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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."

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Addressing the criticism about our article on Matt Hamill fighting last weekend in UFC

By Zach Arnold | June 26, 2010

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There is so much to respond to in this video. I would encourage you to watch the video and read the transcript.

First, we have yet another example of the bizarre phobia to mention my name specifically when talking about something I’ve written. This is another high-profile example of this phobia — this week alone. It’s not a coincidence, but it is strange — if you think someone’s off base or they suck, you usually call them out. If you mention their work but are afraid to say the author’s name, then that’s political.

Second, take note that none of the major core issues in terms of details (small and big) are addressed in the video. No one critical of the commission argued that the doctors, in their respective fields, aren’t qualified. As Dr. Margaret Goodman pointed out, the issue is that the doctors who looked at Matt Hamill’s mark on his back in Nevada weren’t dermatologists or specialists. There’s a difference.

This is why I put up the label on our article on Wednesday that you needed to spend some time to read everything in it and to understand the context of what was being discussed along with all sides being presented. I made that label because I knew one of three things would happen:

And yet, there are plenty of statements made in this video that need to be responded to.

STEVE COFIELD: “Alright, another chance to check in with Kevin Iole, our MMA and boxing lead writer. Let’s get into a couple of interesting stories that people have been working on and I know you put one in your mailbag and we kind of didn’t touch the other one because there was no story. But the first one is… the storm that kind of brewed the day after people found out that Matt Hamill had staph infection and was allowed to fight and it turned into this whole witch hunt and I think there’s a lot of sordid details that didn’t get out there and were kind of misreported.”

KEVIN IOLE: “Yeah, I mean, number one, that was, you know, a concerning thing because you know obviously staph infection is generally contagious and you know is something that nobody wants, I mean, believe me, nobody wants that and you know it can end a person’s career, can end their life if it gets too bad. So, you know, that’s something you have to take great precaution to prevent the spread of staph. So, when Hamill said that, you know, it was a little bit concerning I have to admit while I heard that Saturday night but you know at that time there’s no way to double-check on what’s going on. So, you know I looked into it later and Dr. Vicki Mazzorana from the Nevada athletic commission really got a lot of heat because the story that was in The Las Vegas Review-Journal review newspaper from 2009 that her clinic was shut down following a complaint to the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners. Well, it turns out that that was only part of the story. In fact, it was true that her clinic was shut down. Somebody complained directly to the state, but the state then went in and they looked at her clinic and they found her in total compliance and they gave her a letter that stats you’re in complete compliance and we have no problems with you. However, that follow-up was not reported by the newspaper, so… unfortunately for Dr. Mazzorana, you know, it looks like she’s somehow running a less-than-professional clinic and it turned out that it was anti-abortion activists who had turned her in. Now, you know, we don’t want to turn an MMA segment into abortion one way or the other, but the point is being that you know there was two sides to the story here and only one side was written about the complaint but when the complaint was investigated and analyzed it turned out not to be true, that was not reported. So, then that information was used in this Matt Hamill thing, I guess to suggest she wasn’t qualified in some way. But even if we question her qualification, Matt Hamill was also examined by Dr. Jeff Davidson who is an emergency room physician at Valley Hospital in Las Vegas who now consults with the UFC and he was doing that down before the fight and then also Matt Hamill’s personal physician also checked him so he was checked by three people and another doctor that I know was at cage side and I don’t want to say his name because he didn’t want to get himself in the middle of it, but he happened to see that lesion on Hamill’s back, recognized what it is, and said that he didn’t feel because it was a hard lesion that it would pose a threat to Keith Jardine or anybody else. So, as a result, you know, I think that this got a little bit out of hand and it was just because of that one story that was reported from the Review-Journal that there was no follow-up.”

STEVE COFIELD: “Well, I think there’s a lot of folks who are kind of into this whole conspiracy-theorist that they’re uncovering something big and to suggest incompetence on part of a doctor when you don’t actually know the doctor or I think the other disturbing thing that came out was kind of the suggestion that there’s a lack of objectivity that there would be something in it for a doctor to allow a fight like this to go on. I mean with the insurance risks out there and especially in Nevada, I mean we know this as long-time residents of Nevada, we can’t even keep doctors here, what doctor would put their career on the line to allow a fight… this is a very public outing.”

