Fight booking funny business at Xplode Fight Series

Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

In a follow-up to last week's piece on Xplode Fight Series, Bloody Elbow's Mookie Alexander reveals more details on the promotion's unusual matchmaking practices.

Last week we profiled new UFC lightweight Dashon Johnson and the details behind his 9-0 record, which was littered with over-matched opposition during his time in Xplode Fight Series, a California-based pro-am organization that has seen several of its fighters signed by the UFC and Bellator. Their events are hosted almost exclusively on the San Pasqual Indian Reservation in Valley Center, and while they use California-licensed referees, most notably Cecil Peoples and Jason Herzog, they are not sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission.

The curiosity behind Johnson's undefeated streak led to a thorough look at the matchmaking process at Xplode, which uncovered a multitude of mismatches, primarily pitting veterans such as Walel Watson and Danny Martinez against win-less opposition.

Bloody Elbow has done some follow-up research on Xplode Fight Series and has uncovered some more interesting facts, including the strong presence of one specific camp that is home to two top 10 UFC fighters.

Record Distortion

Edward Darby is listed on Sherdog as 0-16, while mixedmartialarts.com has him at 0-12. The latter is used as an official MMA database by the Association of Boxing Commissions. You'll notice that none of Darby's fights is listed as a sanctioned bout.  Cleverly, Xplode ring announcers do not reference his record at all in the pre-fight intros in several of his fights, but when they did list his record on two separate occasions, there were some glaring inconsistencies. This table shows his two losses against Ray Sloan (recently signed by Bellator) and Raphael Davis, along with the records provided by Sherdog, mixedmartialarts, and Xplode Fight Series:

Opponent

Date

Sherdog Record

Mixedmartialarts Record

XFS Record

Ray Sloan

7/20/2013

0-9

0-6

4-5

Raphael Davis

9/21/2013

0-11

0-8

3-5

In between these fights, Darby lost by TKO in Gladiator Challenge on September 7th. Amazingly, not only did Xplode list him at 4-5 for the Sloan fight, but they deducted a win from his record during the intros of the Raphael Davis match. They also kept his loss total at 5 despite losing to Sloan and then again outside of the promotion. Given how both Sherdog and Mixedmartialarts still have him as win-less, there's virtually no reason to believe Xplode is being truthful about Darby's record.

Also, if you watch this video, you'll see Josh Gibson (0-2 at the time and now 0-6) lose to Chris Brown in less than 40 seconds after tapping out to strikes. Brown's record is accurately listed as 9-1, while Gibson's record is nowhere to be mentioned. If you're promoting a fight, why would you only announce one fighter's record?

Reign Training Center

After the original piece was published on Thursday, a source close to (but not affiliated with) Reign Training Center, home to UFC notables Mark Munoz, Krzysztof Soszynski, and Jake Ellenberger, contacted Bloody Elbow about their presence in Xplode.

"While there are plenty of local promotions in Orange County to send their fighters to," He said. "Reign Training Center is deliberately sending much of their stable all the way down to Xplode Fight Series."

Upon further review, while it's not possible to say that it's intentional, it's a reasonable possibility. The most telling aspect of the "Reign fighter invasion" is the inclusion of two of its coaches:

- Bellator middleweight Keith Berry, who beat Josh Gibson (making his pro debut) and Edward Darby in a combined 127 seconds.

- UFC light heavyweight Patrick Cummins, who fought his 3rd pro fight -- his only Xplode appearance -- against Ricky Pulu, who is now 0-4 and has lost all of his bouts within 1:40.

- Middleweight Ty Freeman started out his career 0-3, but after signing with Xplode he rattled off 6 straight wins inside 2 1/2 minutes. None of his opponents has a professional win to their name. Freeman's last win was against one of Berry's past opponents, Josh Gibson.

- Lightweight Arian Sharifi (3-0) shares two common opponents with Freeman -- Phelan Fleming (0-8) and Thomas Garrison (0-3).

- Raja Shippen, Reign's Muay Thai coach, started his MMA career with a 3-8-1 record. Since then he's won his last 10, is a perfect 8-0 in Xplode, and his last fight was on May 17th against an opponent making his pro debut. None of his Xplode fights lasted longer than 2:33.

