports where they published an article claiming a link to a company that had allegedly being producing product with PEDs. At the Clippers/Warriors NBA game last Thursday, a huge ovation. The media requests aren’t stopping. And Holly is a really good interview. She shows her emotions in a very relatable way. When Holm defends her UFC title, she won’t be an underdog like Buster was. She will be a favorite and for very good reason.
Meanwhile, America’s Ronda roasting fetish remains at a 10 — especially amongst Milennials.
By Zach Arnold | November 14, 2015
Ronda Rousey’s many admirers think she is as sexy as Maria Sharapova, but it was supposed to be Holly Holm’s role to play Maria Sharapova to Ronda’s Serena Williams in the cage. Ronda was the 20-to-1 favorite who was going to vanquish the pro-boxing convert to MMA and head onto a giant fight against Cris Cyborg.
Everything changed in Melbourne. Not only did Holly Holm knock out Ronda Rousey, she put her into an ambulance ride to a hospital.
The Buster Douglas comparisons immediately started flying. Quite appropriate, given ESPN’s airing of the Chasing Tyson documentary reviewing the 90s with Tyson/Douglas at the Tokyo Dome and Evander Holyfield watching his then-golden ticket fight with Tyson blow up in smoke. We know how the story played out, including cameos from Riddick Bowe & Michael Moorer.
The Chasing Tyson formula is now UFC’s best case scenario. A scenario where Rousey somehow rebounds, Holm fights the likes of Cris Cyborg, Miesha Tate, and Julianna Pena. For a true hardcore fight fan, these are wonderful scenarios. For the casual fight fan who loved or hated Ronda Rousey only and the media who helped build Rousey up to Rock-level icon status, they are now left with a feeling similar to when Mike Tyson went to jail in Indianapolis.
“[Everything] is on pause,” the venerable Charley Steiner lamented at the time.
By Zach Arnold | November 14, 2015
Prohibited association. Get used to hearing more of this phrase in the coming months and years as long as UFC has a relationship with USADA.
Prohibited association is a policy pushed by WADA & USADA to name-and-shame those caught doping by isolating them completely from any active or passive involvement in sport. The policy says that no fighter can associate with any fighter who fails a drug test. Valerie Letourneau was warned by UFC that Hector Lombard could not be in her corner because of his recently failed drug test. This means no fighter under UFC contract can associate with any fighter in or out of the cage if the person they want to be around has failed a drug test.
The fighters did not collectively bargain on this matter. UFC simply told them to accept it as part of doing business or else not fight in the UFC. Ramsey Nijem is no longer fighting in the UFC. Other fighters are protesting the scope of the USADA policy.
This new policy is ripe for two different kinds of challenge: a court challenge and a regulatory challenge.
By Zach Arnold | November 5, 2015
Better late to the party than to be early and expose yourself as a fool. I’ve kept my mouth shut about the return of Nobuyuki Sakakibara, wondering if he had as much juice as some of his cheerleaders claims he has right now. In the fight business, you never know. The wild rumors of his money marks coming from the Middle East to pachinko money in Japan. What’s real and what’s not real?
Nature abhors a vacuum. Once PRIDE died, so did the national Mixed Martial Arts in Japan. Take away the alleged dark money, the professional wrestling icons, and TV support and you’re just an American-style independent promoter.
Since the death of PRIDE, Fuji TV has tanked in the ratings. They’re not a major player on New Year’s Eve. As Tadashi Tanaka correctly pointed out, Fuji TV has been airing a lot of South Korean programming that the Japanese public isn’t all that into. Mr. Tanaka quipped that people were wondering whether or not Korean money was involved in Fuji TV’s ownership. The irony of this is incredibly thick given that the Shukan Gendai negative campaign against PRIDE was built around the mysterious Mr. Ishizaka (“Mr. I”), a dark money figure with alleged ties to… South Korea.
The irony is even thicker when you consider that Spike TV, the network that ran a news program laying out the PRIDE yakuza scandal, is now going to work with Rizin through Scott Coker.