KEVIN IOLE: “Well, and here’s the thing, too. The people who are saying, well, the UFC you know had a vested interest, they wanted Matt Hamill to fight, it would have killed them. I mean this was a fight with a what, $400,000 gate? If both of the main events fell out you know no big deal, it would have not hurt them in any way, shape, or form. It would have not effected their bottom line, it would have not effect their future. It would have had zero impact if that fight card, the entire fight card got canceled. So you know in order to have a conspiracy you know in other words you know let’s just play the devil’s advocate, say there’s something wrong with Brock Lesnar. Well, you know, the UFC would benefit in that case, you know, if Lesnar is allowed to fight. And so you know maybe you can make the argument there. But certainly, you know, in a case like with Matt Hamill on a Spike TV card, what’s the benefit to the doctor? I mean, there is none, like you say. And medical licenses are very, very difficult to get and to maintain and if you have one, you’re not going to put it at risk for something where you’re not getting paid. These doctors for the athletic commission aren’t being paid for that.”

STEVE COFIELD: “The other guy who’s taken a beating in this and the other organization is the Nevada State Athletic Commission and Keith Kizer in particular. Do you understand why there is such an issue amongst some media people and bloggers and fans to call out Kizer and the commission as less-than-stellar and borderline incompetent?”

KEVIN IOLE: “Well, you know, I don’t understand it. I mean, I… you know, I don’t think the Nevada athletic commission and when I say that I mean the commissioners. Keith Kizer, let’s get it right first, is not a commissioner. He does not have a vote. he does not set policy. He’s the Executive Director and he runs the office on a day-to-day basis. But they have five commissioners who actually set policy, who have votes, who yea or nay a fight. Keith Kizer can recommend to the commission but it’s the commission who actually has the authority to do action. You know I think Keith Kizer does a very credible job, you know, have I agreed with every decision that he’s made? No. But I think you know that he’s done a very fine job in the time that he’s been in charge. Now, the commission itself, I question sometimes you know I don’t think the commission is as good now. The five people who are on the commission, as it has been in the past. There have been times where there’s been no question that the Nevada athletic commission was by far the best in the country and I think there certainly is a question about that today. But, I don’t see where you know all this criticism is coming from of Keith Kizer and where there’s all these mistakes he’s making that are allowing you know bad things to happen in the state. I don’t see it.”

STEVE COFIELD: “Do you have any examples where this group of five is kind of falling short as opposed to some of the groups of the past?”

KEVIN IOLE: “I don’t think that they have an understanding as well of the inner workings of the fight game, both from a competitor’s standpoint, from a business standpoint as previous commissions do. I mean, you know, I think of somebody like Dr. James Nave, who’s a Las Vegas veterinarian, who was on the commission for many years and they were willing to take tough stances and they you know Dr. Nave, I remember you know questioning Mike Tyson at some of his hearings very, very carefully. They prepared extremely thoroughly for their hearings because they realized that, hey, they were you know the de facto regulators of almost all of boxing, you know, what Nevada would do would you know a lot of times be imitated and duplicated by the rest of you know of the sport. So, you know, and now, I just don’t think that they have that same depth of knowledge, base of knowledge that they had before and as a result I think sometimes some things may slip up under the cracks that had not done so in the past.”

There’s the transcript.

Regarding “a witch hunt and misreporting”

There was no misreporting in our article. None. We contacted a lot of parties that were mentioned in the article. All sides were presented and we gave several others chances to publicly issue statements on the matter, including Dr. Vicki Mazzorana. (We didn’t get a response.)

We contacted the Nevada Board of Health along with the man who was their spokesperson last year who is now running for political office (he’s based in Reno).

We contacted the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners and we did our due diligence with information from the Board of Pharmacy.

So, the idea that there wasn’t any hard reporting or that multiple sides weren’t covered is disingenuous.

On a larger scale, I would love people who are criticizing me over the article on Matt Hamill’s staph infection to look at our track record. I have a good track record when it comes to writing on topics like this. (We know which topic got me the most attention in the past.)

I learned a lot of valuable lessons in the past when writing about some stories that most of the media didn’t want to touch with a 10-foot pole. I learned that being first and/or being accurate when it comes to a story that isn’t positive doesn’t make you popular and those who criticize you during the coverage of the story are silent when things come out to support what you are writing.

