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Fox Sports: "Zach Arnold's Fight Opinion site is one of the best spots on the Web for thought-provoking MMA pieces."

For mobile & tablet users, access our boxing & MMA headlines here

By Zach Arnold | November 22, 2017

To make our site theme more compatible with mobile & tablet devices, we had to trim off the news sidebars. We’ve developed a temporary solution to address this problem: separate feed pages.

Access the latest MMA headlines here.

Access the latest boxing headlines here.

As you might notice, some RSS links we are trying to access don’t load properly or are dead. We are searching for updated RSS feed links. Send us some tips.

Help wanted

We need your advice on finding a two-column theme compatible for PC, mobile, and tablet devices. E-mail me at with all suggestions. If you can’t help us out with technical advice, send us a donation to help pay for a solution. We can and will make this happen.

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

The anger about WWE’s business dealings with Saudi Arabia and financing of combat sports

By Zach Arnold | May 3, 2019

Every time I attempt to make an argument against hypocrisy in the fight business, I realize what a fruitless proposition it is to try to persuade anyone. For all intents and purposes, consider this an exercise in mental therapy.

Someone please (gently) stop my old colleague Dave Meltzer from mentally torturing and contorting himself further into a pretzel regarding WWE’s current business dealings with Saudi Arabia. Dave’s outrage is well-intentioned but his various attempts to magnify Saudi Arabia financing of WWE as the worst financing in the history of combat sports requires downgrading some ugly, ugly history.

The world’s brutal butchers

You would be hard-pressed to find me contorting myself to produce an unclean hands affirmative defense to clap-back against all of the horrific human rights atrocities that the Saudi Arabia government has inflicted upon its citizens and the citizens of the world. The country is reportedly running out of executioners and hiring some more. Saudi government hands are plenty bloody. Ask the families of victims from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Which is why I am very proud of Dave Meltzer and others in the fight business standing by the courage of their convictions in pressuring WWE about its business dealings with the Saudi government. I, myself, wonder why on Earth WWE decided they had to make such a business deal in the first place.

The hygiene of hypocrisy

What I am not proud of is watching so many media colleagues, past and present, critique WWE and the Saudi government while they were largely muted about the corrupt financing of high-level Japanese combat sports for decades.

The level of violence from the major Japanese gangs in combat sports escalated hard. It went from extortion, pyramid schemes in ticket distribution, and turf protection to outright gun fights and gangland suicides. It was always a myth that the “older generation” of yakuza bosses were kinder and gentler compared to the young machos who replaced them. They just did a better sell job in marketing and covering up the bad behavior.

Consider this infamous Los Angeles Times article about four top yakuza members getting liver transplants at UCLA medical center.

Then consider the LA Times reporting on the “donations” UCLA received for the surgeries.

What would you say if gangsters like this were financing your favorite fight at the Tokyo Dome while sitting at ringside as a VIP for recruiting purposes?

“The show must go on!”

Making the combat sports situation in Japan even more combustible? The politics involving North Korea and the treatment of zainichi in Japan. So many important individuals who made enormous contributions in the Japanese fight business downplayed or hid their true family heritage. Those of high profile, like Yoshihiro Akiyama, found themselves scorned and ridiculed hard when scandal was attached to their name (e.g. the “Oil of Olay” incident with Sakuraba which in turn led to a rather hostile KO by Kazuo Misaki).

Nobody played both ends against the political middle in combat sports like Antonio Inoki. When it came to dealings with Saddam Hussein or the North Korean regime, Inoki always sold it under the banner of peace. He convinced many powerful individuals to go along with his various political journeys. The granddaddy of all of Inoki’s escapades was the 1995 Peace Festival at Pyongyang Stadium in front of 150,000 people. Ric Flair lost to Antonio Inoki in the main event. Here’s Flair talking about his experiences dealing with the North Korean government.

