Thursday's postponement of Wanderlei Silva's disciplinary hearing in front of the Nevada Athletic Commission added another layer of intrigue to one of the most controversial subjects in mixed martial arts.
The strange stuff began back in June, when it was reported on UFC Tonight that Silva avoided a random drug test issued by the NAC by escaping through a back door in his gym. He was scheduled to face Chael Sonnen in a long-awaited grudge match at UFC 175, but the fight went up in smoke when Silva ran from his test. Sonnen ended up failing his own test for multiple performance-enhancing drugs, and then failed another a few weeks later for good measure.
Silva appeared before the commission in June. He admitted to avoiding the test and revealed that he'd taken a diuretic that would allegedly help heal a broken wrist. He didn't want to take the test because he was afraid it would show up in the results; instead, Silva avoided the test altogether, which is probably worse than a diuretic in the eyes of the commission.
Silva was scheduled for his disciplinary hearing on Thursday in a NAC meeting at the Grant Sawyer building near downtown Las Vegas. Bleacher Report was in attendance. The UFC Fight Pass team was there to stream the event to subscribers at home. Streaming an event is costly.
Moments before the meeting was scheduled to begin, the commission informed those of us in attendance that Silva would not be in attendance. He wasn't even in the country; he was in Montreal for promotional events. And his lawyer, Ross Goodman, had filed a motion on Wednesday to dismiss disciplinary actions against Silva.
In the motion—obtained by Bleacher Report on Thursday—Goodman says the NAC lacks the power to use disciplinary action against Silva because he was not a licensed fighter at the time:
It is abundantly clear that the NSAC lacks jurisdiction to take disciplinary action over Mr. Silva, a non-licensee, for not submitting to testing that the NSAC had no authority to order.
The motion also says the NAC did not have the authority to order Silva to take a drug test in the first place:
The NSAC has never been vested with the authority to direct or order non-licensed persons to submit to a chemical test. Consequently, the NSAC lacks jurisdiction to seek disciplinary action against Mr. Silva, and any attempt to do so, clearly exceeds the NSAC's limited statutory jurisdiction.
The commission elected to table Silva's disciplinary hearing to give them time to review his motion to dismiss. And just like that, the anticipation for Silva's hearing went flying out the window. The Fight Pass team continued streaming the event, but they were there for no reason.
So, what will happen with Silva?
If Goodman's reading of the law is correct, the NAC won't be able to issue any sort of official punishment, because Silva wasn't licensed in Nevada at the time the drug test was ordered. Silva had a fight scheduled in the state, but he wasn't licensed, and nowhere in NAC regulations does it say anything about the commission having power when a fighter is booked in the state.
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Silva may escape official punishment on a technicality, even though he has admitted to taking a banned substance prior to a fight. But what the commission might do—and what I suspect will ultimately happen—is telling Silva that he can't apply for a license in the state for a pre-determined period of time.
Depending on how much of an example they want to make of Silva, this time period could be one year. Or it could be closer to Sonnen's two year suspension. It would not be an official punishment, but the end result would be the same.
Because his NAC punishment may not be an official one, Silva could apply for a license in another state or region during this time. But I suspect the UFC will elect not to use Silva if he is unofficially suspended in Nevada. They could choose to release him and allow him to fight overseas, where the Nevada commission holds zero sway. Or Silva could sit on the sidelines and serve his punishment.
Silva may ultimately get away with running from his drug test.
But regardless what happens from this point forward, there is no question that his career is tarnished. He is one of the most popular fighters in mixed martial arts history, but bad decisions made during the twilight of his career will cause fans to look back with skepticism instead of adoration.