The focus on Dr. Vicki Mazzorana

Kevin Iole says that it was one newspaper that covered last year’s story about her abortion clinic. No it wasn’t. The story was reported on by multiple media outlets in Las Vegas. You had the Nevada Board of Health issue a press release when the inspection happened. (We reprinted that release in the article.)

Regarding Dr. Mazzorana being cleared of any charges regarding licensing issues, we wrote in our article about that happening the day after the inspection.

So, to say that an aftermath wasn’t reported is inaccurate. To claim that multiple outlets didn’t cover the story at the time is factually not true. Furthermore, as the OSHA article we linked to indicated, she was cleared on licensing issues but issues relating to sterilization were still being addressed. How can the irony of that in the story not smack you across the head when you’re thinking about what Matt Hamill’s mark on his back when he fought?

To the larger question raised in the transcript about why there was focus on her and on Dr. Jeff Davidson in our article, it’s simple — we gave the medical backgrounds on both doctors. They were facts. They come from fields of medicine that don’t relate to dermatology or some sort of specialization related to that field.

The incompetence factor

We’ll tie this into what Steve said about “conspiracy theorist” writing and incompetence charges.

A lot of what I heard from critics of my article was similar to what I heard a few years ago when I covered the implosion of PRIDE, that somehow if something nefarious was going on then why wouldn’t more people write about it or why isn’t there more discussion of it.

In the case of Keith Kizer and the Nevada State Athletic Commission, I’d say there’s plenty of discussion on it. But most of that discussion has come from fans and writers (like Brent Brookhouse, Ivan Trembow, and Jamie Penick) and not people in media positions who deal with politics from editors and promoters and fighters. As I’ve said before, the politics of MMA writing are so ridiculous at times. It’s cost me writing jobs, but so what? If you can’t write on a story truthfully and tell it like it is, then don’t be a writer!

As far as the discussion of questionable decisions or concerns that fans have of the commission, how many examples do we need to bring up here?

I could go on…

Claims that the UFC doesn’t want fights canceled, therefore this is why there was criticism about Matt Hamill fighting

I’m interested in the safety of fights and I say that with genuine emotion. I don’t like to see a drug-fueled environment where there’s a possibility of infectious diseases being spread. If you can minimize those factors and provide a safer environment for the fighters to compete in, then do it.

At the end of day, I understand that there’s a lot of people who get paid to write in MMA who are always watching their backs because of petty politics that are involved in the industry. One writer recently remarked to me that they were careful about what they said regarding happenings in Nevada because they “didn’t want to end up found buried in Barstow.” Funny remark or not, it’s kind of a sad commentary on what’s happening right now as far as people being afraid to come out with information or opinions that we might not always hear about until years later.

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

6 Responses to “Addressing the criticism about our article on Matt Hamill fighting last weekend in UFC”

  1. Rob Maysey says:

    Pockets getting full–Zach will know what that means. . .

  2. Norm says:

    Zach,

    I love your stuff and have been following for a couple of years. It’s much more interesting than the fluff that 90% of the MMA websites put out and recycle daily.

    I’m aware of the Zuffa Myth, the Yakuza/Pride fallout, and this story. What other stories have you broke that might contribute to you being “black listed”? I’d like to do some more catching up. Also, do you have a bio or a timeline detailing what has led to you not getting the credit you deserve?

    Thanks!

    • SixT-4 says:

      The reason I come to this site is because it’s one of the very few that actually offers any real insight or analysis into the business.

  3. Ivan Trembow says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it once again: There is no reason to take seriously anything that those two have to say. Their numerous misstatements of basic facts in that YouTube clip are just the latest examples of why that’s the case.

  4. Jonathan Snowden says:

    You are absolutely insane if you think there is no pressure from promotions or fighters when you write for a site like Bloody Elbow. The site has similar traffic as MMA Weekly. They are reading, and I’ve had as much push back at BE as I have working with Zuffa partners.

  5. Chuck O. says:

    I think you’re the MMA equivalent to the Daily Show (without the humor) as you collect numerous reports on stories and events and keeps everything on record in case something is contrading/erroneous and/or of interest. Like the Daily Show, most people won’t want to admit that you’re right or scoff at the idea that you’re on to something. (In your case, it’s probably because to you are “Yakuza Zach”, still “infatuated with the Yakuza’s involvement in everything.)

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