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To win a labor war with UFC, Conor McGregor must utilize Fox the way Donald Trump has

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.

Continue reading this article here…

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

Book review: Ali vs. Inoki, The Forgotten Fight (Josh Gross) – a buy recommendation

By Zach Arnold | April 19, 2016

Click the image cover to order the book at Amazon

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.

General thoughts

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.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: Boxing, Japan, MMA, Media, Pro-Wrestling, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Major financial & legal changes coming to the Nevada State Athletic Commission

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.

Topics: Boxing, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 3 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Scott Coker & Spike go rogue in backing drug-busted Kimbo & “not-suitable” Sakakibara

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…

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.

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

Validation: “the truth” about PRIDE was really “the truth” as you (and UFC) suspected

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?

The answer: They knew what was up. UFC background check claimed Sakakibara is “not a person of suitable character.”

Paul Gift’s report at Bloody Elbow details some extremely interesting findings if you followed the timeline of PRIDE’s implosion:

The 38-page Spectrum Gaming report on Sakakibara & Dream Stage Entertainment is an amusing read. Some bullet points:

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.

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

The chicken & the egg: UFC’s Japanese TV deal with WOWOW was never going to work

By Zach Arnold | April 6, 2016

What do you get when you pair:

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.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: Japan, MMA, Media, PRIDE, UFC, Zach Arnold | No Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

UFC lucked out with reported postponement of Jon Jones/Daniel Cormier UFC 197 rematch

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.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 7 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Roy Englebrecht continues promoting in California despite Nevada perjury, forgery charges

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.

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

Your handwringing over Conor McGregor’s future at UFC 200 does not concern Zuffa

By Zach Arnold | March 31, 2016

Let’s consider the last four months, shall we?

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.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 4 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

New York lobbying records show the $ bloodbath UFC put up with to get MMA legislation passed

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.

Continue reading this article here…

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

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 |

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