The true extent of fight fixing in combat sports is worse than anybody could have ever imagined, reaching the highest echelons of this government sanctioned sport. Recently, the UFC has been rocked by a series of weight related dramas on the scale which have some pundits questioning exactly what is going on as fights have been rescheduled to different weight classes on late notice, leaving some competitors holding the proverbial short end of the stick as their opponents are essentially let off the hook for cheating. The two bouts in question include the Nick Diaz vs. Robbie Lawler II, which occurred this past September at UFC 266 and more recently the Paulo Costa vs. Marvin Vettori fight at UFC Vegas 41. The shenanigans at UFC Vegas 41 coming off the heels of the UFC Vegas 38 peculiarities which saw bantamweight Aspen Ladd not only fail to make weight, but also find herself front and center in controversy involving accusations by fellow UFC fighter Miesha Tate that she was cheating on the scale in front of the whole world to see.
“It’s one thing to miss weight,” Tate wrote on Twitter social media. “It’s another thing to try and cheat the scale and use every excuse in the book to not weigh in properly. Everyone saw you cheat and still came in a lb. over. I bet you were every bit of 139,” theorized Tate. Not finished there, according to Tate, “She wanted to cheat the real scale. And she knew if she checked beforehand that she couldn’t explain why the lbs. suddenly disappeared when she got behind a curtain she could grab onto.”
And of course we cant forget this weekends high drama at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi, where interestingly enough the UFC acts as its own commission, which saw rising UFC star Khamzat Chimaev have a similar plight with the scale to that of Aspen Ladd according to an October 29, 2021, MMAMania.com article by author Jesse Holland titled, “Video: Watch Khamzat Chimaev botch Daniel Cormier’s towel cheat, magically lose (then gain) five pounds.”
You read that right, this is a known method to cheat the scale that is getting repeated airtime right before our very eyes. And you’re looking at the only combat sportswriter in the industry today to put the pieces together in highlighting a phenomenon that has the very real potential to affect the outcome of a fight based off weight discrepancies alone. And with the culture of gambling in the mixed martial arts and boxing communities, working all possible angles in an attempt to manipulate the outcome of a fight is known as fight fixing; a term you generally don’t want to be associated with which gives everyone cause for concern.
The cancelled Aspen Ladd fight in particular serving as a reference point as to the serious nature of a fighter failing to make their contractually agreed upon weight requirements due to the unfair advantage the weight discrepancies can give to unscrupulous opponents. The consequences of a cancelled fight being disastrous for both the fighters and the promotion once training expenses and marketing expenses are factored into the equation. But it’s the underhanded and repeated nature of these events in such close proximity to each other in light of the potential ramifications of the betting culture that really make these events standout.
“The way you fix fights varies greatly,” explains Charles Farrell, former manager to ex-heavyweight champion Leon Spinks in the 2016 documentary “Dirty Games – The Dark Side of Sports.” According to Farrell, who is among the world's leading experts on fight fixing, “You fix fights to make betting money. You fix fights to get a fighter a championship. You fix fights to maneuver a fighter up the ranks towards a championship fight. You fix fights to win, in order, again, to position someone strategically. You fix fights to lose, in order to get paid and in order to make, you know, betting coups.”
“You fix fights by buying judges," explains Farrell. "That’s, you know, that’s one easy way to do it. You fix fights by having the referee working for you, so that, if there is any way that the ref can stop a fight in your guy’s favor, he does. You fix fights by colluding with the fighters, generally the loser. It’s almost always the loser,” says Farrell.
“Winners almost never know that the fight is fixed. One of the things that you’re cognizant of when you are fixing fights," explains Farrell, “is that you’re doing something illegal. Something that theoretically, can wind you up, you know, wind you in jail. And get people angry at you, so you never really say anything. Nothing that’s culpable.”
With a firm foundation set on the topic of fight fixing, we turn our attention to one of the more interesting case studies to develop in 2021 – the Triller main event which took place this past September between Anderson Silva and Tito Ortiz in Hollywood, Florida. “UFC legend Anderson Silva's transition to professional boxing continues to make big headlines,” writes CBSSports.com’s Brian Campbell in his September 11, 2021, article titled, “Anderson Silva vs. Tito Ortiz: ‘The Spider’ scores a one punch knockout in Round 1 of their Triller bout” According to the report, “Three months after the 46-year-old Silva scored an upset win over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the Brazilian icon returned on Saturday to record a highlight-reel knockout in the first round over fellow former UFC champion Tito Ortiz.”
