Mixed Martial Arts are a relatively young sport. As such there have often been contested results. It has been estimated that the UFC today has close to 90% of the MMA market share. As such it’s particularly interesting to gloss over several controversies that have happened over the years. For starters, the UFC has been adamant since very early on, that contesting an official result would result in the person contesting being labeled a sore loser. Further Athletic Commissions regularly overturn results tied to doping test results but when it comes to any of the other infractions it practically never happens.
This is where I’ll note that the UFC and their connections to the Nevada State Athletic Commission played an important part in the inception of the organization as we know it today.
Back in 2009, during Georges St Pierre vs BJ Penn 2 a cornerman was caught applying vaseline to Georges body in between rounds. This was noticed by the State Athletic Commission during the event and clips of Dana White can be found around the internet of him confronting some of Georges team at the event. But the event came and went, the result stayed valid, Georges went on his marry way. This lead the UFC to institute a protocol where only the UFC supplied cutmen can apply Vaseline to fighter’s face. Not that that completely stopped some other tactics. You can see below Anderson Silva taking vaseline off of his face and rubbing it all over his body. And mind you this is not the first or only time Silva had done this. He was documented utilizing these tactics at least 3 times in his storied career
Now here’s the funny part, Athletic commission even investigated one of these cases – and shrugged it off believing that if the ref had spotted it it would be wiped off and over and done with. The head of NSAC at the time told MMAFighting that this is very different from the GSP incident :
“I can tell you that watching at cageside … there was nothing that raised a concern to me, as opposed to what I saw with (Phil) Nurse and (Georges) St-Pierre back in the day.”
“We’ve had other situations where inspectors have caught guys … patting the guy on the back and has a chunk of Vaseline on his hand,” he said. “Our inspectors have caught those guys, and I’ve pulled them aside and said, ‘Hey, if you ever do that again, you’ll never work a corner in Vegas again.’ This is all way before the Penn vs. St-Pierre rematch.”
Still there was no outcry, and as with Georges the whole situation quickly died down. And no result was overturned.
While UFC can be criticized on the basis of having completely arbitrary rankings, and sometimes biased matchmaking they seem to not overreach and overturn results when it suits them. This is perhaps most blatantly obvious in the case of Jon Jones. Jones was dominant in his 2009 loss against Matt Hamill. He lost after applying an illegal elbow to Hamill. Interestingly Jones realized what he’d done right after the fact – but it was too late. Hamill couldn’t continue which meant that he was assigned the win.
Over the years White has been vocal about his disagreement with this choice – after all, it’s somewhat of a stain on the record of one of UFC’s most dominant champions. But the record as is stands.
In many other cases blatant groin strikes, punches after the bell, eyepokes and many other questionable tactics weren’t enough to get the results overturned.
Now here’s where we turn to a different promotion. One organization that’s often been side eyed for it’s structure is ONE FC. ONE FC prominently features a number of fighters from a gym called Evolve that’s owned by the promotion’s CEO Chatri Sityadong. Early on ONE FC had to attract the viewers so they were using a riskier variation of the ruleset allowing for soccer kicks among other techniques. However as ONE FC grew, so did the rules. With ONE FC the flip flopping was regarding the rules tied to the suplex throw. Suplex throws are generally allowed in MMA as long as there’s an arc to them. But ONE went to seemingly change rules overnight and overturn a DQ loss of Angela Lee the very next day. In case you need clarification – Lee is a member of Evolve. In recent history, ONE also overturned an Eddie Alvarez loss that came after it was deemed he had directed one too many strikes to the back of Iuri Lapicus’ head.
This brings us to Professional Fighters League of PFL for short. PFL has somewhat of an interesting history. It came to exist as a modern iteration of World Series of Fighting (WSOF). WSOF had Ali Abdelaziz as an executive for a number of years. While the prominent manager nor the promotion had no qualms about the conflict of interests Nevada State Athletic Commission didn’t see it that way. They were actively blocking one of the events back in 2015. This lead Abdelaziz to part ways with WSOF amicably. But still, it seems as though his ties to the organization are far reaching even today. In the last few months a number of prominent competitors suffered losses at PFL, among them Fabricio Werdum and Rory Macdonald. Rory Macdonald suffered a controversial decision loss from Gleison Tibau. This loss came after 2 of the cageside judges scored the fight 29-28 for Tibau even though Macdonald was controlling the case and a convincing argument can be made that this was a judging error.
On the other hand Fabricio Werdum appeared to have gotten knocked out by Renan Ferreira. Initially Werdum had packed Ferreira into a triangle. Here’s where to so called brazilian tap had ensued. A tap that is said to have made Werdum loosen up his legs, and subsequently get knocked up.
At the time of the controversy respected Brazilian ref Osiris Maia believed there was no chance that the result will be overturned (via sherdog):
“The video [replay] may be used by some athletic commissions when there is a clear mistake in the fact that decided the fight. For example, if a stomp from the guard was in downed position. It’s not the case here, where it was a matter of interpretation of the referee. [The New Jersey] Athletic Commission is one of the most strict. I don’t believe they will overturn that result,” Maia concluded.
However on May 10th Abdelaziz shared with ESPN that the result had been overturned:
After watching the replay from different angles and consulting expert sources, including Peterson, NJSACB commissioner Larry Hazzard Sr. decided to overturn the result, a rare occurrence in MMA. Peterson told Hazzard, per a letter obtained by ESPN, that if he saw the tapping action by Ferreira in real time “he would have likely had stopped the contest” and given Werdum the win by submission.
Ferreira proceeded to call this shady and embarrassing as per mma fighting:
“All this is very shady,” Ferreira stated in the release. “Ray Sefo told my management team that the Werdum rematch was the fight that made sense to do next. PFL had social media posts asking people if they wanted to see it and they said yes. Now we find out on social media I’m facing the last champion while Werdum faces Sayles.”
“I find it interesting how all this is happening,” he stated. “First we have them interviewing Werdum after our fight but they didn’t interview me. They only showed the replay in slow motion that made it seem I tapped. After that, the Commission changed the result of our fight over the weekend in a decision so fast a lot of people have questioned their procedure.”
Looking at these cases and their historical accounts it seems as though the Athletic Commissions are locked in very tightly with the promotions and in many cases the only way to get a score re examined seems to be having an “inside man”. Whatever happens in the future, it’s something we’ll be keeping an eye on over at calfkicker.com.