"Some call it bootlegging," explains the legendary American gangster Al Capone. "Some call it racketeering ... I call it business." With few subjects as taboo in sports reporting as the topic of fight fixing in combat sports, it’s not often that the topic is afforded the chance to go viral in making the rounds on social media. So when the cream does manage to finally rise to the top, naturally the MMA Press Room is going to be be there to sign autographs and take pictures. With Joe Rogan and the UFC 277 commentary crew leading the way in pointing the finger at Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) official Seth Fuller as being on the take, it would pay dividends to remember that those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
“You fix fights to make betting money,” explains Charles Farrell in the award winning 2016 documentary “Dirty Games – The dark side of sports.” According to Farrell, who has been described as the mafias most wanted fight fixer, “the way you fix fights varies greatly.”
“You fix fights to get a fighter a championship,” continues Farrell. “You fix fights to maneuver a fighter up the ranks toward 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, that’s, you know, one easy way to do it. You fix fights by having the referee working for you," explains Farrell. "So that if there is any way that the ref can stop a fight in your guys favor, he does. You fix fights by colluding with the fighters. Generally the loser, it's almost always the loser. Winners almost never know that the fight is fixed."
With the recent controversy in Dallas still fresh on the minds of the MMA gods, where a Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation officials scorecard came under heavy scrutiny following the revelation that he had scored the third round of a preliminary heavyweight showdown under questionable pretext and circumstances, the industry insider information above from Farrell becomes of particular relevance as we move forward in digesting the events which transpired that night inside the cage at UFC 277. Join us as we circle the drain of impropriety in exploring how the betting line is moved in combat sports while the action inside the cage is simultaneously manipulated to nefarious means by those with a vested interest in the end results.
“So guys there’s a situation going on in Texas,” explains former UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen in his August 8, 2022 YouTube video titled, “Texas MMA Judge not happy with Joe Rogan….”
Setting the table for what is to come for his viewership audience, Sonnen goes on to explain, “the scores come in, two judges give it the way that the viewing audience believed it was going to go, another judge named Fuller had it different. He had it 29-28, that’s not a bad thing,” posits Sonnen. “That is doing the rule that were supplied, and simple math, 10-9 must system, you turn your cards in and you add it up.”
“But Joe Rogan made a comment,” Sonnen goes on to explain. “And Joe Rogan, who was working with Cormier and Anik said, ‘Someone needs to talk to that guy. What’s he taking?' I’m 98% quoting there, what’s he taking or what's he on?”
Perhaps suggesting the official was on the take or worse, it’s worth noting for factual reporting sake alone that Rogan's actual quote is as follows:
“That’s, that guy needs a talking to. We need to check to see what he bet on.”
It was the shot heard around the world as virtually every talking head in the mixed martial arts industry took to the airwaves in offering their own two cents on the matter. “In a video described as a ‘clap back’ to UFC 277 commentators Joe Rogan, Jon Anik and Daniel Cormier, Texas MMA judge Seth Fuller explained the reasoning behind his score for Don’Tale Mayes and the fallout he received from being in the minority on a split decision,” writes MMAFighting.com’s Steven Marrocco in his August 9, 2022 article titled, “Texas judge responds to Joe Rogan, UFC 277 commentary team with explainer for score for Don’Tale Mayes.”
According to the report, “During the broadcast, Rogan told Anik and Cormier ‘that guy needs a talking to... we need to check to see what he’s been (sic) on’ when informed of Fuller’s dissenting 29-28 score for Mayes, in contrast to two judges who gave 29-28 scores to newcomer Hamdy Abdelwahab.”
In the taped video response from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation official, judge Seth Fuller went on to address some of the concerns of the UFC broadcast crew and the backlash he received as a result. “Now the commission goes, ‘hey, this is why we shouldn’t have put this guy on the main UFC,'" explained Fuller.
“And that’s to me, a bunch of BS. Because if I’m doing it wrong, then cite me for doing it wrong," reasoned Fuller. "But if you’re pretending that I’m not experienced, or I was careless, or I didn’t think and do my absolute best, and I don’t care about these fighters and care that the result is the correct result according to the rules that they agreed to - you’re just plain wrong.”
Interestingly, the MMAFighting.com article went on to state that, “Recently, attendees of judging and referee seminars sanctioned by the Association of Boxing Commissions have been asked to sign a code of conduct that, among other things, bars negative public comments toward officials and wagering on fights. Fuller admitted to betting on the Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm bout at UFC 193, but said he stopped because his bookie didn’t pay his winnings.”
In what appears to be a widespread issue within the combat sports industry that the Association of Boxing Commissions is attempting to get in front of, the idea of impropriety in combat sports is nearly impossible to escape when the UFC commentary team at UFC 277 is openly questioning the ethics of a commission official while the promotion itself is aligned with DraftKings Sportsbook, “the official sports betting partner of UFC.”
