Nevada Commission Moves to Improve Judging, Should Look at TRT Next

Chad DundasFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 28, 2016

Nov 16, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Georges St-Pierre (red gloves) and Johny Hendricks (blue gloves) react after their welterweight championship bout during UFC 167 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

Chances are that the Nevada State Athletic Commission was planning its upcoming regulatory “workshop” long before UFC 167.

Still, when the NSAC announced this week it will hold an event on Dec. 2 to “solicit comments from interested persons” on any “proposed regulation” regarding combat sports, the timing seemed...awkward.

It had been less than 48 hours since UFC president Dana White went scorched earth on the commission following Georges St-Pierre’s controversial decision win over Johny Hendricks.

For at least a couple of weeks, things had seemed strained between the nation’s largest MMA company and the most powerful state athletic commission, and the judges’ verdict that ended UFC 167 only turned up the volume.

“I think the Nevada State Athletic Commission is atrocious,” White said, to open the post-fight news conference. “I think the governor needs to step in immediately before these guys destroy this sport like they did boxing...It’s absolutely, 100 percent incompetence, and it needs to stop.”

The proximity of White’s latest rant to the announcement of the NSAC’s workshop naturally links the two in the mind of the public. It is now largely assumed if the commission is going to entertain “interested persons” in a discussion of the rules, the way that MMA fights are scored will be a hot topic of conversation.

Perhaps in response to criticisms by UFC brass, the commission will also move to increase the number of judges and referees in its official pool, according to a Wednesday article from NSAC chairman Francisco Aguilar told the website that the commission will look into ramping up training for ringside officials.

All of that is probably a good idea, as anything to correct the sport’s well-documented penchant for inept judging would be welcome indeed.

May 18, 2013; Jaragua do Sul, BRAZIL; Vitor Belfort (red shorts) celebrates after defeating  Luke Rockhold (not pictured) during UFC on FX 8 at ARena Jaragua. Mandatory Credit: Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports
Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

But as long as the commission is sponsoring an open forum on purposed regulation, why stop there? The NSAC should take the opportunity to also remedy another of MMA’s biggest problems—testosterone replacement therapy.

Testosterone use has been impossible to ignore in recent months, as Vitor Belfort continues his supercharged march toward the middleweight title. The issue of whether he would be granted a therapeutic use exemption for a potential upcoming title fight in Nevada recently appeared to put White at odds with the commission.

NSAC director Keith Kizer said earlier this month that—owing to a positive drug test in the state in 2006—Belfort would have to appear before the full commission if he wanted to apply to use TRT. At that time, the five-member panel could rule on his request.

After Belfort's win over Dan Henderson in Brazil earlier this month, White called notions that Belfort couldn’t fight in the UFC’s home state “ridiculous” and added, “There's no reason Vitor Belfort shouldn't be able to fight in Nevada, no matter what Keith Kizer says,” per MMA Fighting.

The entire saga has MMA fans confused about whether they should cheer Belfort’s recent run or call shenanigans on him as a user of performance-enhancing drugs. Even if the NSAC rubber stamps his TRT use in the state next year, critics likely still won’t be satisfied.

DELRAY BEACH, FL - SEPTEMBER 17:  (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Vitor Belfort tapes his hands prior to a workout at the Jaco Hybrid Training Center on September 17, 2012 in Delray Beach, Florida. Belfort will fight Jon Jones
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

For a lot of people, the idea that a 200-pound professional athlete with a body like an action figure and the striking prowess of a heavyweight needs extra testosterone is just too much to swallow.

It might help to clear things up if the NSAC were to revisit the issue and take steps to tighten regulations on TRT.

Or ban it entirely.

White noted during the UFC 167 news conference that the NSAC “used to be the best in the world,” and it is still unanimously regarded as the most influential athletic commission in the nation. What better way to re-stake its claim as a leader in the industry than to take a firm, enlightened stance on TRT?

If Nevada took testosterone exemptions off the table, other state commissions might follow its example. Then we’d all be one step closer to laughing about the days when fighters used to get a doctor’s note that allowed them to legally mainline an anabolic steroid.

In the wake of the announcement of increased training for judges and the NSAC’s workshop, White seemed to temper his criticisms a bit.

“It’s not the commissioners who I have a problem with, I have great respect for the commissioners,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I honestly believe change is going to happen, that the athletic commissioners in Nevada will fix the problem.”

Moving to restrict or eliminate testosterone use could have a similar conciliatory effect with fans. Now we just need somebody to show up at the workshop and convince the NSAC that it's the right move.