The event was a gigantic, successful propaganda coup for both the North Korean government and Antonio Inoki. People still talk about the show in historic terms. Which is why I found myself floored by this comment from Dave Meltzer comparing Inoki’s North Korean event to WWE’s business deal with Saudi Arabia:

WWE’s deal with Saudi Arabia absolutely deserves criticism and I hope Dave continues to speak his mind. However, Inoki’s dealings with North Korea were just as disgusting but far more impactful and successful. The Return On propaganda Investment game goes to Inoki.

Stay consistent and stay proportional in levels of criticism

There is plenty of room to criticize financial backers in combat sports. Karim Zidan and John Nash are highlighting Sequoia Capital’s role in financing ONE Championship and financing surveillance technology used by the Chinese government against Muslims. This is a big story that I personally find far more consequential than WWE’s cheerleading agreement with Saudi Arabia. However, both situations deserve critical analysis.

Just like the financing behind PRIDE deserved critical analysis. It was next to impossible to get anyone in the press interested on what was going on behind the scenes. The events were big, the fights were dramatic, and the money was flying. People got sucked in.

Criticizing gang financing of combat sports in Japan was unpopular. Taking a verbal wrecking ball to the business model that produced mega-events at the Tokyo Dome and Saitama Super Arena was no fun. I spent decades covering a rotten industry and spent God knows how much cash to do it. Criticizing the industry’s business model was still the right call, though.

When it comes to situational ethics in combat sports, you don’t have to downgrade past incidents in order to inflate current scandals to illustrate needed change. Dave Meltzer did some very insightful, honest reporting and commentary about what took place with Inoki in North Korea. To see the same person downgrade that shameful debacle in comparison to WWE’s current deal with Saudi Arabia is disappointing but understandable.

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

Disney’s gigantic yearly gamble on UFC/ESPN+ leaves PPV door wide open for Al Haymon

By Zach Arnold | March 19, 2019

Al Haymon is the biggest winner from UFC leaving traditional PPV

When Vince McMahon launched the WWE Network, I remember veteran wrestling & MMA writer Jonathan Snowden telling me that it was the equivalent of shooting PPV with a gun and putting that business model out to pasture. The carcass of PPV would be left behind to drip blood.

Years later, the traditional American PPV business model itself isn’t dead but the two major PPV drawing behemoths — WWE and UFC — have exited out of traditional PPV due to their own financial self-interests.

These are the major talking points I want to focus on regarding UFC’s new PPV-exclusive ESPN+ deal with Disney:

Continue reading this article here…

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

2018 California State Athletic Commission inspector salaries

By Zach Arnold | February 25, 2019

A golden financial state for some…

Mark Relyea (boss) – $63,892
Sean Wells – $48,657
Ernesto Martinez – $30,735
Jesus Villarruel – $19,787
Michael Guzman – $18,697
Roy Farhi – $17,354
Brett Correia – $16,812
Larry Ervin – $13,723
Rick Estrada – $12,601
Armando Gutierrez – $12,039
Dave Rasmussen – $10,031
Byron Woods – $8,589
Martin Gillitt – $7,694
Greg Fajardo – $7,507
Burt Alejandre – $7,505
Chris Bunyan – $6,753
Jeremy Roseman – $6,116
Joe Ulrey – $5,575
Rogelio Chapa – $5,507
David Pereda – $5,256
Ivan Guillermo – $4,976
Elizabeth Hawkins – $4,413
Nichole Bowles – $4,086
David Soliven – $3,916
John Tohill – $3,792
Gil Martinez – $3,232
Kevin Highbaugh – $2,873
Sacory Dillard – $2,759
David Infante – $2,650
Armando Melendez – $2,202
Jim Russell – $1,758
Hanley Chan – $1,636
Marcos Tome Jr. – $1,346
Brian Morris – $1,229
Felicia Oh – $1,081
Lily Galvez – $779
Bruce Rasmussen – $736
Carlos Moreno – $611
Danny Cruz – $262
Jeffrey Ervin – $138
Tim Huff – $69

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

Judge in Mark Hunt’s lawsuit against UFC says doping is part of assuming the risk

By Zach Arnold | February 15, 2019

When Mark Hunt’s attorney was squawking in late 2016 about filing a racketeering lawsuit against UFC and Brock Lesnar in Nevada over Lesnar’s failed doping test, I warned that this was not necessarily a serious legal tactic. Racketeering was a marketing tactic and that’s about it. The threats over concealment and unjust enrichment along with breach of contract carried more substance.

