Dana White Is Right to Criticize the Nevada State Athletic Commission

Ryan HuffContributor IIIJune 19, 2012

NEW YORK - MARCH 06:   UFC president Dana White speaks at a press conference at Radio City Music Hall on March 06, 2012 in New York City.  UFC announced that their third event on the FOX network will take place on Saturday, May 5 from the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J.. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)
Michael Nagle/Getty Images

UFC president Dana White censured the Nevada State Athletic Commission after Timothy Bradley Jr.’s controversial win over Manny Pacquiao for the World Boxing Organization’s welterweight title.

Nevada state athletic commission at its finest!!! Youve for to be fucking kidding me!! that is disgusting Nevada state athletic commission!!

— Dana White (@danawhite) June 10, 2012


Worst athletic commission in the country!!!!!!!!!!!!

— Dana White (@danawhite) June 10, 2012


This hard stance against the NSAC matters greatly, given that the Commission also oversees MMA in the UFC’s home state. While White has been known to take strong stances before (often rashly), the results of the Bradley vs. Pacquiao fight and the NSAC’s track record governing MMA are proof enough.

White is correct: the NSAC is the worst athletic commission in the country. Moreover, the UFC president was right to call them out.

The NSAC is responsible for the licensing of MMA’s judges and referees.  In the end, any score or decision that comes out of a fight within Nevada’s borders is made by a professional the Commission deems fit for the job.

Keith Kizer, executive director of the NSAC
Keith Kizer, executive director of the NSACEthan Miller/Getty Images

But these decisions can leave behind irreconcilable debates about accuracy, subjectivity and ethics of the judges and referees. They’ve become a part of the sport itself, as newsworthy as the techniques and strategies of the fighters. As a result, the Commission’s most recent decisions affect the reputation of MMA, even though this new controversy directly affected boxing.

To make matters worse, the NSAC’s executive director Keith Kizer reiterated his support for the judges in a tepid response to the decision. "Every fighter who loses a close fight looks at the judges. I think every judge should strive to get better."

Of course, it’s no great wonder that Kizer would back his own commission, or that White would use Twitter to condemn something he disapproves of, or even that a government organization in Nevada would show signs of corruption.

What is fantastic, however, is that all of this happened as transparently as it did, that the cries of corruption are fairly unanimous and that Dana White didn’t miss a beat in flogging the whole thing.

It also comes at an interesting time, one in which White and the UFC may not need the NSAC as much as they used to. With the expansion of the UFC across the country, the NSAC becomes less the flagship sanctioning organization they once were.

Furthermore, there are new models from other states—like the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission, lauded by White—that prove more effective when sanctioning the sport and working with fighters and their promotions.

Bradley vs. Pacquiao in the fight that led to boxing's most contested decision in recent memory
Bradley vs. Pacquiao in the fight that led to boxing's most contested decision in recent memoryJeff Bottari/Getty Images

As White said of the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission, who made it a point to review in depth last year’s fight between Charles Oliveira and Nik Lentz on UFC on Versus 4; Oliveira had won by submission, but he had landed an illegal knee before his victory that went unpunished by the referee.

Eventually, the Commission ruled the bout a no contest, and the victory went to both the PAC and the UFC for showing their seriousness in maintaining the rules agreed upon by both the promotional organization and the sanctioning body.

Naturally, an efficient commission wouldn’t review every fight because they’ve licensed referees that don’t miss much. But when human judgment is the error that calls victories for a fighter, it’s worth reviewing. Such actions relay the resolute responsibility of those associated with MMA, and it proves its worth as a sport.

White showed that he, too, was committed to the image of the sport. He’s bashed judges before when the calls have proven errant—something he has discussed with Ariel Helwani after UFC 131, an event full of contentious judging.

And though there’s little he can personally do to ensure proper officiating (the NSAC is a greater power in these decisions than the president of a promotion), he did what he could: take a few seconds to highlight the greater problem within the obvious and remind everyone what’s really deciding fights like that between Bradley and Pacquiao.

If nothing else, the NSAC finds themselves in the middle of another decision—start officiating in a way that respects the sports, they oversee or continue their distinction as the one rogue component of MMA officialdom.

They can also be certain that White is ready to judge their next move; fortunately, he’s the overwhelming favorite.