I'm going to circle back to the fight itself in a subsequent post, but I've been receiving disconcerting emails from some who either saw the fight at home or were in attendance. These folks have essentially suggested that the judging in this fight was so incompetent that it simply couldn't be the case that the Virginia commission judges were that inept; the fix had to be in.
On some level, I suppose I understand this sentiment. When the judging is this outrageous, it's difficult to not try to read between what lines we perceive exist and cough up a narrative to explain the idiocy. Alas, while corruption would be an easy charge to levy, it's harder still to prove. And corruption isn't the commission's problem. A complete and fundamental inability to perform the task asked of them is the deeper and more sinister issue.
Let's look at three situations that help to underscore how systemic sloppy procedure and incompetency actually are within this commission.
First, you'll notice the picture at the top of the post. This was taken during the first bout of the evening, which featured Freddy Assuncao making his professional debut against Felipe Arantes, also making his professional debut. So what's the problem? Well, unless we are in Japan where there is no athletic commission, the wearing of pants below the knee is illegal under the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. In fact, Virginia's own specific take on the Unified Rules also don't allow for it:
"Each contestant shall wear two pair of shorts with the top pair being either mixed martial art shorts, biking shorts, or kick boxing shorts. The second pair shall be worn underneath. Gi’s or shirts and shoes are prohibited during competition."
As it's been explained to me, this was borrowed from New Jersey's early laws, which clearly and unequivocally prohibited the use of any pants or shorts that extended below the knee. As for why two pairs of shorts are needed, this was initially intended to mean competitors had to wear some form of underwear, but it's not enforced (at least not consistently). So what do you suppose the Virginia commission did about this clear infraction of the rules? Nothing. Despite a protest from the Assuncao corner, they let it go. After all, people came to see fights and it's far easier to be lazy and skirt around the rules than it is to make a fuss by regulating MMA properly.
And speaking of the Assuncao corner, there's another story to be told. I was in attendance when this occurred and heard everything that was said.
At the weigh-ins prior to the fights, Freddy Assuncao's brother, Raphael, was trying to obtain a corner man's license. This is ordinarily a simple procedure except that the commissioner, David Holland, required Assuncao to pay the money at the weigh-ins or he'd be denied a license. Raphael asked Holland if he could take the money out of the purse, but Holland refused. Not only did he refuse, he first asked Raphael if he'd ever competed within the U.S., an insulting and ignorant question is there ever was one. Raphael explained that promoters have done this before (and his English is very good), but Holland refused and told him it was against federal law for him to do that.
I contacted Nick Lembo of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board to evaluate those claims and here's how he responded:
In NJ, we ask the promoter if they are paying for licenses or if each individual is responsible.
If the promoter says he will pay, the promoter is presented with a licenses bill which must be paid at the weigh in.
Typically, the promoter recoups the fees paid when settling up with the fighter after the fight.
Its my experience that fees are taken out of purses all the time.
Not only licensing fees, but sanctioning fees and advances etc.
I am not aware of any federal law prohibition.
Do you know why Lembo isn't aware of any federal law prohibition? Because MMA is not federally regulated. Either Holland was lying directly to Assuncao face's or he's so confused that he's in the most desperate need of legal counsel I have ever seen. Regardless, Holland forced the Assuncao team to use their per diem money to pay for the license. In short, Holland literally took their lunch money.
As for the weigh-ins themselves, the commission angrily bossed fighters around and talked to them as if they were impudent children who were bothering them with petty requests for toys or food. This would be more acceptable if the weights of the fighters hadn't been such a problem. While some made weight and others were wildly off the mark, fighters who had weighed themselves upstairs were consistently coming in .2 or .3 pounds over. Most were able to correct the issue, some more easily than others, but it turns out the scales being used by the commission were being placed on thick but soft hotel flooring carpet. One can take the same scale and place it around the room and get different results, to say nothing of adjusting it on different, soft surfaces. That's why the weights have to be handled delicately. Unlike the state of New Jersey that uses scales certified and administered by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs State Office of Weighs and Measures, the commission snidely replied to all requests to have the scales checked as an affront to their authority. Interestingly, we don't actually know what vetting process went into the scales used by the commission as they refused any and all requests for information about the validity of the calibration. The choice the fighters faced was trust them or don't fight. And don't ask questions along the way. If this commission would like to respond, I'd be happy to report it here.
I can only report on these matters because they were within my purview, but given how unable the commission is in meeting simple, routine demands is it really that outlandish to suggest they'd botch the more weighty task of training and assigning competent judges?
UPDATE: I've been told all of the fighters and their teams were notified ahead of time they wouldn't be able to pay licensing fees with purse money. I have now seen the documentation myself. Raphael Assuncao and his team had the responsibility to know the law. However, the fact still stands that there is no federal statute regarding such a thing. The Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996 does not apply to MMA.