Racketeering got the case in Federal court. If it lost out, it would likely move the case to state court.

The judge in the lawsuit telegraphed her skepticism in June of 2017. This week, the judge carried through on her remarks and dismissed every cause of action except breach of contract.

This was not a surprise. The surprise was in the legal logic to dismiss the case and what a bad, no-good, terrible ruling it is for those looking to employ legal strategies in the future against fighters caught doping.

Opening his own can of worms

Remember the circumstances of what went down. Mark Hunt fought Brock Lesnar while negotiations were going down to sell UFC. Hunt has his attorney go public with legal threats. Hunt follows through with legal threats.

Then, inexplicably, Hunt goes public in an interview supposedly claiming slurred speech and sleeping problems due to damage suffered as a fighter.

UFC promptly pulled Hunt from fighting in Australia. He loudly protested. How much did Mark Hunt hurt his legal case in America?

In dismissing a majority of the causes of actions, judge Jennifer Dorsey claimed that Brock Lesnar’s doping did not negate Mark Hunt’s consent to fight. In other words, he assumed the risk.

The judge cited a precedent involving a case regarding a player intentionally hit with a baseball. Yes, the baseball can be a deadly weapon, but it didn’t exceed “ordinary range” of activity.

You can argue that doping makes athletes bigger, faster, and stronger but somehow you can’t legally prove that it actually impacts “ordinary range” of physical activity during an MMA fight?

The whole point of doping is to impact your “ordinary range” of activity in a sport. You wouldn’t use drugs to not enhance your performance.

If this is the temperature in the legal system for tolerance of doping, attorneys looking to clean up the sport face an impossible task.

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

Site issues with links

By Zach Arnold | January 20, 2019

You’ve seen the problems in the last couple of months with this site processing the various RSS links on the sidebars. The best way to describe the issue is that it’s like having a home with clay pipes that are clogged with tree roots. New plumbing is needed.

We will fix the issues. Hopefully, the sooner the better. A new site design and new processing for feeds is necessary. Complicating matters is that RSS is going out of style and trying to aggregate feeds is becoming a more difficult challenge.

Topics: Zach Arnold | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

ESPN+ records massive subscriptions for their new UFC “sewer sport”

By Zach Arnold | January 20, 2019

ESPN rabblerouser and raconteur Dan Le Batard rudely and inappropriately treated guest Ariel Helwani as trash on his radio show. Le Batard correctly blitzed Disney management for promoting a “sewer sport” in exchange for saving the company with its new Over-The-Top subscription service.

Le Batard isn’t wrong in calling UFC a “sewer sport” for the way they promote Mixed Martial Arts. You have to call a spade a spade. UFC reinforced this notion by promoting Greg Hardy in the company’s semi-main event fight in Brooklyn. Hardy promptly lost by disqualification due to using a knee on the downed opponent.

The price for promoting a “sewer sport”?

Dave Meltzer reports that ESPN+ signed 525,000 new subscribers due to the UFC Brooklyn event headlined by Henry Cejudo destroying TJ Dillashaw. What makes the numbers so startling is that there is a heavy UFC presence over the next six months on ESPN+. Regardless of how successful Top Rank boxing cards have been on ESPN & ESPN+, there is no comparison to the subscription power that UFC is providing so far for Disney.

ESPN+ is a matter of life or death for Disney in professional sports. It must grow fast in order to maintain survival given the way cord cutting is accelerating. Disney paid a fortune to buy the rights to UFC programming. So far, so good.

What the monumental successes of both Jon Jones last December and Saturday’s Brooklyn event show is that there is no bottom for UFC in terms of paying any sort of price on the basis of fairness or morality. The dirtier, the better. The sleazier, the more seductive the product is. Disney has gone all-in with the swamp and there’s no turning back. Their future depends on UFC.

