Nick Diaz, Alistair Overeem and the 6 Biggest Commission Debacles
Athletic commissions are important to the sport of mixed martial arts. They represent the sense of order and justice that is needed in every professional sport. From creating rules and guidelines to selecting referees for upcoming fights to reviewing drug test failures and fighter appeals, some very important business is in the hands of commissions.
Sometimes, however, commissions make mistakes. We all do. It’s human nature. This is a look at some of the biggest screw ups and boneheaded moves in the history of MMA.
Demetrious Johnson Defeats Ian McCall... No... Wait...Never Mind!
Some mistakes are hard to avoid. Some are just plain stupid. This one falls into the latter category.
When the UFC announced a 4-man tournament to crown the inaugural UFC Flyweight champion, special protocols were established in order to ensure that the tournament conclude in a timely fashion. God knows that the last thing Zuffa wanted is another tournament to drag on for a year.
Specifically, a new protocol was established to prevent a draw from occurring. It was a simple solution to a problem that was unlikely to occur, but Dana White learned from the Boy Scouts that he should always be prepared. The protocol was similar to the “sudden victory” system used on The Ultimate Fighter.
If, at the end of the three scheduled rounds, the judges had scored the contest as a draw, a fourth “sudden victory” round would occur. The winner of the final round would be awarded the fight and move on to the tournament finals.
So when the decision was read and Demetrious Johnson was declared the winner after three rounds, it looked as if the new rule wasn’t needed after all. The only problem is, the bout was scored a draw, but incorrectly transposed by the Australian commission. When transferring scores from the individual judges onto one card for ring announcer Bruce Buffer, Craig Waller of the Department of Sport and Recreation in New South Wales, Australia incorrectly read one of the scores. Instead of a majority draw, the bout was ruled a majority decision in favor of Johnson.
Thankfully, the commission took full responsibility for their mistake. That being said, UFC 147 is a weak looking card, and were it not for this screw up, we would likely be watching a Flyweight championship bout, instead of a PPV that closely resembles a UFC on FX event.
Nick Diaz Gets Huge Punishment for Illegal Substance...Kind of
It is no secret that Nick Diaz is a marijuana user and has been for years. A signature victory in his career over Takanori Gomi was changed to a no contest after Diaz tested positive for marijuana. When Nick Diaz tested positive for marijuana metabolites after UFC 142, the last thing that fans were was surprised.
Diaz admits that he smokes marijuana leading up to every fight, and stops between 7-10 days before the fight in order to give the drug enough time to leave his system. This is only the second time in his career that a positive test has returned.
Following the failed test, Diaz awaited his hearing with the NSAC so he could appeal the suspension that was handed down and prevented a rematch with interim champion Carlos Condit. After all, his legal team argued that marijuana, not marijuana metabolites, is banned. A possible loophole to avoid a stupid rule, but sometimes loopholes are needed to get your ass out of the frying pan.
When his hearing was pushed beyond the 45 day window in which they are given to rule on temporary suspensions, Diaz took action and decided to sue the NSAC for violating his rates and delaying due process.
When his hearing finally came, Diaz was questioned for hours about his use of marijuana, but ultimately slapped with a one year suspension and a $60,000 fine. The ridiculousness behind this decision is baffling when you think about the lack of effect that marijuana use would have on a fight that is one week away and then realize that the penalty is just as stiff, if not stiffer, than if Diaz had been using steroids.
Overeem Evades Random Drug Test for a Month: Still Gets License
Alistair Overeem looks like he is on steroids. People have been accusing him of juicing since his physique grew to that of a statue since his days as a light-heavyweight. So when he missed a random drug test on November 17, 2011, suspicions began to run rampant.
Overeem was reportedly visiting his mother in the Netherlands and unavailable to submit a sample. When the NSAC ran into difficulties when trying to obtain a test, it looked as if UFC 141 was going to need a new main event. Keith Kizer stated that Overeem originally submitted himself to the wrong test six days later: blood instead of urine. When Overeem admitted to giving the sample in the office of his personal physician, that sample went untested and was reportedly destroyed.
It wasn’t until December 14th, nearly one month after the original request for a sample, that Overeem submitted a sample that was deemed admissible. When a fighter finds a way to avoid a drug test for nearly 30 days, fingers should definitely be pointed.
For some reason, the commission was satisfied with the results of the highly delayed test, and they granted Overeem a conditional license to fight.
Did Overeem use banned substances before his fight with Brock Lesnar? We will never know. However, his inability to submit a timely urine sample and the results of his random test for UFC 146 will forever lead fans to believe that The Reem was on The Juice when he manhandled Brock Lesnar.
Overeem Doesn't Evade Drug Test, Fails Test, Gets Reduced Sentence
When Alistair Overeem failed a random pre-fight drug screening for his UFC 146 bout with Junior dos Santos, his testosterone/epitestosterone levels were “unbalanced.” Normal levels carry a 1:1 ratio, but Overeem somehow possessed levels that measured 14:1.
