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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 zarnold9000@gmail.com 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 | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

RIZIN’s survival depends on crowdfunding — would you crowdfund your favorite fight promotion?

By Zach Arnold | September 8, 2020

Tacky or creative? Innovative or low-rent?

What to make of RIZIN crowdfunding financing for MMA events from fans during the Coronavirus era?

RIZIN 24 is scheduled to take place on September 27th at Saitama Super Arena. According to RIZIN, the arena will be configured to seat 5,000 fans.

In the promotion’s latest crowdfunding effort, the target was 50 million Yen. They’ve raised 70 million Yen with over 8,000 contributors.

Nobuyuki Sakakibara, the King of PRIDE, runs RIZIN. He considers him the top Japanese MMA promoter left standing. Given that it is Mr. Sakakibara and his track record of big events with PRIDE has created an image of big things, does crowdfunding diminish his stature? Does it make him look terrible? Or is he being an honest broker in an industry full of failure?

Is it the future of fight sports?

There is so much risk involved in promoting a fight event during a good economy, imagine how terrible the odds are during a pandemic.

The idea of crowdfunding fights? I actually spent a significant amount of time last year offline war-gaming out a model, a concept if you will, of how to create a platform for fans to generate their own purse bids to book fights.

In the end, the legalities of contract, administrative, and tort law in the United States made the concept unworkable.

The concept would have revolved around two fighters agreeing to a purse bid with a minimum downside and if there was enough crowdfunding support to match the purse bid, then a contract would be negotiated with television networks and sponsors. Sounds easy but it ain’t so simple in execution.

Do I think a variation of this idea will happen sooner rather than later? Yes, but I’m not sure that it will happen in the United States. It will have to happen in a country with a large fight population but not a complicated set of regulatory bodies.

Where does this put RIZIN? They are proclaiming to be in survival mode — and that’s an entirely realistic story. Will surviving by crowdfunding be an “image down” scenario in terms of losing face? Nobody knows.

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

The real cultural and business significance of UFC winning the war in the Trump era

By Zach Arnold | August 18, 2020

2016 was the year that UFC triangulated and gambled big time on saving their business model by publicly supporting Donald Trump.

Barring a Joe Biden victory in 2020, the Ali Act will not be amended any time soon to give fighters a private right of action to sue in a US Federal Court.

2020 became the year that UFC assumed the mantle as the American cultural, business, and political leader of Donald Trump’s public policy response to the Coronavirus.

Most sport entities are flat-lining while UFC’s bottom line is soaring. It’s rise, despite explosive debt-financing, is as impressive as Netflix and Amazon.

For a majority of press writers who cover UFC’s business, this development raises a lot of uncomfortable truths.

Continue reading this article here…

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | 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 | 1 Comment » | 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 | 5 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:

CLOSED SESSION

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 |

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