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

The Floyd Mayweather fight was costlier for RIZIN & Fuji TV than first anticipated

By Zach Arnold | January 4, 2019

The only good news for Nobuyuki Sakakibara is that Floyd Mayweather’s paycheck for the “exhibition fight” with Tenshin Nasukawa was $9 million and not $100 million USD.

Otherwise, it was an awful night for Japanese combat sports on New Year’s Eve 2018 television.

Tokyo Broadcasting System, which used to be home to mega K-1 and Inoki NYE events, finished with a 6.9% overall rating for their SASUKE show (athletic variety) plus Macau boxing event featuring Kazuto Ioka.

Fuji TV, which was home to powerhouse PRIDE, finished with a high of 7.5% for RIZIN for Floyd Mayweather’s fight. The overall ratings were 5.7%, 5.0%, and 6.9%. The day before Floyd’s fight, the Teiken Promotions boxing triple-header with Masayuki Ito, Ken Shiro, and Takuma Inoue pulled a 6.3% rating (8.8% in Kansai area).

The boxing numbers are a mixed bag but not a total surprise. The RIZIN rating figure is a big problem. Network executives don’t put up millions in cash for a distant fourth-place number in the high stakes Japanese ratings game of NYE.

If you’re intrigued by what used to go down politically with television producers on NYE events, go back and look through our archives. The level of detail and planning with ad agencies like Dentsu is exhaustive and extensive. Getting Mayweather for $9 million bucks was cheap by his standards but not cheap by anyone else’s. This hurts.

Where it hurts Nobuyuki Sakakibara is future investment. Yes, he proved that he could book Floyd Mayweather. There is some credibility built-in this maneuver because it will likely convince a private financier to perhaps open up a checkbook for a future show. However, the much more lucrative and bigger investment is with a Japanese network television partner.

If the Floyd Mayweather experiment had rallied a bigger number, such as 10%, the circumstances would be different today. That’s how important an extra 2% in the ratings would have been.

Topics: Boxing, Japan, Media, Zach Arnold | 10 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

Andy Foster brilliantly gambled on being both the California fight boss & acting like a quasi-UFC agent to gain fame and power

By Zach Arnold | December 30, 2018

California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer Andy Foster was essentially exchanged a B-level Anaheim January UFC event for a mega last-minute Jon Jones UFC fight in December. All on the premise that Jon Jones somehow was the world’s most unfortunately unlucky drug testing fighter. Marc Raimondi has a great article on MMA Fighting explaining how UFC, Jon Jones, and California managed to profit on what social commentator Scott Adams labels as the “confusopoly.” You wanted a clean sport? Well, you’re just going to have to accept all the confusion that comes with it.

This kind of gamble of being “pro-fighter” and “promoter-friendly” has been the hallmark of Andy Foster’s tenure as Executive Officer of the California State Athletic Commission. It is paying off. California is back to being a $2 million a year state because Nevada’s commission is in complete disarray and the other big boy athletic commissions have failed to take advantage of the situation. Given California’s income tax situation, it’s a rather remarkable accomplishment.

That accomplishment has been buttressed by some very friendly circumstances.

First, UFC spent big cash through their Sacramento lobbyist Tim Lynch at Platinum Advisors to act as the political muscle on behalf of UFC & Andy Foster’s interests. Not a single fight writer has ever, curiously, delved into this topic. Of all of the early success Andy Foster had in California, a significant amount of credit belongs to the cash UFC spent — not only to control the outcome but to exert heavy influence over the Athletic Commission.

Second, California is back to collecting taxes on pro-wrestling shows while doing no work whatsoever. The amount of revenue on the budget sheets from wrestling is rather large. There hasn’t been any fight over this development.

Third, UFC managed to keep their best possible outcome with Andy Foster staying in California when it all but looked like he was heading to Nevada after Keith Kizer chaotically resigned. The world would look a whole lot different if Foster had left for Vegas. Vegas politicos didn’t want the Southern boy in power. What they didn’t gamble on was the Fertittas selling UFC to outside owners and relegating Nevada’s commission to lower-tier status in terms of political power.