“I’ve got to give Tito a lot of credit. I’ve got to give him a lot of due” explains ESPN MMA analyst Chael Sonnen in his September 14, 2021, YouTube video titled, “I have to give Tito credit….” According to the former two-division UFC championship contender, “So, he comes out, he’s scared to death. And you can understand that, right? You can understand the fear that you would have going into combat with another man. Particularly when you’re taking on someone in Anderson Silva, who many have called the greatest of all-time and now you’re doing it much closer to his realm which is boxing.”
“Now quitting in MMA is something that you can do and is something that you, the viewer, sees regularly,” explains Sonnen. “But quitting or taking a dive is very different than a fixed fight. When PRIDE use to fix fights, they could control that, but they would only go into one locker room. They would only tell the guy that was going to lose, ‘We want you to lose and here is how we want it to happen.’ They would never tell the other guy, which is why you didn’t need Emmy award winning actors to pull this off.”
“The celebration looked very genuine and authentic because the winner thought it was,” Sonnen explains. “He had no idea that somebody else was visited, or somebody else was paid or cash from the Yakuza literally was determining the outcome of the match. It’s one of the reasons they pulled it off so successfully for so long. Nobody outed them, only me. In all fairness, I get all the credit for bringing that to your guys’ attention.”
“People didn’t know that PRIDE was fixed, including the guys that were champions and were going on runs, they didn’t know,” explains Sonnen. “‘I’ve never been part a meeting; I’ve never been part of a fixed fight.’ That’s right - fixed and a dive are totally different. A dive happens when only one side knows.”
Though as we’re about to find out, Sonnen may want to revisit his initial thoughts on Ortiz taking a dive and start moving towards the idea that the fight was fixed. According to a September 16, 2021, follow up video from the Bad Guy titled, “Tito Ortiz sends common-law wife to the back of the plane…,” Sonnen goes on to explain that, “Tito and his common-law wife get onto an airplane and they’re separated, there’s one ticket for first class and one ticket for coach. Tito decides that he will be taking the nicer of the seats and sends common-law wife to the back of the plane.”
“Anderson Silva,” as Sonnen goes on to explain, “gets on the plane and recognizes both of them, sees that they’re separated, motions for her, ‘Hey come up here, I have a first-class seat, you come up here and sit by Tito, I’ll go to the back of the plane.’ Great move by Anderson…Tito was revealing the good deed by Anderson and of course inadvertently pointed out the fact that he, himself, lacks chivalry and sent the common-law wife into the back of the plane while he sat up front. So, the whole thing gets very baffling,” explains Sonnen in what has proven to be a curious twist to the plot of the Triller story.
“The whole thing is very interesting,” Sonnen later goes on to admit. “Now, this is all on the heels of Tito taking a dive. And when Tito took that dive, it’s a really tough spot, because who is going to say he took the dive? It can’t be Anderson; Anderson wants the credit. Anderson can’t go, ‘Well, I hit him. I really turned my hip over, I worked on that in practice a thousand times.’ Anderson’s not going to come out and say that the shot didn’t have any power behind it,” explains Sonnen. “So, you end up in this really tough spot. But Tito has now gone a little bit further, saying that the shot was also illegal. He knows it’s illegal because the back of my head is, and I quote, ‘sore as hell.’”
“Tito has a sore head, the back of his head,” proclaims Sonnen with an air of sarcasm and doubt in his voice as he ponders the implications of the statement. “Which perhaps it was that blow to the back of the head that took the chivalry away that stuck the common-law wife in the back of the plane to begin with,” asks Sonnen. Perhaps, or perhaps what Ortiz really means is that in the back of his mind he knows something illegal was done?
At any rate, it’s exceedingly interesting that Ortiz and Silva just happened to be on the same flight back to Los Angeles together and we could have a good conversation on how Ortiz came to book separate seating arrangements for he and his significant other despite the fact most couples would be sitting next to each other at a near 100% rate compared to how things appear to be done in the Ortiz household. The entire story begging the question of whether some type of hand off was arranged or whether Ortiz in fact lacks as much judgment and chivalry as the official narrative suggests?
With the plethora of weight related shenanigans striking the UFC throughout several recent events, which not so coincidentally received the UFC's promotional blessing in the face of potentially disastrous fight cancellations, Ortiz isn’t the only one who has displayed a lack of judgment and a system of values inherent to the warrior code as the health and safety of the fighters is compromised in order to protect the promotions bottom line. With pundits questioning both the UFC and Triller’s roles in these issues plaguing the sport, one thing is for sure, in my opinion some of the most anticipated bouts of 2021 have either been manipulated on the scale or potentially arranged well in advance to the actual fights taking place. Facts which suggest that the true extent to fight fixing in combat sports is worse than anybody could have ever imagined, reaching the highest echelons of this government sanctioned sport.