The World Series of Fighting (WSOF) started hitting the media wire for reasons other than its events late last year as questions arose from John Nash, Mike Russell, and myself about WSOF's former matchmaker Ali Abdelaziz.
Nash focused on possible violations of Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) rules through Abdelaziz's role at WSOF and connection to Dominance MMA Management, the manager of certain WSOF fighters. Russell examined Abdelaziz's questionable background as an Olympic judoka and possible connections to a suspected terrorist organization. I examined the WSOF's inner workings, including accusations among company members that Abdelaziz was actively violating Nevada regulations for unarmed combat.
At the Nov. 30th NAC hearing, Executive Director Bob Bennett cited "administrative and some operational concerns" in his recommendation to deny the WSOF's request to hold 10 bouts on its WSOF 26 fight card instead of the regulatory maximum of nine (major MMA promoters such as the UFC frequently ask for and receive a waiver to this regulation). Shortly thereafter, WSOF announced Abdelaziz's "amicable" departure from the promotion.
That might've been the end of the story if not for a fighter named Nick Diaz, who was also recently accused of violating NAC rules and placed firmly in its crosshairs.
Diaz was accused of lying on his pre-fight medical questionnaire prior to his UFC 183 matchup with Anderson Silva and failing a drug test for marijuana. Many, myself included, believed the marijuana evidence was shaky at best as Diaz passed two bookending WADA drug tests the same day he failed the NAC's drug test - a test which then-Chairman Francisco Aguilar admitted is "...not up to the standard as many would judge throughout professional, elite athletes and the WADA standard..." Yet Diaz was brought in front of the Commission and the world, made to take the 5th at least 38 times by Commissioner Pat Lundvall, and was eventually handed a five-year ban after a lifetime ban was initially considered.
While Diaz has since negotiated a settlement reducing his suspension to 18 months, the fact that a fighter would receive an initial five-year ban for lying on a pre-fight questionnaire and an extremely suspect non-performance enhancing drug test failure necessarily leads to the question, would MMA promoters receive similarly harsh treatment?
Bloody Elbow recently spoke with Executive Director Bennett to ask why there haven't been any hearings scheduled or punishments handed down for apparent violations of NAC 467.104, 467.182, 467.208, and NRS 467.100 for (1) Abdelaziz's alleged service as an unlicensed matchmaker and (2) his alleged service as manager of WSOF fighters while simultaneously holding an executive position for the same promotion.
As Bennett describes it, the real difference is the type of alleged violation. Each situation is looked at separately. "Every case is not the same. Every case has a certain uniqueness of its own," says Bennett.
Bennett, an FBI agent for 24 ½ years, is extremely careful and calculated with his words. He wouldn't say the WSOF case is officially closed but also wouldn't say it was ever officially open, reiterating that the situation was "resolved appropriately and legally." He consulted with Deputy Attorney General Caroline Bateman and addressed his concerns over Nevada Administrative Codes 467 in a meeting with WSOF President Ray Sefo and Abdelaziz noting, "...we resolved them, it was beneficial to both parties, and Ali is no longer working with World Series of Fighting."
Later in the conversation when I tell Bennett that, from my perspective, it seemed clear there were rules violations and I was a little shocked to see no discipline whatsoever, Bennett points out that the NAC is a government agency. "We don't have an investigative branch," he says.
As Bennett describes it, drug test failures go hand-in-hand with the pre-fight medical questionnaire, "It's kind of like 1 and 1A." He analogizes to the FBI world and his point becomes clear. I mention that it doesn't take a lot of manpower to prove things when you have a positive drug test (although many would disagree in the Nick Diaz case) and Bennett replies, "You're right, that's exactly right." He then references the writer's world where we have a source of information and can print an allegation but "don't have to prove it."
The NAC can go to the Attorney General's office and request an investigation, but it takes resources and approval depends on what the former FBI agent describes as "the severity of the crime." As Bennett puts it, "Can you get something resolved by bringing somebody in your office and taking corrective action and you don't have to have a hearing?"
The man who's extremely calculated with his words was careful to never say exactly what happened and why, but it's not too difficult to read between the lines.
"Like most government agencies, we're asked to do more with less," he says.
Paul is Bloody Elbow's business and analytics writer. Follow him @MMAanalytics.