The whole game changed when Nevada’s athletic commission was forced to self-finance and was no longer attached to a general state budget fund. It turned Nevada’s commission into any other state AC.

UFC correctly gambled on Andy Foster staying in California. UFC 232 was the blossoming fruit from the poisonous tree.

You scratch my back, I scratch yours. He promised $2 million dollar years in California and, by God, he’s doing it. At what price or what level of integrity, who cares. There isn’t a better comment to sum up Andy Foster’s no-risk-move in approving Jon Jones for UFC 232 in Inglewood than this comment by veteran MMA writer Luke Thomas:

Andy Foster’s easiest — but largest — gamble was assuming that not a single soul in the fight or local press would ever take him on regarding any controversy or scandal. Andy Foster can act like a quasi-UFC agent while drawing a sweet Sacramento paycheck.

Consider some of the various stories the press has soft-balled or ignored over the last five years:

These situations would have gotten every other major athletic commission big boss fired.

What Andy Foster discovered was that there was no one to stop him from doing what he wanted to do. The lobbyists. The attorneys at Consumer Affairs. The paper pushers. He managed to use the people who thought they were using or controlling him in the first place.

Combined with naked ambition, zero fear of a toothless press corps, and a lack of employee will to file lawsuits and you have a formula that no longer requires UFC or Andy Foster to tip toe around what matters the most to them.

There’s nothing stopping Andy Foster from making 2019 his biggest and most lucrative campaign to date.

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

The public officially delivers a verdict on Jon Jones: He owes nobody nothing, especially UFC

By Zach Arnold | December 27, 2018

Jon Jones told a reporter on Thursday that they sucked for asking why he’s had trouble with multiple drug tests. From his perspective, he understands something that the rest of us don’t really want to accept. The public at large does not care about steroid usage except:

1) if it involves a fighter the public hates or;

2) if the cheating is so sloppy, the PED is garden-variety gym quality, and the doping is performed so recklessly that it’s deserving of mockery

Fail a test for a random steroid and people shrug. Ask for a hall pass for testosterone in order to function like a man once again and the response will be loud.

The verdict is in: Nobody cares

UFC 232 has officially sold out in Inglewood at The Forum. On short notice, ticket sales roared for UFC after relocating the event from Las Vegas to Southern California. Jon Jones is the big ticket. When you’re the big ticket, you run the show.

The fans had an opportunity to send a crystal clear message about USADA’s drug antics. It was a chance to call out UFC for being sleazy. It was a moment to tell Jon Jones that he’s reached rock bottom.

None of those things happened. The fans don’t care about USADA drama. At this point, it’s as relevant to the public as media members talking about each other in profile pieces. UFC financially dodged a big bullet and their gamble paid off to run in California with their quasi-agent Andy Foster providing cover.

(We’ll have more on Andy Foster this Monday. It’s appropriate to give him the proper attention.)

As long as Jon Jones can beat people up, people will care about him. His last fight with Alexander Gustafsson was exceptional. Another exceptional fight will give an extra two years of top-flight momentum. That’s how this works.

The rules of protest

Protesting and fighting only works if there is real or perceived momentum. What momentum is there for regulators and promoters to be scared straight? Zero. Unless Sacramento loses cash, nobody is going to raise the alarm. More shows, more money, more events to be seen at and get camera time.

Want clean sport? USADA was supposed to give you clean sport. Instead, it’s become as polarized as Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into Trump.

What are you going to fight about? What are you going to fight for? The only thing that matters to people is money. Right now, nobody is losing money. You can’t win a battle if someone’s ox isn’t getting gored.

Topics: CSAC, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

UFC called sleazy & embarrassing for moving Jon Jones fight to California (Andy Foster) after Nevada drug test

By Zach Arnold | December 24, 2018

I want to congratulate Jon Jones, attorney Howard Jacobs, and the rest of Jon’s representatives for completely humiliating and embarassing the biggest power brokers in Mixed Martial Arts. In the process of highlighting the legal sketchiness and authority presented under color of law, the biggest-name regulators in combat sports have been absolutely exposed.