With Sakakibara’s return, the promise is that he’ll bring in pro-wrestling stars and big foreign names to juice up a dead Japanese scene. Given that Antonio Inoki is back in politics, someone had to fill his (small) role as the country’s only power broker. Throw in rumors of former K-1 boss Kazuyoshi Ishii perhaps interested in Rizing and the circus is back in town.
There are simply too many missing pieces of the puzzle to put the band back together again.
First, you need big-league professional wrestling stars. They don’t exist right now to do the crossover. Only a name like Shinsuke Nakamura could do it and I have serious doubts that New Japan would risk having their golden goose get humiliated like Yuji Nagata got buried against Mirko Cro Cop a decade ago. New Japan is the only pro-wrestling player in town. I don’t see the economics adding up for New Japan to prop up Sakakibara, especially given TV-Asahi’s ownership in the company.
There was talk of Kota Ibushi, but he’s got a herniated disc and I don’t see the natural cross-over fit. There was curious talk of Go Shiozaki, but Shiozaki is not a major name and he frankly has zero business leverage with any combat sports organization. After Misawa died, bad booking and development buried Shiozaki into a permanent glass ceiling situation.
That leaves you with Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Shinya Aoki and Aoki vs. Montanha Silva. The public may slightly care about the first fight but care less about the second fight.
Second, money. There are three plausible scenarios on the TV front: 1) Fuji TV is putting up a small amount of cash, 2) they’re doing a barter deal with Sakakibara, or 3) Sakakibara may be paying a small amount. Fuji TV is still scarred by what happened with PRIDE. There was talk about Rizin and the TV network ensuring protocols in place that Rizin would not do business with the dark side. Even with Fuji TV working again with Sakakibara, I cannot see the network in its current state risking a lot to chase a pipe dream like reviving MMA.
Three, big names. It takes a lot of cash to develop prospects over time to make them into household names in Japan. If you’re having to rely on Sakuraba or Akebono, it’s not enough to open the window for old fans to come back through let alone create new fans who are wondering what this MMA thing is. A decade is a long time to be away from the main stage.
The smarter play would have been to go through the pro-wrestling route and try to revive UWF, then turn-key it into an MMA project. By going through the PRIDE/DREAM route, you’re risking more money with fewer promoter-friendly parts to work with.
Even when Antonio Inoki was loading big New Japan cards in the 1970s and early 80s with foreigners like Ali, Hansen, Andre, and Dusty Rhodes, there was still an ability to sell some Japanese names on the cards who would turn out to be pretty serious draws (Fujinami, Sakaguchi, Choshu). There is no one available for Rizin who is Inoki-level, let alone Fujinami-level to build around.
If you are hoping to appeal to big-name sponsors for a NYE show, the preparations usually begin during late August to book big names so that by October you have something to pitch to ad agencies like Dentsu to bring in the big bucks. PRIDE paid $5 million bucks for Hidehiko Yoshida vs. Naoya Ogawa and that turned to be a monster fight in PRIDE’s history. We’re in early November and I don’t see the major names on tap that could attract 10 million viewers on NYE. At this point, 7 million viewers would be an accomplishment. Better to set the bar low than to raise expectation levels from the past.
By Zach Arnold | September 30, 2015
Writer Jason Floyd dropped this proverbial turd in the punch bowl regarding a clause UFC fighters are being asked to sign regarding USADA drug testing:
ARTICLE 22: WAIVER AND RELEASE
As a condition of participating in or preparing for a Bout or working with an Athlete who is participating in or preparing for a Bout, Athles, Athlete Support Personnel and other Persons agree to release and hold harmless UFC, USADA and their designees from any claim, demand or cause of action, known or unknown, now or hereafter arising, including attorney’s fees, resulting from acts or omissions which occurred in good faith.
First, the key phrase here is good faith. It’s nebulous and extremely hard to combat in a protracted lawsuit should any fighter sue them over a mishap.