Curiously, despite the combat sports media’s best efforts to solely focus on judge Seth Fuller’s scorecard in Dallas, the MMA Press Room found a number of other issues surrounding the legitimacy of the bout which seem to have all but flown under the radar with the mainstream combat sports media press. Among our chief concerns were the performance of referee Kerry Hatley in the cage that night and the UFC broadcast crews potentially fight altering advice administered cage side within earshot of both the athletes and commission officials themselves.
“You know, when this fight was announced Hamdy was the favorite,” explained Cormier as the fighters were just beginning to settle in during the initial stages of the opening round. “It ends with Don’Tale as an almost two to one favorite," noted Cormier. "So, a lot of people believe that Hamdy has not fought the level of competition of a Don’Tale Mayes.”
“This is what Don’Tale is going to have to do,” the former U.S. Olympian later went on to state as he evaluated the keys to victory for Mayes. “Don’Tale is going to have to use his athleticism," explained Cormier. "He’s got to be bouncing and moving. Darting in and out."
“So, Kerry Hatley is going to stop this,” Cormier later remarked as Mayes found himself in a disadvantageous position against the fence. Not long afterwards, much to the dissatisfaction of nearly everyone in attendance the referee would go on to do just that. “It’s almost like you save a guy when you take him out of this position,” commented Cormier as the action was resumed back in the center of the octagon.
And we’re only touching the surface on the weird, strange and out of the ordinary events which transpired that night. A low blow in the second round from Abdelwahab could have been handled differently and at one point during the third stanza coach Daniel Cormier was once again the fourth man in the cage as he went on to explain, “If I’m Hamdy, I’m going to try to get a takedown man. Because Don’Tale has not shown an ability to get back up.”
As coincidence would have it, seemingly on command Hamdy would go on to do just that as he closed the distance; securing a body lock that would go on to be turned into a successful takedown attempt.
Perhaps with a dash of salt or even a touch of divine intervention, the DraftKings Sportsbook logo can be seen front and center during a duration of the remainder of the bout as Hamdy had Mayes pinned against the cage side fence. Astonishingly, as if seemingly on reverse psychological cue, the UFC broadcast crew again prophesied the eventual stand up from referee Kerry Hatley as he would go on to afford Mayes yet another opportunity to rip victory from the clutches of defeat.
Individually and on their own merits these issues are all terribly troubling points of contention to note, but when put into proper context in relation to the UFC’s partnership with DraftKings Sportsbook and the controversial nature surrounding the events which transpired back in 2017 at UFC 214, where it was all but confirmed by UFC President Dana White that the UFC commentators are on the receiving end of instruction from above; a picture begins to emerge of an entirely different classification of animal altogether.
With terms like conspiracy to defraud used to describe paralleling events overseas in Europe, it’s little wonder that the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation “asks all judges to refrain from commenting publicly on scoring.” Because it all but guarantees more questions than answers will begin to be asked concerning the independent nature of these commissions when issues like the ones at UFC 277 arise. The headache likely only intensified when the topic of betting in combat sports further compounds an already out of control situation.
Along with the ability to wield influence inside the cage is another piece to this puzzle that is equally just as important in this triangle of impropriety and that is the ability to swing the betting line to the desired direction in order to capitalize on the most profitable results. And as luck would have it, DraftKings appears to have that side of the equation under their thumb as well.
“Now, I don’t know what it is that I did wrong?” asks social media influencer Chael Sonnen in his July 10, 2022 YouTube video titled, “I told you Jake Paul vs. Tommy Fury would not happen....”
According to Sonnen, who regularly includes paid promotional content for DraftKings in his videos, “I have the largest audience out there. Nobody in this space touches me," boasts Sonnen. "That is me bragging for sure, but you guys also know how YouTube works. I’m not only audited, I’m publicly audited. My numbers are right in front of you.”
“Guys, you want my pick for UFC 277?” asks Sonnen in a July 29, 2022 YouTube video titled, “Julianna Pena will BEAT Amanda Nunes again...."
“I’m taking the underdog,” explains Sonnen. “I’m taking Kai Kara-France to beat Brandon Moreno. And yes, I’m putting my money where my mouth is at DraftKings Sportsbook.”
With "The Bad Guy" frequently dishing out betting advice for perhaps the largest audience in the mixed martial arts stratosphere, the question becomes just how much influence are Sonnen and others like him exerting on the betting line? And to what extent is the UFC wielding influence inside the cage when all of the parties involved are aligned either via proxy or otherwise with DraftKings Sportsbook and thus have a vested interest in the end results of the fight?
The cruel irony here is that some of the key figures involved in pointing the finger at judge Seth Fuller as being on the take are themselves central players in what can only be described as a racketeering scheme for hire. At the heart of the issue is an almost perverse sense of justice, where the true corruption is systematically brushed under the rug by the combat sports media elite as the patsy is rolled out for the world to see. So whether you want to play semantics in calling it bootlegging or even racketeering, there is little doubt in my mind that the UFC and company simply call it "business as usual."