Two weeks after the California State Athletic Commission granted Jon Jones a new license after failing a USADA drug test, the same Athletic Commission attempted to use their governmental authority to make Jones enter into business with a private third party entity. Jones and his team wisely rebuffed this administrative demand and called the bluff. It worked.


Update: Dave Meltzer reports Jon Jones has agreed to third-party drug testing. I understand why Team Jones would give in on this given the completely one-sided leverage here and the impromptu fight in California, but it is horribly depressing to see a governmental body violate the law without any consequences whatsoever.


Days later, Nevada said a Jon Jones drug test raised issues and that they wouldn’t license him to fight NYE weekend.

Rather than continue with the Las Vegas card, UFC packed its bags and requested their number one agent Andy Foster (California State Athletic Commission) for permission to run the Forum in Inglewood. He full-throatedly agreed. Nothing illegal about the action but the sleazy treatment of fans and fighters by UFC has created quite a fury.

If there is one lesson I have learned over the years when covering regulators… that lesson is that the public does not care one bit about a regulatory scandal until their ox gets gored. Until fans and fighters lose money, nobody cares about illegalities. Nobody cares about mistakes. Under normal circumstances, Andy Foster and his right-hand man Mark Relyea would have been fired for exposing veteran referee Marcos Rosales to a fighter who supposedly tested positive for HIV.

Nothing has changed (publicly). Nobody has been suspended. Mark Relyea is apparently still on track for getting promoted. He hasn’t had to publicly testify about what happened. His friends and family continue receiving bookings as athletic inspectors for television events. He continues to draw a paycheck of over $40,000 a year.

Things that matter don’t matter to the public until fans start losing money. That is currently happening as we speak. However, in the grand scheme of things, UFC moving the Jon Jones fight to Inglewood won’t hurt them.

What I am significantly more interested in seeing play out is the now public war between California, Nevada, and the other big boy athletic commissions. Nevada finds itself facing some isolation under new UFC ownership. Things were a lot friendlier and cozier under Frank & Lorenzo Fertitta’s control.

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

California State Athletic Commission doctors meeting over “unwarranted invasion of privacy” of fighter

By Zach Arnold | November 7, 2018

Andy Foster’s right hand man, Mark Relyea

On October 6th, 2018, we published our official letter to the California State Athletic Commission regarding referee Marcos Rosales claiming exposure to an HIV-positive fighter by athletic inspector Mark Relyea and Executive Officer Andy Foster.

When we sent the letter to board members of the Athletic Commission, we were hoping for some sort of response. Private, public, formal, informal. We got no response. Our two month investigation into this story produced documentation that led to us to ask some very serious questions.

At no time have we ever identified the name of the GLORY kickboxer who tested positive for HIV in California. We did this on purpose. While others might be worried about various legal issues in disclosing the fighter’s name, we were and remain more than prepared to fight off any cause of action related to invasion of privacy.

There’s a very important reason we have not disclosed the HIV-positive fighter’s name: the fighter is not our target. The fighter plays a pivotal role in the story but our target are the regulators who allowed a fighter the state of California classified as HIV-positive to compete in GLORY on March 31st.

Our instincts over decades of media experience taught us to immediately expect a re-framing of chief athletic inspector Mark Relyea’s alleged mistake(s) into a media strategy attacking us for victim shaming a fighter.

Four weeks after board members and doctors affiliated with the California State Athletic Commission were mailed our letter on this story, the Sacramento front office posted an official agenda for a November 10th (Saturday) doctors meeting in Los Angeles. Someone at either the Athletic Commission or their bosses at the Department of Consumer Affairs thought the following would be a productive message to send:


13. Pursuant to Government Code Section 11126(c)(2) the Committee will discuss matters that constitute an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of an individual licensee or applicant.

Unless there has been another incident involving an exposure of HIV or Hepatitis that we don’t know about, there is good reason to believe that this is all about what happened on March 31st at the GLORY event in Long Beach.