Second, this waiver could easily raise the issue of unconscionability. In other words, it’s such a one-sided adhesive agreement in which an entity with all the leverage in negotiating is pressuring fighters to give up even more constitutional rights in order to continue employment while under contract with UFC. You have the right to sue in America. You have the right to send a demand letter. Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law is on the books to enforce protection of these rights.
Lots of people sign contracts every day giving up constitutional rights as part of settlement agreements. However, signing such agreements as a condition of continued employment or else face a possible ice-out in labor participation as an “indepedent contractor” is arguably excessive.
Which brings us to two legal defeats in the past week for UFC in Las Vegas Federal court:
1) Their motion to dismiss the anti-trust lawsuit filed by Cung Le, Nate Quarry, and others was denied. Read Paul Gift’s remarkable article at Bloody Elbow detailing last Friday’s court hearing.
2) Discovery is beginning and the plaintiffs will get access to an assortment of business contracts. How much of this information will be kept under seal by the judge and how much will be made available to the press?
We’ve seen dribs and drabs over the years in various legal cases, such as the Eddie Alvarez/Bellator debacle, about what UFC contracts supposedly look like. Thanks to the efforts of Rob Maysey, we’re about to see a whole lot more and the fighters are going to get an opportunity to see some real details on UFC’s business model.
It is always amazing to see how hyper-aggressive UFC is legally in protecting their business model (e.g. making members at their gyms wear UFC-branded gis over other branded gis) and pro-actively preventing any future legal challenges. But once they actually do get challenged in court, they aren’t teflon. Their crack legal team in New York has now formulated a strategy of… gasp… trying to establish damages from NY’s MMA ban by booking Madison Square Garden in April and seeking an injunction. As Jonathan Snowden adroitly notes, UFC knows that MMA is illegal in New York and that booking MSG is a self-imposed injury. But the flipside here is that UFC drew the same judge for this new injunctive hearing as they did for their original lawsuit against New York state.
By Zach Arnold | September 26, 2015
Main card results from the UFC Fight Night show at Saitama Super Arena:
- Josh Barnett defeated Roy Nelson after 5R by unanimous decision (48-47 twice, 50-45).
- Uriah Hall defeated Gegard Mousasi in R2 in 25 seconds by TKO.
- Kyoji Horiguchi defeated Chico Camus after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Takeiya Mizugaki defeated George Roop after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Diego Brandao defeated Katsunori Kikuno in R1 in 28 seconds by TKO.
- Teruto Ishihara and Mizuto Hirota went to a draw after 3R.
The Sunday afternoon Dentsu-promoted UFC card in Japan gave some momentary glimpses of the glory days of Japanese MMA in terms of emotion and fun. I miss it very much. I still believe that MMA can be a viable sport in Japan but it’s entirely dependent on professional wrestling star power and New Japan is the only major player in Japanese professional wrestling.
I’ve long been a crusader again yakuza influence in Japanese combat sports and believe it’s the right position. However, I cannot and will not deny the crippling impact that the yakuza crackdown over the last decade in Japan has had on combat sports. Once the dark money vanished, then sponsors & television networks became reticent. It’s easy to push the cash flow when there’s already another source of cash flow being piped in. Once the dark money dried up, so did national interest. Without the criminal syndicates using old-school pro-wrestling extortion tactics to buy tickets at discounts from event promoters in order to push other businesses into buying tickets from the gangs, it became a lot harder to promote events on a regular basis.
The challenge for someone like Nobuyuki Sakakibara to make a second run in Japan is enormous. Let’s assume that his new money marks are foreigners and have a lot of cash to burn. Let’s say that he is able to buy TV access on Fuji TV or other television networks. That still doesn’t address what he’s going to do about attracting Dentsu-level sponsors. It still doesn’t address what he’s going to do about building real Japanese mainstream stars. It doesn’t address the fact that Sakakibara is a marked man in Japan who has as many powerful enemies as he has as powerful friends. The scandal that brought down PRIDE was a national disgrace that played out in Shukan Gendai magazine and amongst Fuji TV stockholders. It was a scandal that involved police investigators from the country’s largest Metropolitan police force.
