Keith Kizer's Resignation: A Positive Step for Combat Sports

James MacDonaldFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2014

LAS VEGAS - APRIL 28:  Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission Keith Kizer speaks during the final news conference for the bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino April 28, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mayweather and Mosley will meet in a 12-round welterweight bout on May 1, 2010 in Las Vegas.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Departures, mortal or otherwise, are often followed by overly saccharine eulogies that do not necessarily reflect reality. Such was the case following news that Keith Kizer had chosen to resign from his position as executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

We are occasionally told that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all. Unfortunately, my editor isn’t fond of articles that consist merely of a headline and a page of blank space.

Instead, I’ll just be honest.

It is worth noting that the “overly saccharine” reaction to Kizer’s resignation simply amounts to members of the MMA media stopping short of calling the NSAC’s former executive director the single biggest barrier to progress in combat sports.

Some may wonder whether I am exaggerating the impact a single individual could have, but one has to factor in the influence of the NSAC.

Las Vegas has long been the fight capital of the world, hosting many of the biggest contests in combat sports’ history. With much of the world’s media focused on these events, what happens in Vegas most certainly does not stay in Vegas.

How the NSCA and Kizer have handled high-profile cards like Pacquiao-Bradley and Mayweather-Alvarez has undoubtedly harmed the reputation of combat sports globally. But perhaps most egregious was the sheer lack of accountability for the commission’s many glaring errors.

Kizer routinely defended the indefensible. From calamitous judging to borderline criminally negligent refereeing, he appeared to fetishize contrarianism. If the devil ever needs an advocate, he knows who to call.

As head of the commission, Kizer’s biggest weakness was perhaps his ego. His stubborn refusal to admit to mistakes was an obstacle to much-needed change.

When the focus should have been on fixing problems with judging, refereeing and drug testing, Kizer’s frustrating obstinacy left us mired in a debate on whether there was even a problem in the first place.

Whether his resignation will solve any of these issues remains to be seen. Intuitively, one has to think that things can only get better. However, this very much depends on who replaces Kizer as the NSAC’s executive director.

I am not in the habit of siding with Victor Conte or Dr. Johnny Benjamin, but I agree with their view that Dr. Margaret Goodman would make for an outstanding executive director. In terms of advancing drug testing and fighter safety, there is no one more qualified than the NSAC’s former chief physician and the current head of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association.

The problem is that one tends to get what one pays for. By all accounts, the NSAC’s limited budget means that the pay is not commensurate with the workload. Therefore, attracting the right person for the job might turn out to be a lengthy process.

One hopes that whoever eventually takes on the role is not only passionate about combat sports and its athletes, but also capable of taking constructive criticism and using it positively to improve the sport.

Until that happens, at least there’s a good chance we’ll get to see John McCarthy working in Nevada again. That possibility alone makes Keith Kizer’s departure a positive step for the sport.