The choice of wording here reflects very poorly on whoever made this announcement. Either: a) the doctors are the ones being accused of an “unwarranted” invasion of privacy or b) the doctors are discussing what to do because of the damages claim filed by Marcos Rosales and our subsequent letter addressing what we discovered through public records is now being characterized as an “unwarranted” invasion of privacy.

What’s an unwarranted invasion of privacy is exposing other licensees to a fighter who you claim is HIV-positive and let fight because of your own internal admission of mishandling of medical records by chief athletic inspector Mark Relyea. The Athletic Commission internal memo threw him under the bus ten days after the GLORY show by requiring all inspectors to check in with the Sacramento office on fighter medicals for approvals without changing statutes or the Code of Regulations.

The hush-hush nature of this story was ridiculous to begin with because it didn’t require naming the HIV-positive fighter in order to address the errors that led to what happened. Instead, it’s been cover-up after cover-up. Now that a damages claim has been filed by Marcos Rosales and members of the Athletic Commission board are officially aware of what happened, suddenly it’s time for Sacramento to reframe the matter by deflecting heat from Mark Relyea and Andy Foster and onto the whistleblowers.

A rather novel strategy if you’re trying to keep things quiet.

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

Behind-the-scenes drama heading into GLORY kickboxing’s New York show: champion Pavel Zhuravlev’s future

By Zach Arnold | October 26, 2018

Pavel Zhuravlev is GLORY Kickboxing’s Light Heavyweight interim champ. And now, according to GLORY’s web page, he’s gone?

Update: Nope, but just another listing on the fighter roster. Not ranked. What?

Nearly seven months after fighting at GLORY 52 on March 31st, 2018 in Long Beach, Pavel Zhuravlev finds his name – and his career? – erased from some GLORY promotional material.


Update (10/27/2018): Pavel Zhuravlev’s name remains on the site but is not listed in rankings. Why? You have to keep pressing “list more” at least twice to find his name at the bottom of the “All Light Heavyweights” list due to alphabetizing. This is the interim champion and promoted #1 challenger to champion Artem Vakhitov.


Zhuravlev is one of GLORY’s most popular, big name fighters. He’s had over 80 professional bouts. Zhuravlev applied for a new license with the California State Athletic Commission in the middle of March 2018. Here’s a screen shot of his California license application:

Click on image to enlarge

Then, something mysterious happened. A public records request reveals that the Athletic Commission put Zhuravlev on an indefinite medical suspension on April 3rd, 2018. Here’s a screen shot from the Association of Boxing Commissions’ MMA fighter suspension database:

Click on image to enlarge

On June 15th, GLORY Kickboxing published an article on their web site claiming that Zhuravlev had suffered a hand injury. GLORY was building up to a champion vs. champion fight between Pavel Zhuravlev and Artem Vakhitov. The great irony is that Vakhitov had been dealing with his own serious hand injury.

The GLORY article stated that Zhuravlev would return to action in Fall of 2018.

Fast-forward to mid-October 2018. Pavel Zhuravlev’s fighter profile and ranking has been removed from the site’s main page. (still here, though.) No acknowledgement of Zhuravlev as the interim Light Heavyweight kickboxing champion on the site’s main page (but still on his profile).


Update (10/27/2018): Pavel Zhuravlev’s name remains on the site but is not listed in rankings. Why? You have to keep pressing “list more” at least twice to find his name at the bottom of the “All Light Heavyweights” list due to alphabetizing. This is the interim champion and promoted #1 challenger to champion Artem Vakhitov.


What changed between June 15th, 2018 and October 15th, 2018 in the relationship between GLORY kickboxing and Pavel Zhuravlev?

Unless we are not privy to any sort of financial dispute over future bookings… money doesn’t appear to be the main issue.

Unless we are not privy to any sort of matchmaking dispute regarding fights against future opponents… booking doesn’t appear to be the main issue. Zhuravlev has been in 83 fights and won 72 of them. He will fight any challenger.

If money and matchmaking are not the main issues, then why isn’t he fighting Artem Vakhitov in a title match?