Color me skeptical that the return of PRIDE is coming any time soon. I would love to see a new boom period in Japan but the ingredients that made combat sports successful in Japan do not exist right now and may not exist in the future.
As for UFC’s efforts with the sold show Dentsu affair in Saitama, it was a delightfully polite & respectful audience. Takeya Mizugaki went emo. Josh Barnett’s mic performance, Rusher Kimura-style, was more pleasing than watching his five-round gutty & grizzly unanimous decision win over Roy Nelson. To Josh’s credit, I was utterly dumbfounded by two judges scoring the fight 48-47. I had it comfortably 50-45 even though Nelson absorbed some savage rib roasters in the process.
I loved the reaction from the Japanese fans on the Mousasi/Hall fight. Mousasi was viewed as a legitimate home town star. They were intensely focused on his ground game, which looked excellent. And then Hall blew up the proceedings with a picture perfect back kick and a flying knee that should have stretchered the poor guy out of the arena.
— Shaheen Al-Shatti (@shaunalshatti) September 27, 2015
And then there was Ishihara and Hirota. They fought to a majority draw. Hirota drew laughs for talking about a crooked tooth. They went to the hospital together and were both given “six-figure UFC contracts.” If only there was a
sudden victory sudden death round PRIDE-style…
By Zach Arnold | September 21, 2015
Three years ago the UFC accidentally sent a sketchy Vitor Belfort drug test to people and then … nothing happened. http://t.co/NmWe3vrH2y
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) September 21, 2015
UFC’s bête noire is back in action and on one of his biggest platforms yet.
That’s an article highlighting the pre-USADA era of UFC drug testing. If you’ve read my countless articles on MMA’s testosterone plague, little of what Josh wrote in his new Deadspin article will shock or surprise you. The only surprise is, if his information is true, how long the information took to become public.
A quick summary of the lengthy Deadspin article:
- Josh Gross claims UFC e-mailed out results of a Vitor Belfort blood test to 29 fighters, managers, and trainers three weeks before Belfort’s fight versus Jon Jones in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
- Those test results supposedly showed Belfort having higher-than-allowed testosterone levels
- UFC allegedly gave Belfort a Therapeutic Use Exemption for testosterone and supposedly monitored Belfort test results from an anti-aging facility called Ageless Forever
- A paralegal from UFC & UFC top attorney Ike Epstein reportedly requested e-mail recipients to delete the Belfort test results e-mail immediately. Epstein’s message threatened legal sanctions against anyone who published Belfort’s information.
- The person who supposedly received Belfort’s blood test results at UFC HQ left the organization and is now a manager for MMA fighters. He is the brother of UFC chief legal officer Kirk Hendrick.
Onto my observations or questions:
- If the fight in question had happened to be in Nevada and not Ontario, this would be an exponentially more explosive scandal story.
- The incestuousness of MMA business relations is so Southern-fried in its nature.
- Americans have long believed that major, too-big-to-fail sporting institutions like the NFL and UFC were head-and-shoulders above others for intelligence & competence when, in fact, they have been exposed as typical corporations.
- Will UFC sue Gawker Media in Nevada Federal court and take their chances that an anti-SLAPP motion won’t survive a libel suit? Or will UFC ignore the Deadspin article? Nevada’s anti-SLAPP motion recently got watered down and it’s not as strong as anti-SLAPP motions in California, Oregon, or Texas.
- Why would Jeff Novitzky agree to take a job as a drug test overlord for a sports company that issued their own Therapeutic Use Exemptions and now is partnering up with an entity in USADA that may have different standards for TUEs than state athletic commissions like Nevada?
Ben Fowlkes responds: Let us remark on how utterly insane MMA’s testosterone era was
Erik Magraken talks about the Deadspin story in context of assault, informed consent, fraud, and CTE should someone decide to sue UFC in the future.
