UFC veteran and former lightweight title challenger Hermes Franca battled former Olympic judo player Ferrid Kheder at Xtreme Vale Todo 5 this past Sunday. The event was held in Costa Rica meaning it was free from the oversight of American commissions. The fights were also streamed on Sherdog.com and via their website we have the streaming video of the fight:
For those of you who took the time to watch the fight, you saw Franca clearly earn a win. The first round was not particularly close with Franca landing a lot of heavy leg kicks, some nice punches and getting the sole takedown of the round. Round two was much closer with Kheder getting the better of it standing but Franca did take the back on the ground before the fight was stood up (despite Franca having both hooks in) given the action I'd probably give round two to Kheder. The final round is not even close as Franca wins the stand-up with leg kicks and then spends the majority of the round with control of Kheder's back landing punches. There is no way Franca lost more than the second round.
For those of you who didn't I'll allow some parts of a post by Franca made on The Underground explain the situation:
Hey guys. Hermes Franca here. It's been a while. I miss you guys a lot. I wanted to share a couple things explaining the botched outcome of my fight. I'm really upset and sad about what happened. The mma family is really small. Here's a letter that was sent to me recently. Please share, so that people really understand what happened that night. I will send the videos soon. I want to make sure this promoter(Jean Fransois) isn't involved with mma anymore.
Ed. Note by Brent Brookhouse: The following part is from the letter Franca mentions receiving.
I am going to skip to the main event, a fight between Franca (Brazil) and Kheder (France). Franca easily won all three rounds of the bout, his striking was superior as was his grappling, and he displayed dominating leg kicks and in fact closed out both the first and third rounds riding on Kheder’s back.
Here’s where it really offended my sensibilities as the manager of a professional athlete, as a fan and as a paying customer. When the winner was to be announced there was a delay, after a few awkward moments the referee begin to raise Franca’s hand then the announcer who is French as is Kheder, called for Kheder’s hand to be raised, the referee refused to raise Kheder’s hand so the announcer raised it. The fans started booing at this obvious sham!
I witnessed the corner man (an American) for Franca pleading to the announcer to check the scorecards again. The French announcer, who only moments before I personally heard speak perfect Queen’s English, now acted as though he understood nothing this poor corner man was saying; I found this utterly despicable and decided to get involved. The promoter had rushed from the arena immediately after the fans started to voice their displeasure with this travesty of sportsmanship and fair play so she was unavailable to comment.
I introduced myself to the corner man and he tells me his name is Dave Jensen. The announcer refuses to acknowledge that he has the score cards when I tell him he’s obligated to show them to Franc’s team. Being familiar with how this process works and not having the emotional involvement of the Dave the corner man I suggest we talk directly to the judges. The two of us approach the three judges and we ask them who they awarded the fight to, all three say Franca. We then ask the referee and he tells us he too had Franca as the winner, he tells us he refused to raise Kheder’s hand because Franca won and in fairness he wouldn’t raise Kheder’s hand (I commend him for that). I even hear Kheder saying to the French announcer (in English no less) to call the fight a "no contest"!
Follow after the jump for more details
I am still working to get ironed our details on who the players all are here. Franca mentions Jean Fransois as the promoter while others have mentioned that Lu Dwyer was running things that night and she does appear to be a part of the team that heads the promotion. On her Facebook profile Dwyer lists her homepage as a page dedicated to Kheder.
Chris Parry had more details over on his MMA blog for the Vancouver Sun:
It gets worse. One of the organizers of the event is a woman named Lu Dwyer, owner of J & L Irrigation in Fresno, California, co-producer of Zombie Hunters, and the person who produced this event for TV. She's not only a sponsor of Ferrid Kheder, but also his business partner.
Through J&L, Dwyer supports "Team FK" by paying his living expenses and taking a percentage of his winnings. She promotes his website on her Facebook page.
Think about that. Dwyer makes more money when Kheder wins, she is a business partner who benefits from his successes and she also organized the event. It's no real mystery what happened here and why.
The real issue here is that it is becoming increasingly clear that high level fighters are between a rock and a hard place when they do not have a contract with a major promotion. They need to stay active to A) get paid and B) to get wins for a chance to get a major promotion contract. But as we've witnessed over the past few weeks guys are going outside of the U.S. and are not being paid, not being supervised and now falling to promoters who are overriding the decisions of the assigned judges.
Going into unregulated territory is a completely dangerous prospect for a fighter of Franca's stature, but it's something that he has to do because he's trying to get his career back on track. He clearly beat Kheder, the judges, ref and announcer all seemed to agree until they were told to change the result by the promoter and now instead of picking up his first win since 2008 after all the hard work that went into training, all he has to show for his work is a loss.
Middle Easy had this video posted which shows another angle of some of the mess in the cage during the decision as well as Franca's corner trying to see the judges scorecards and being yelled at by Dwyer to not call them "crooked":
I have reached out to Dwyer to give her a chance to give her side of the story and I'll continue to dig to see what I can uncover but the lesson here is for fighters and fans to not expect things to be handled correctly when you go overseas.
Update: I just got an e-mail from Riddum MMA providing a very important update:
Ferrid Kheder said on Facebook his fight with Hermes Franca has been ruled a no-contest by Lu Dwyer: http://www.facebook.com/
Rough translation by myself:
"Following the controversy surrounding my fight with Hermes Franca at XVT 5, Lu Dwyer, who organises the show, has decided to turn the decision to a no-contest and offer a rematch to Hermes Franca as soon as possible, for a 5 round fight."
Kheder also says he didn't like how things unfolded at the official result's announcement and that Lu Dwyer wants to remain fair.
Public outcry and backlash will do funny things.