Following the events that happened at Resurrection Fighting Alliance 14 last Friday, where fighter Junior Maranhao apparently passed out between rounds and then was allowed to continue fighting, the Wyoming State Athletic Commission has found itself on the receiving end of a lot of criticism. Fanning the flames has been the state's apparent refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing, instead releasing a statement that read in part:
"...As to your question regarding Mr. Maranhao, he was thoroughly examined by a licensed physician after he fell off his stool between the 4th and 5th round of the RFA event in Cheyenne on April 11. He was also examined by his corner men and the referee. All parties, including Mr.Maranhao, believed and stated unequivocally that Mr. Maranhao was medically safe to and capable of finishing the fight. In fact, he fought well in the last round and lost in a close split decision..."
Many are in disagreement with this opinion, including cageside commentators Michael Schiavello and Pat Miletich, RFA Promoter Ed Soares, fighters Pat Healy, Isaac Flagg, and Nate Quarry, and the Association of Boxing Commissions.
While the focus has been on what transpired with Junior Maranhao between the fourth and fifth rounds, a conversation I had with Conor Heun let me know that the Wyoming Commission's improprieties aren't limited to that single moment.
After 14 professional contests, many of which took place in the now defunct Strikeforce, EliteXC, and IFL promotions, Conor Heun has retired from fighting himself, but does still serve as a cornerman for other fighters. Last Friday, he served in that capacity for Alan Jouban, before relating to me the details of his experience with the Wyoming Combat Sports Commission.
I've fought in Washington, Dallas, Ohio, and New Jersey but the majority of my fights had been in California so I'm used to dealing with the California commission. Basically everywhere I fought the commission was a whole lot different than what there was in Wyoming.
I was there to corner Alan Jouban. Some time before the date, I called Alan in advance and said "Hey, do I need to buy a corner's license? Who do I need to talk to? What do I need to do?
"He said, don't worry. I think you're all good." Apparently I didn't need to fill out or do anything.
For the fight, when I arrived and walked into the venue with Alan and Jarod Carlsten, Alan said these are my corners and that seemed to be enough credentials for the two of us to get a wristband that said "Wyoming Athletic Commission" on it. No one checked our IDs or a list or anything. They just waved us in and showed us to our dressing room.
In the dressing room they had I think only one guy checking the hands of the fighters. They had one cutman and he said right off the bat "who needs their hands taped because it looks like we're a little short staffed." And Alan says he needs his hands taped and he says "that's going to be hard because we have all these other guys to do." So we said, "fine we'll take care of it." But when it came time to wrap his hands I went out looking for a commission member just to make sure they watched it because every other place I'd been they had to watch you putting on the wrap, because they had all these regulations on how your hand was supposed to be wrapped.
So I went out looking for a commissioner and to the best of my knowledge it seemed as if there was two of them working that night in addition to the cutman. And they said you're fine, you don't need us to watch you tape the hands. Just call us when you put the gloves on.
So there was no one in the dressing room. FIghters could have whatever they wanted with regards to food. In California your allowed only water. But in Wyoming you bring and eat whatever you wanted. No one was stopping it. Anybody could also come and go as they pleased in the dressing room. And guys had control of their gloves the whole time, as far as breaking them in. There was no oversight at all if you wanted to breakdown the padding or manipulate the gloves. They did let us know they needed to be there when it was time to put the gloves on but apparently that wasn't to inspect the handwraps or the gloves it was just because they wanted us to use their official duct tape.
After they used their duct tape, that was kind of the last we saw of the commission. They didn't tell us where we could be, they didn't tell us what we could have with us in the corner. No one made you stay in your corner, you could run all around the cage. No one controlled what we brought into the ring. It just sorta of seemed like the Wild West.
After the fight Alan won, we were all sitting in the stands watching the main event which was one of the best fights I've ever seen live. It was crazy.
Then at one point before the 5th round, there's a yell from the crowd and we look back to see what was going on. And they show on the big screen [Maranhao] face down on the canvas. And we were all confused. Did that happen right now? Was that from a another fight, because he was already on his stool. We didn't see him go down so we weren't sure where the footage was coming from.
If he was my fighter, I don't know what I would do. That's an interesting question because if they know him and he seemed OK I could see them wanting to let him keep fighting. But if I was a commissioner or a [ringside] doctor and I saw it I'd want to know what the fuck just happened. I would want to look in his eyes and see what was going on.
They're there to secure the safety of the fighters, and it was clearly not being secured. Who knows if he was OK, but someone sure as hell should have checked him out. At least ask him if he's OK. "How many fingers am I holding up? Can you see me? Where are you? Can you fight?" Three or four questions couldn't have hurt. I'm not a doctor but definitely the doctor should have asked him what the hell happened.
As a fighter, I wouldn't have wanted it stopped. If it was me who woke up, I would have wanted to keep going. If I had a broken arm or anything I'd want to keep going, because I'm a fighter. It's the referees job to stop the fight. It's the doctors job to stop the fight. My job is to try and kill the guy I'm fighting and give it my all. I go into every fight thinking the only way I'll stop is with my hand raised. And all fighters are going to be that way so you have to someone there to protect them. The commissions job is to protect me from myself. The people that need to be protected are the fighters.
Earlier today I emailed Heun's statement to the Wyoming State Board of Mixed Martial Arts Commissioners and have also left them a message via phone asking for a statement. As of the time this was posted I have not yet received a reply.
UPDATE: Shortly after the article was posted I received a phone call from the Wyoming Board of MMA Secretary/Treasurer Bryan Pedersen and have scheduled an interview with him for next week to discuss the matters raised by Conor Heun.