The dirty little secret of the combat sports entertainment industry is their smoke screening of blatant corruption in sport as incompetence or even just a simple matter of difference in opinion. As perhaps the most knowledgeable mixed martial arts pundit in the industry today, I’ve been around to see the sport evolve since virtually its inception in North America in 1993. Since that time, two things have remained a constant throughout the various eras and incarnations of the sport – controversial judging scorecards and referee decisions in mixed martial arts. Allowed to run nearly unchecked and unabatted by the mainstream combat sports media since nearly time infinitum, their complicitness in the conspiracy of silence is nothing short of treachery in the minds of all true fans of mixed martial arts.
“Dana White is starting to get fed up with the terrible judging in Nevada,” writes author Ryan Harkness in his March 7, 2021 MMAMania.com article titled, “Dana White blasts Blachowicz vs Adesanya judges: ‘This 10-8 s—t is out of control.’
According to the report, “In the past, bad judging has been spread out across the United States where a variety of stodgy semi-corrupt athletic commissions have shared the blame for bad decisions. But with the COVID-19 pandemic putting 75 percent of UFC’s events in its APEX facility, a bright light has been shone on just how bad Nevada judging is week-in, week-out.”
Continuing, MMAMania went on to report, “’The scoring was insane,’ White said during the post-fight press conference seconds after sitting down. “These guys are giving out 10-8 rounds like f—king ... there were two rounds in that fight that they gave a 10-8,” writes Harkness.
“To clarify White’s statements,” interjected Harkness. “There weren’t two rounds scored 10-8 for Blachowicz. Two judges — Derek Cleary and Junichiro Kamijo — gave Blachowicz a 10-8 score for the fifth round.”
The Nevada Athletic Commission scoring of the UFC 259 main event so egregious and controversial that it even managed to catch the attention of Bad Guy Inc. according to a March 7, 2021 Chael Sonnen YouTube video titled, “Adesanya vs. Blachowicz, Here’s What Happened....”
Perhaps the sharpest mind on the set of ESPN, Sonnen, who is no stranger to the athletic commissions, went on to explain that, “When you have a 10-8 round guys and this is not the definition okay, I’m going to say this to you for an expert to a layman because I know it’s something that you’ll understand. A 10-8 round in large part is a judge’s way to supersede a mistake made by the referee,” explained Sonnen.
“If the fight should have been stopped and the referee failed to stop it the judge will then correct that by giving it a 10-8 round or at a minimum within that round it was eligible to be stopped for TKO,” said Sonnen.
“That is the only time that you have a 10-8 round," Sonnen explained. "If the round was eligible for the ref at some point to step in and stop it, but didn’t, the judge will then correct that after the fact. That is not the interpretation, but if you go off of that you will understand what a 10-8 is. You have to get your ass kicked and at some point be eligible for stoppage. Which simply didn’t happen and the Associated Boxing Commission agrees with me."
“And the state of Nevada seems to allow different interpretations without review, Sonnen continued. "It’s simply not good business to get in the wheelhouse of the commission. It just would make no sense. There’s no way to win," said Sonnen.
“There’s nothing that’s going to happen, chairman Marnell's not going to do anything except text somebody and hope they write a nice piece. Which is quite literally what he will do when he sees this and Bob Bennett has never even thought about reviewing any of these scores,” explained Sonnen.
"This is a public entity which they love to forget when it's helpful," Sonnen explained in his March 10, 2021 YouTube video titled, "Petr Yan Cheated." According to the ESPN MMA analyst and future UFC Hall of Famer, "They operate solely at the discretion of the public's tax dollars. At the direction of the attorney generals office, who is also public. So they don't get to do things in the quiet of the night."
In his originally cited video from just a few days prior, the former two-division UFC championship contender went on to explain that, “This same thing has been happening since 2017. You can tie all of the problems with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, by the way, which I have no problem with. I really don’t give a damn, I truly don’t. It’s just one of these things that you can’t tell the story of the fight and act as though there’s an inconsistency with judges or referee’s or personnel’s because these guys operate all over the place and every other commission seems to get a handle on them besides Nevada,” explained Sonnen.
