For quite some time, the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) has drawn the ire of combat sports fans. The athletic governing body has, in a way, become just as big a part of the show as the fighters, and the techniques they employ inside the cage/ring.
Inept judges and referees are continually assigned high-profile fights in The Silver State, effectively holding the futures of boxers and mixed-martial artists in the palms of their bungling hands.
Inexcusable judges’ decisions have been prevalent in recent years. Somehow, Judge CJ Ross saw the 2013 Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez fight as a 114-114 draw, though Mayweather clearly dominated the bout. The 2012 Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley fight featured Duane Ford and CJ Ross (hello, again!) as the only two people on the planet scoring the bout for Bradley.
The 2010 Nam Phan-Leonard Garcia decision (awarded to Garcia) is another classic example of a judging blunder, thanks to Adalaide Byrd and Tony Weeks, which will take up residence in the minds of MMA fans for years to come.
However, recent events have replaced feelings of the commission’s ineptitude with suspicions of flat-out corruption (with the UFC serving as an accessory). With two particular cases involving a pair of the greatest fighters to ever enter an MMA cage.
The first was UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones. In a fight that was years in the making, Jones would finally square off with bitter rival Daniel Cormier at UFC 182 on January 3rd. The fight was the culmination of a build-up that included a press conference brawl, and death threats. So much money was on the line, for both the UFC and the State of Nevada, as fans would make the pilgrimage to Vegas to see, potentially, one of the most competitive matchups in MMA history.
On December 4th, less than a month before the bout, Jones was administered a random drug screening. The champ tested positive for cocaine metabolites.
The NSAC claims that the test results were not known until December 23rd. Even if this is true, this would still put the knowledge of the failed test nearly two weeks prior to the scheduled main event.
The UFC and NSAC, knowing that a fighter was using a hardcore, addictive drug, made no effort to either reschedule or cancel the January 3rd showdown. They couldn’t. Too much money was on the line.
Both parties knowingly sent a cocaine-fueled athlete into one of the most physically-stressful competitions imaginable, putting both fighters at risk, so neither entity would lose out on a huge payoff.
And when were the results of Jones’ failed drug test revealed? January 6th. Three days AFTER the fight, after the tickets were sold, the pay-per-views were bought, the hotels/casinos were filled, and the Vegas Strip packed.
The more perplexing case is that of Anderson Silva.
After suffering a gruesome leg break in December of 2013, many feared Silva would never fight again. However, ‘The Spider’ bucked the odds, and was scheduled to headline the UFC 183 card against the enigma that is Nick Diaz.
Just stepping into the Octagon was an accomplishment for Silva, and he furthered the Hollywood-like comeback story by cruising to a decision victory over Diaz, dropping to the mat in celebratory tears to close the show.
Again, hotels and casinos were filled, travelers from around the globe made their way to Vegas to see Silva, and the UFC did a huge pay-per-view buyrate (a rarity in the post-GSP/Lesnar era).
On February 3rd, four days after Silva’s triumphant return (and possible walk into the MMA sunset), it was revealed that the former middleweight kingpin tested positive for drostanolone and androsterone, two anabolic steroids.
The test was claimed to have been administered on January 9th, more than three weeks prior to the January 31st matchup. However, conveniently, the results were not revealed until nearly a month later.
If you cannot see the writing on the wall here, you’re kidding yourself.
The UFC and NSAC are obviously in bed together, despite UFC President Dana White’s claims to the contrary.
If the safety and well-being of the fighters was really a top priority for both entities, a more concerted effort could have easily been made to, in Jones’ case, cancel/postpone the matchup or, in Silva’s situation, ‘put a rush’ on the test results (though three weeks seems a suspiciously-long period of time for a ‘normal’ turnaround).
Unfortunately, money talks. Neither side will waver in their unscrupulous practices until a tragedy occurs, the same way a horrible driver will not change their driving habits until they kill somebody.
The UFC and NSAC will continue to let drug-fueled athletes enter the cage and attempt to render another human being unable to continue to fight, as long as there is cash to be made, seats to fill, and they carry a big enough name.