Virginia's Athletic Commission Declines to Overturn Result in Controversial Easton vs. Beebe Bout


I can't say this is particularly surprising:

Virginia’s department of professional and occupational regulation, which oversees mixed martial arts in the state, investigated the circumstances surrounding the fight and determined they do not warrant further review. The investigation concluded judges Brian Cunningham and Brian Costello gave the nod to Easton for reasons that fall within the scope of state regulations.

"Because subsequent interviews did not reveal any new information, there is not sufficient reason to believe that the fight was scored incorrectly by either Judge Cunningham or Judge Costello," reads a closing memorandum, dated Jan. 11 and written by Nick Christner, a deputy director for the state regulatory body.

The piece linked here also goes into detail about one of the judge's rationale for his utterly absurd position:

The investigation focused largely on comments Cunningham made when he was confronted after the fight. Cunningham’s comments at that time indicated he scored the fight for Easton because of his belief that a reigning champion deserves higher consideration, and perhaps preferential treatment, in determining how the fight was scored.

"The inference from these comments was that the challenger had to do more to win the fight than the champion did," the closing memorandum states.

The unified rules of mixed martial arts do not allow for such a consideration when determining winners of title fights. Skepticism was high because Easton is a Virginia-based fighter and was promoted as the local favorite.

When interviewed as part of the investigation, Cunningham indicated his explanation was given under duress because he had been confronted by a referee in front of a group of people at a post-fight meeting. That referee was "accusatory," "confrontational" and "emotional, and of a heightened, questioning nature," according to the memorandum, which did not name the referee.

"Judge Cunningham offered further explanation as to his response to the confrontational accusations and stated that he did score the fight in accordance with Virginia regulations," the memorandum reads. "He has provided a detailed explanation as to his scoring and stands by that scoring ... It is also unclear whether those comments were purely reactional (sic) as a result of being verbally accosted in front of a group of officials, or they were closer to being a true indication of how Judge Cunningham viewed and scored the fight."

The memorandum does not actually specify Cunningham’s justification for scoring the fight for Easton but does briefly address Costello’s. According to the memo, Costello "made comments about the ground positioning of the fighters and how one or the other took more advantage of the offensive and defensive positions throughout the fight."

I don't know which referee confronted Costello nor do I particularly care.

My position on this matter is well known: see here, here and here. Just for fun, see here as well.

The rules employed in Virginia always made overturning this fight an incredibly uphill battle. In short, there is no safety valve for grotesque incompetency. Costello is likely able to cobble together a ham-fisted explanation that loosely coheres with the rules governing professional MMA in Virginia, thus making the job of overturning this injustice rather difficult.

On another note, I went over the bout sheets for UFC Fight Night 20 provided to the media in the media room. I did not see Costello's name or Brian Cunningham (the other judge who botched the job) on any of the bout sheets as judges. Perhaps I missed something, but it appears they were nowhere near a judging table when the UFC came to town. Good.

As for the commission, the UFC appears to have helped their efforts. The weigh-ins ran smoothly, the controversial calls were no more controversial than any other event and all of the t's seemed crossed, the i's dotted. I'm glad to see they've made improvements.

For the media and fans, we know the truth. We know what happened. The question is what we do going forward. I can't make any promises, but I am told the UWC is releasing footage of the fight for free so fans can make their own judgments about what happened.

Personally, I think a rematch is in order. It has to happen. And believe it or not, I think Mike Easton has an excellent chance of winning this time around. For anyone who knows Easton, he's an incredibly quick learner and has likely dedicated a ton of time to fixing the problems that previously plagued him. Remeber, Beebe beat him, but didn't beat him up.

It's also the only justice left for Chase Beebe now that Virginia can find no shelter for him.

Disclosure: I am the color commentator for the UWC.

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