“That’s the only consistency, which is why I bring it up. But you can tie it in to the time Pat Lundvall and Bill Brady left. There was never a complaint, there was never a pundit speaking until that,” Sonnen explained somewhat tongue in cheek.
“I don’t know what kind of leadership those two offered, I can just tell you that it was very clear that they offered very clear leadership. And I don’t know what changed as they decided to retire and go do other things with their time. I don’t know, I can just tell you (that) you can date it back to that week.”
“The first woman to have ever been elected as chair of the NAC in 2009, Lundvall joined the commission in 2007, having been appointed by Governor Jim Gibbons,” writes author Jake Hughes in his October 26, 2016 Vice.com article titled, “Pat Lundvall’s Run as a NAC Commissioner Comes to an End Next Week.”
According to the report, “Lundvall's pedigree and esteemed reputation among her peers is irrefutably glowing. However, it's that aforementioned aggression and perceived reluctance for compromise is what has earned the ire of many fighters, combat sports fans and the UFC hierarchy over her nine-year stint as a commissioner for the NAC,” explains Hughes.
“Claiming his heart was no longer in it, Bill Brady has resigned his position as commissioner with the Nevada Athletic Commission,” writes author Steve Carp in his May 8, 2015 Las Vegas Review - Journal article titled, “Bill Brady resigns from the Nevada Athletic Commission.”
According to the report, “In his resignation letter, Brady said: “I have a profound respect and love for the fighters, judges, referees, staff and those associated with the fight world in Nevada and beyond. It has been an honor of a lifetime for me to serve on the NAC. I have given my very best to the Commission for over seven years now and I believe I have contributed in a positive way during that time.”
Continuing, the Las Vegas Review went on to report, “To all things in life there is a season, and I believe my season on the Nevada Athletic Commission must now come to an end so that another exciting season may begin."
With Sonnen specifically pointing to 2017 as the year something seemed to change within the Nevada State Athletic Commission, it's interesting to note a February 8, 2017 MMAFighting.com article titled, “New Nevada athletic commissioner works for Fertitta-owned Station Casinos,” where author Marc Raimondi writes that, “The newest commissioner appointed to the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) works for the former owners of the UFC.”
According to the report, “Staci Alonso, appointed to the commission by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval in December, is an executive vice president at Station Casinos, the casino group owned by Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, per her LinkedIn page.” The MMAFighting.com report went on to state, “The Fertittas sold their majority stake in the UFC, which is regulated and sanctioned by the NAC in Nevada, to WME-IMG in July for more than $4 billion.”
With it being no secret that the UFC had high hopes riding on an Adesanya victory Saturday night, the UFC president Dana White may have had ulterior motives behind his latest criticism of the officials however legitimate they may have been. With a lot riding on getting the scorecards correct in combat sports, none are more paramount than the integrity of the sport itself. With the departure of the hardball playing Lundvall and the passionate and sincere Bill Brady, what ultimately seems to have changed the most within the Nevada Athletic Commission since 2017 is ironically the addition of UFC vetted NAC commissioner Staci Alonso.
And whenever there is controversy in combat sports, the house never seems to be too far away from the bad hands being dealt as sports bookies take a variety of bets on mixed martial arts fights. And with many of these bets ultimately depending on the judge’s scorecards at the end of the night, the fact judging in combat sports remains such a questionable oddity after literally decades of head scratching decisions should come to few as a surprise. Especially when the latest commissioner of the Nevada State Athletic Commission is the former vice president of the Fertitta owned Station Casinos.
For as long as I can remember in mixed martial arts, controversial decisions have remained a mainstay of the industry, transcending eras and time. The perpetual cycle of incompetence ultimately giving way to the perception of impropriety throughout the years as the problems comically continue to persist until this very day. Without a complete overhaul of the current system itself and perhaps even a federal investigation, combat sport fans can expect to continue to see more of the same as even the most crucial elements of the mainstream sports media are complicit in the conspiracy of silence by allowing the plague of impropriety in combat sports to continue unchecked and unabated. The dirty little secret of the combat sports industry today being their smoke screening of the incessant corruption in boxing and mixed martial arts as incompetence or even just a simple matter of difference in opinion.