This question brings us back to California’s indefinite medical suspension of Pavel Zhuravlev.

On Zhuravlev’s California fighter license application, here is the medical waiver Zhuravlev signed:

I further authorize the Commission or its successors to release any medical or other personal information with respect to my application or licensure to the organizations, individuals or groups listed above as well as additional parties with a vested interest in my current license status with the Commission, including but not limited to my current Manager, a Commission licensed Promoter of an event that I am participating in and to other regulatory bodies. The Commission will release this information only to those individuals, athletic commissions, or similar regulatory bodies that have a need to know, as determined by the Commission. The disclosure of records is required for official use, including investigation of my fitness for licensure by the Commission. I understand that the recipient of my information is not a health plan or health care provider and the released information may no longer be protected by federal privacy regulations.

Not withstanding the many state and Federal legal questions this waiver should naturally illicit…

  1. What has the California State Athletic Commission told GLORY kickboxing about Pavel Zhuravlev’s medical status?
  2. What has Pavel Zhuravlev told GLORY kickboxing about his medical status?

Has somebody been caught deceiving, either through omission of fact or lying about fact(s)?

The bottom line

The promotion is not talking. The California State Athletic Commission is not talking. Pavel Zhuravlev is not talking.

If this was UFC, Top Rank, Golden Boy, Al Haymon, or another major fight promoter, this would be a much bigger story. Instead, the top kickboxing promoter in the world has managed to fly under the radar with this act of revisionist history low-profiling — all while heading into a major New York event.

It’s time for members of the fight media and for other GLORY fighters to start asking questions as to the promotion’s handling of relations with Pavel Zhuravlev and what impact it will have on their own careers.

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

The “you cannot trash a religion, a nation” edition of UFC 229 brutalized Disney Dana White

By Zach Arnold | October 7, 2018

Dana White wasn’t speaking to me or you in his post-fight UFC 229 presser. The new Disney Dana was busy trying to say the right things to his new bosses at ESPN while throwing a few swear words to keep the street cred up.

And you better know that Dana isn’t a hypocrite when he says he could continue using footage of Conor McGregor attacking other fighters in a bus because, hey, “it’s part of the story.”

Energy is everything in combat sports. It’s a messy business. What’s old becomes new fast and what’s new becomes old even faster. Dana White is moldy, stale bread. He act is beyond tired. Even the sycophantic writers, including Kevin “please text me!” Iole last night, were pointing out Dana’s hypocrisy between the celebration of Conor Debauchery and condemnation of Khabib Khaos.

Khabib Nurmagomedov is as real as it gets. Disney Dana can’t control that in 2018.

Nurmagomedov had his fight purse frozen by the no-longer-special Nevada State Athletic Commission. Bob Bennett is a punching bag. FBI-level integrity for you. Now the cost for upkeep of that FBI-level integrity will be a massive confiscation of cash due to the Athletic Commission no longer being tethered to the state’s general fund.

And to top it all off, since Disney Dana made it a point that Governor Brian Sandoval is mad, Khabib is going to learn that it would be a shame to lose his visa and career… unless, of course, he decides to have a rematch in Las Vegas again.

UFC, at its genuine and deepest core, is crass. Derrick Lewis talking about hot balls and Joe Rogan saying “I understand.” Joe Rogan has supplanted Howard Stern for the career-making and career-killing interview. Ask Elon Musk.

Khabib railing against UFC’s exploitation of racism, religion, and nationalism was as great of a condemnation as it was a fart on America’s First Amendment. I loved the authenticity.

The greatest part of UFC 229 is that even the announcing team of Jon Anik, Joe Rogan, and Dominick Cruz scoffed at the idea of a rematch between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor being competitive. UFC had to leave that hard sell up to Michael Bisping, whose soliloquy on the toughness and integrity of American immigration policy was as close to an old-school 1980s Mid-South “daddy’s going to deport those evil Russians!” promo as you could get.

Khabib Nurmagomedov isn’t the Putin-communicating champion that the UFC deserves. He would have been an even-better fit in the classic Japanese MMA scene.

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

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