- Jason Manly, Reign's Head BJJ coach, had one fight in Xplode in September 2013 against Chris Stanfield, which he won via armbar in just over a minute. Interestingly enough, Stanfield (0-5) also has a 1st round loss against none other than ... Raja Shippen. Just through this brief list we've had 3 different instances of opponents fighting (and losing to) multiple Reign guys.

Dirty Tactics MMA

At the bottom end of the totem pole is another camp that seems to be regularly featured on Xplode Fight Series cards. Dirty Tactics MMA, which previously had Edward Darby and Jordan Delano, the 0-12 fighter who is Dashon Johnson's most recent opponent, currently has 13 professional fighters listed in Sherdog's database. Having gone through each of their profiles, these are the statistics I've compiled (not counting Darby or Delano):

- A combined record of 2-68. If you included Darby and Delano then the new total would be an astonishingly bad 2-96.

- Of the 13 fighters listed, 10 of them fought at least once in XFS, with the other 3 competing in Gladiator Challenge. All of them have fought in at least one of the two promotions.

- The 10 who competed in XFS had a combined record of 1-27 in the promotion. None of these fights went the distance and only 4 of them ended after the 2 minute mark of round 1.

One of the comically bad mismatches profiled in last Friday's article was ex-UFC bantamweight Walel Watson versus Dirty Tactics' own Anthony Moore (0-14), which you can view here. Watson stopped Moore with little resistance in 82 seconds, sending Moore to his 3rd defeat within a 30 day time-span. Moore had taken two fights outside of Xplode on October 28th and November 2nd, losing the October bout by clean KO in 12 seconds and then via TKO a mere 5 days later. None of Moore's fights was sanctioned by the CSAC, and as such he was able to sidestep any sort of CSAC-mandated medical suspension. XFS promoter Gregg Sharp defended this practice by equating Watson's release to David Ortiz being sent down to the minors:

"If David Ortiz was to get hurt or go through a huge slump (it would have to be) and was sent back to the minors to get his swing back on track and hit 4 homeruns against a guy who is 0-7 as a starter on the mound, would Ortiz get persecuted because his ability far exceeds those he is playing with? Of course not! The headlines would read ‘Ortiz is on the comeback trail'!"

That puzzling and highly flawed justification aside, there is a fairly sizable grey area between fighting UFC opposition and someone who has never won a professional fight, especially one who lost by KO/TKO twice within a week.

New Jersey State Athletic Commission counsel Nick Lembo released the following statement to Bloody Elbow regarding Mr. Moore's unenviable record:

"According to Sherdog.com, which is freely viewable by any promoter, Anthony Moore is 0-1 as an amateur, and 0-14 as a professional. Six of his pro losses are by KO or TKO referee stoppage with one loss recorded as a submission due to punches. It seems that he fights most often (all but one fight) for two promotions; Gladiator Challenge and Xplode Fight Series. He was TKO'd on February 26, 2012 and fought again on March 24, 2012. He was KO'd on October 28, 2012 and was TKO'd on November 2, 2012 and TKO'd on November 17, 2012. Only one of Mr. Moore's fights have lasted beyond two minutes of the first round. Repeatedly allowing these fights is a terrible disservice to the fighter and to the sport as a whole. It is a great example of why true regulatory bodies are needed."

Sharp also had this to say about fighters (such as Moore) who have been booked for their shows despite recent bouts in other orgs:

Our events are 2 months apart. I don't know if a guy I book fought a week earlier at another organization, because they don't post their results on Sherdog. How am I to know he competed?

The irony of that statement is that they were involved in this exact situation last year when Curtis Demarce fought on an Xplode card on 3/16/2013 and then tried to fight again in Manitoba a week later. Manitoba's Combat Sports Commission was unaware that Demarce, who missed weight for the bout, had fought at Xplode because there was no record of it in the database.

Obviously the biggest thing to consider here is not just the W-L record of Dirty Tactics fighters, but the fact that the overwhelming majority of their bouts aren't lasting but a few seconds. Only 2 fighters on their roster have registered a single win, and one of them is Matt Anderson, who is 1-21 with 15 losses by KO/TKO. Their records speak for themselves and yet they continue to get booked by Xplode and Gladiator Challenge.

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