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The political road map for the Nevada State Athletic Commission

By Zach Arnold | January 21, 2014

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On Sunday night, we posted the job listing online for the Executive Director slot at the Nevada State Athletic Commission. A lot of people are commenting on the pay for the job, stating that it’s too little. Honestly, when you compare the amount of shows that take place in Nevada (most in Las Vegas, Reno/Carson City/Tahoe should have way more shows but there’s little recruiting done) and the actual workload compared to states with real amounts of activity like California or Texas… the Nevada pay is just about right.

When Keith Kizer announced his resignation on Friday (1/10), the how/why his exit happened got my attention. Last week, Dave Meltzer claimed that Kizer left on his volition but that the media would claim that Kizer was forced out because it would be a sexier story to tell.

This is Nevada’s commission. When Sig Rogich & Lorenzo Fertitta are mover-and-shakers in Nevada politics, you pay attention to what they are up to. Hell, it’s hard to get anyone in the media motivated to talk about the relationship ties between Rogich & Lorenzo despite the fact that WSOF, which Rogich is/was part of, is basically UFC’s stalking horse/unofficial bastard child, in my opinion.

When the news of Kizer’s resignation broke, it did not pass the smell test. Abruptly announced/leaked at 5 PM on a Friday night? We all know how the political game works in Washington D.C. and other state capitols. You do your bad/awful/no-good news dumps on a Friday night so nobody is paying attention and the media is too bored to report Friday night happenings on a Monday because of their ADHD nature of thinking the news cycle has already passed onto something more shiny.

Planting the seeds for Keith Kizer’s exit

If you don’t understand anything about Las Vegas politics, all you need to understand is that Sig Rogich is a big factor as to why the UFC and not promoters like Bob Arum or Golden Boy control so much political power with the state’s Athletic Commission. Lorenzo Fertitta was on the commission. Marc Ratner was on the commission. Sig Rogich used to be the chairman of the commission. Keith Kizer was hand-picked from the gaming division of the Attorney General’s office next door to take over as Ratner’s successor.

When Bob Arum was ranting and raving about white Republicans controlling the commission in relation to the $900,000 fine against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for his marijuana usage, he was referring to the political group that I’m talking about. Rogich worked for Ronald Reagan. He has a high school named after him in Vegas. He runs a political public relations firm. He’s still involved in state and national politics. He likes to view himself as the creator/influencer behind the 1988 Michael Dukakis “Tank Ad” that George H.W. Bush ran that basically parodied Dukakis’ political ambition into smithereens.

When it came to boxing controversies, Keith Kizer pissed off a lot of people. The more outspoken he became, the bigger the political liability he was for Nevada politicos & fixers. His stature as a leader continued to shrink. The politicos picked Kizer as the guy who was going to replace the venerable Marc Ratner. The longer Kizer stayed in power, the worse the politicos looked for backing him.

Kizer told Fox Sports on January 10th, the day of his resignation, that he had applied to become “the city attorney” of Henderson, Nevada.

Kizer said that from the time he took the job in 2006, he planned to hold the position for only five years and move on. Last year, he explored the idea of leaving when he applied for the city attorney role in Henderson, Nevada. He was a finalist for the position but the role ultimately went to someone else.

This part is confusing. Last year was 2013. If we’re talking about the city attorney slot in Henderson, that position was filled in January of 2012 by Senator Harry Reid’s son, Josh Reid. Sig Rogich & Lorenzo Fertitta are close to Harry Reid. That city attorney job pays $200,000 a year. If Kizer was looking for an escape route as early as late 2011, that would be quite a story.

The other explanation is that he applied for an assistant city attorney job with Henderson in 2013 that would have paid in the $160,000 a year salary range. Which is still better than the $95,000 a year salary at the Athletic Commission.

Dave Meltzer’s article on January 20th confirmed that Kizer had been looking at other career options. Given the man’s love of being the boss at the NSAC, this is quite a revelation.

In either scenario, it is (in my opinion) an admission by Kizer that he knew his days were numbered at the Athletic Commission. The Executive Director job at the Athletic Commission is one that Kizer loved. He gave up a better gig at the Attorney General’s office next door to take the NSAC position.

Keith Kizer had reasons to be itchy about his future prospects at the Athletic Commission. The final straw for Keith Kizer’s tenure at the Athletic Commission was the decision to put Cynthia Ross as a judge for the Floyd Mayweather/Canelo Alvarez fight last September. Ross inexplicably scored the fight a draw when Mayweather won at least 10 rounds, if not more, during the fight. Ross exited in disgrace and Kizer was left holding the bag. Instead of throwing Ross under the bus, he continued to defend her because he put his ass on the line with that selection.

You can only imagine the reaction from the casinos & sportsbooks regarding what happened at the last Mayweather fight. The casinos are in the business of attracting & keeping their big whales. Once that confidence is shaken, it means business goes elsewhere. That’s simply untenable for the Las Vegas economy.

After the Mayweather/Canelo fight, there was a commission meeting in which Bill Brady (picked by Governor Brian Sandoval) disclosed that there was a meeting at the Attorney General’s office with Keith Kizer to discuss how to proceed in the future when it came to booking officials. Francisco Aguilar (of Andre Agassi Enterprises) then took over for Bill Brady as NSAC Chairman.. Aguilar has donated to Democratic politicians including… Harry Reid. Brady was not part of the Skip Avansino/Pat Lundvall political group that has dominated commission affairs. With Brady in essence getting demoted, Kizer had to have known that the meeting at the AG’s office was the beginning of the end for his Athletic Commission tenure. And as we’ve learned from comments made by both Aguilar and Kizer, the skids appeared to be greased for an exit.

Francisco Aguilar, on the day of Kizer’s resignation, claimed that Kizer wasn’t forced out of his job but admitted that changes were on-going for business protocol at the Athletic Commission.

And now the floodgates will open with a million people applying to become the next Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Expect all sorts of names to apply. It would not shock me to see the job as an attractive spot for someone like Ron Scott Stevens or George Dodd.

Whoever gets the job will find the position difficult to navigate because of the politics. Pat Lundvall is close with Sig Rogich. If the Executive Director comes into the position not understanding Nevada state laws, they will get steamrolled by all the lawyers surrounding them. The Executive Director also better understand just how powerful Sig Rogich is and what his background entails. If you are not a political animal like Jon Ralston, the NSAC job will quickly grow to be burdensome because it is exactly all about state politics. There’s a lot of incestuous business dealings that take place and it requires someone who is very skillful at both public relations and business to handle. It is not for everybody. There will be factions battling each other regarding who gets the Executive Director position because Kizer’s tenure, in comparison to Ratner’s, looked lousy. Arum grew real sour towards the commission. Golden Boy put up with Kizer. UFC treated Kizer as a punching bag and more as a foil than anything else.

So, whoever is chosen next for the job is going to have an immense amount of pressure on their shoulders because the reputations of many savage politicians will be at stake. And right next door to the NSAC office is the Attorney General’s office, which will be watching NSAC business closely. Ross Miller, the current Secretary of State and big MMA supporter, may win his election later this year and move into the AG’s office.

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

One Response to “The political road map for the Nevada State Athletic Commission”

  1. […] animus. Consider the performance of the commission under new management. Remember how one of the final straws for Kizer was him sticking up for some bad judging? Here’s his replacement, Bob Bennett, […]

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