Finally breaking his silence on the matter nearly three weeks later, Overeem blamed his failed test on a prescribed medication. More specifically, Reem noted that the medication was an anti-inflammatory, mixed with testosterone without him having any knowledge of it.
Since Overeem had an expired license at the time of the test, he did not possess a license for the NSAC to suspend. In order to obtain a new license, he would have to address the failed test.
On the day of the hearing, Overeem brought his physician, Dr. Hector Molina, to testify. Molina has a very shady background, but apparently his testimony was enough to sway the NSAC into reducing the amount of time that The Reem would have to sit on the sidelines: from one year down to nine months.
Word to the wise: If you get caught cheating, bring in your doctor and have him blame it on himself.
Former Offender Chael Sonnen Granted License to Use Testosterone for Title Fight
After submitting a urine sample that would come back with a T/E ratio above 17:1, Chael Sonnen claimed that Keith Kizer had previously approved his use of testosterone replacement therapy to treat hypogonadism. Kizer dissented, and claims he had never spoken to Sonnen about the issue.
Sonnen would eat a one year suspension for the failed test, and the suspension cost him a rematch with champion Anderson Silva.
When Sonnen applied for a therapeutic use exemption of TRT for UFC 148, there was a brief discussion on the matter, and Sonnen was quickly approved.
Wait a minute? What? This guy tested with a 17:1 ratio, and you have no problem issuing him the right to inject himself with testosterone? How about a baseline sample to prove that his body does not naturally produce enough testosterone? How about going over the fact that the NSAC does not allow a T/E ratio above 6:1, even in the case of a TRT patient?
The well spoken Sonnen must have had a laugh on the drive home as the commission asked if he would be willing to assist in an advisory role for similar situations in the future.
Appeals of Terrible Stoppages Fall on Deaf Ears
When a fighter appeals a ruling made in the cage, the commissions are there to make sure that the rules and regulations of the sport have been followed.
Because there are way too many to list individually, here are three of my favorite examples of various commissions ignoring legitimately bad calls and allowing erroneous losses to forever scar the record of a fighter.
Anthony Johnson vs Kevin Burns – UFC: Silva vs Irvin
Anthony Johnson was a fast rising prospect in the welterweight division when he ran into Kevin “the Fire” Burns. Johnson had just knocked out TUF 6 finalist Tommy Speer in less than one minute and he was in control of Burns as they entered the third round.
Throughout the contest, Burns landed multiple accidental eye pokes by not fully closing his hands when striking, reported due to it being broken. The fight ended after one poke went deep enough into Johnson’s eye that it put him on the ground. The referee ruled the contest as a TKO victory for Burns, despite the ending coming from an illegal strike.
The appeal went to the NSAC, where Keith Kizer was quick to reject it based on “lack of remedy.” Really, Keith? Changing the ruling to a no contest wasn’t an acceptable remedy?
Scott Smith vs David Terrell – UFC 59
Smith and Terrell went toe to toe at UFC 59. At one point, referee Marco Lopez calls for a break in the action. Smith hears the call and immediately breaks. Terrell clearly did not hear the call and continued fighting. Acting quickly, Terrell takes Smith’s back and locks in a rear-naked choke.
Lopez took no action to let Terrell know that a break had been called, and when Smith is forced to tap in order to get Terrell to release the choke, the bout comes to a close, with Smith on the receiving end of an ugly loss.
Appealed to the California State Athletic Commission, this bout should have instantly been declared a no contest. Instead, Smith saw a five-fight winning streak snapped and suffered only the second loss of his career.
Mac Danzig vs Matt Wiman - UFC 115
After defeating Justin Bucholz in his most recent bout, Mac Danzig had finally broken the ugly losing streak that nearly saw The Ultimate Fighter winner on his way out of the UFC. In his next appearance, he was paired off against Matt Wiman.
In the first round, Wiman worked the action to the ground and threatened with a guillotine choke that was nearly cinched in. Mac Danzig was aptly defending the technique by trying to keep Wiman’s arm from under his neck. Referee Yves Lavigne came down to the ground to make sure that Danzig was still conscious. Not in the position to talk or give a thumbs up, Danzig did not react to Lavigne checking on him. Lavigne called off the fight and declared a technical submission due to Danzig being unconscious.
When Danzig immediately rose to his feet in protest, Lavigne admitted his mistake. Danzig had the referee on his side, but the referee does not have the ability to change his mind after an official decision has been made.
The appeal went to the Vancouver Athletic Commission, who promptly did nothing about it. The loss sits on Danzig’s record to this day as a message to fighters everywhere: Pray that the referee doesn’t screw up. You’ll be the one to pay for it.