By Zach Arnold | September 14, 2015
Nick Diaz suspended for 5 years for marijuana. Absurd how they got to that. This is a dark day for combat sports.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) September 14, 2015
Imagine if he had been involved in a hit-and-run or proclaimed he needed medicine from Thailand.
I personally feel that Nick Diaz getting what amounts to a lifetime ban for a non-PED is absolutely insane!! Out of touch with reality
— Jimmy Smith (@jimmysmithmma) September 14, 2015
What’s another writ of mandate lawsuit amongst friends?
Read Brett Okamoto’s pain-staking summary of Monday’s Nevada State Athletic Commission meeting. Ben Fowlkes dispenses with the Barney Fife-level quasi-police attitude that was on display with the commission board. Mike Chiappetta on the unconscionable nature of a five year ban.
By Zach Arnold | September 11, 2015
This was supposed to be a triumphant week for Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas. His last victory lap after dethroning Manny Pacquiao.
Instead, Mayweather got sued by a woman for defamation for pre-fight comments and both Pacquiao & Arum got sued by fans for fraud due to Pacquiao’s shoulder injury.
Even worse, there is virtually no mainstream media attention for Mayweather’s victory lap fight against 35-to-1 underdog Andre Berto. Literally nobody cares. This was not how the master plan was supposed to work.
When the sharks smell blood in the water…
Thomas Hauser, firing on all cylinders. blitzed USADA & Floyd Mayweather with a devastating article at SB Nation claiming that USADA allowed Floyd Mayweather to use an IV that would have been banned under WADA standards. Hauser also claims that USADA does not allegedly disclose their drug testing results with athletic commissions. Hauser’s article raised the issue of granting “retroactive” Therapeutic Use Exemptions to certain fighters.
Nevada’s commission, once again, was backed into a corner. They denounced USADA’s granting of a TUE to Mayweather for two saline IV mixes.
Hauser’s article also hit on USADA’s lack of usage of Carbon Isotope Ratio tests for detective synthetic testosterone usage. Instead, Hauser alleges that USADA uses standard T/E ratio tests and that previous T/E ratios for Mayweather drug tests were 0.69 and 0.80, below a standard 1:1 T/E ratio for the average human being.
All of this matters because the UFC has entered into an agreement with USADA to oversee their personal drug testing program. Jeff Novitzky is the front man for UFC. Already, there is a growing fissure between Nevada’s athletic commission and USADA. On Thursday night, Lance Pugmire of The Los Angeles Times dropped this bomb:
Told by Nevada commission members that UFC fighter Frank Mir similarly obtained a TUE from USADA last week that Nevada ruled inadmissible.
— Lance Pugmire (@latimespugmire) September 10, 2015
The same Frank Mir who once got permission to use testosterone was getting permission from USADA to use Adderall. Pugmire’s LA Times article on this story details how furious Nevada is for creating confusion amongst the fighters as to what is allowed and who has jurisdiction regarding what is allowed thanks to USADA.
Throwing another monkey wrench into the proceedings is the alleged fact that parties signing contracts with USADA are bound to confidentiality clauses, at least if you believe what promoter Bob Arum has to say. Arum’s rather toned-down response this week to the Mayweather IV discovery was remarkable because of how realistic yet fatalistic the situation was. He could scream to the mountain top about USADA letting Mayweather use an IV but what good was it going to do Top Rank or his client?
- If athletic commissions like Nevada are going to no longer accept third-party drug testing results, then what good is it for UFC to work with USADA?
- If USADA isn’t going to disclose drug test results to athletic commissions, then they are going to disclose them only to UFC? USADA claims they will release all drug tests results to the public. Will they disclose all results?
- Does this set up a situation for possible blackmail where an athlete could be forced to renegotiate an existing contract or give up money via a “fine” in exchange for not having a failed USADA drug test result go public?
If Nevada declares war on USADA, what will it mean for other state athletic commissions? At last week’s California State Athletic Commission in Los Angeles, USADA was on the meeting agenda to obtain approval as an approved drug collector for CSAC. What now?