As of July 2020, the Nevada Athletic Commission has made all combat sports purses confidential, further reducing public access to information about fighter pay in both MMA and boxing.
When asked about this seemingly sudden change, Bloody Elbow was referred by a public records official to the NSAC’s statement on the matter. As it turns out, the move to confidentiality has actually been in the works for more than a year.
Senate Bill 29 was pre-filed in November 2018 and formally introduced in February 2019 during the 80th Session of the Nevada Legislature. The bill’s purpose was to “make various changes relating to unarmed combat.” Among the list of amendments made to Nevada statutes was NRS 467.1005, which now reads as follows:
NRS 467.1005 Confidentiality of certain information concerning applicant for license; disclosure of information; exceptions; procedure.
1. Except as otherwise provided in subsections 2 and 3, the Commission shall keep confidential:
(a) Any information that is submitted or disclosed to the Commission or otherwise obtained by the Commission pursuant to this chapter or the regulations adopted pursuant thereto;
(b) Any information that is submitted or disclosed to the Commission by another governmental entity or the Association of Boxing Commissions; and
(c) Any information required to be submitted or disclosed to the Commission and kept confidential pursuant to federal law.
2. The Commission shall reveal the information set forth in subsection 1:
(a) Upon the lawful order of a court of competent jurisdiction;
(b) To any person upon the request of the person who is the subject of the information; and
(c) In the course of the necessary administration of this chapter.
3. The Commission may reveal the information set forth in subsection 1 to an authorized agent of an agency of the United States Government, a state, a political subdivision of a state, a foreign government or a political subdivision of a foreign government responsible for regulating unarmed combat in the jurisdiction of the authorized agent.
Bold emphasis is mine.
Under the previous statute, the commission kept confidential “Any information that it receives concerning an applicant for the issuance of a license pursuant to this chapter which is declared confidential by law and that is provided to the commission by another governmental entity or the Association of Boxing Commissions.” This is the first time NRS 467.1005 has been amended since 2001.
Commissioner Staci Alonso, appointed to the NSAC in 2017 while she worked for the Fertitta-owned Station Casinos, spoke at the February Senate Judiciary hearing and provided an explanation for making all information submitted to the NSAC confidential. Alonso used the Floyd Mayweather Jr vs. Conor McGregor boxing match from 2017 as an example of why bout agreement information should not be made public.
Section 7 clarifies that any information submitted to the Commission be deemed confidential. The purpose and intent of this request is similar to the intent and language under the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
Based on NRS language, as an example, organizations must submit confidential and proprietary drug testing reports in order to receive qualified drug testing tax credits. There is no public benefit to disseminate this information but extreme competitive disadvantages and loss of data integrity if it was not kept confidential. It is also a roadblock for the adaptation of our new regulation.
Another example is a bout agreement. A few years ago, a Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. boxing match had unique language in the bout agreement that would not have been beneficial to turn over to the Commission for public information. Yet, information specific to that agreement was important for our officials to understand due to the uniqueness of an MMA fighter competing in a boxing match. We view this similar to a casino sales agreement or takeover plan where it would be a competitive disadvantage if that information was made public.
At the Assembly Judiciary hearing on May 23rd, Commissioner Alonso once again cited Mayweather vs. McGregor and how “bout agreements are not provided to the Commission currently due to the lack of protection of confidentiality.”
Unlike the Senate hearings, the Assembly Judiciary committee did have one member bring up Section 7 and amending NRS 467.1005. Assemblyman Skip Daly questioned Commissioner Alonso about the new confidentiality provisions while also voicing concerns about a lack of transparency on the part of the NSAC. In response, Alonso cited the New York State Athletic Commission’s rules that also make their disclosures confidential.
Assemblyman Daly: I heard you give the explanation on section 7, and again I will try not to be combative, but you say that everything that you receive under this entire chapter is now going to be confidential. Previously the way it was written, is if you are receiving information regarding an applicant or the application and those processes, and if I heard you correctly during your testimony, sometimes there are contracts and various things that you also receive that need to be confidential, so why are we not trying to pick out the things that really need to be confidential? I understand there are legitimate reasons for some of those things, and just instead make it a blanket statement. I think it casts a shadow that the Commission is not transparent. You already have engaged in an industry that does not have a great history; you cannot deny it, it does not have a great history, and this just makes it so that nothing that you receive under the entire chapter ever is open to the public. I do not know if that is the direction you should head. I think you should take a little more time and figure out what things really need to be confidential and list those out, rather than everything.
Commissioner Alonso: [...] In response to your question and feedback regarding section 7, the language that has been requested is identical to the New York State Athletic Commission, which is home of Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, which I feel is a major competitor to Nevada for the elite events that I described earlier which also deems all disclosures to the Commission confidential.
Assemblyman Daly: I understand that one a little bit better, but I was just seeing if there were pieces that you could pick out so that not everything was confidential unless the justification is that there really is not enough separation to have areas that would be public.
Fighter purses were never explicitly stated but nevertheless are submitted to athletic commissions and are subject to these new confidentiality laws.
Needing a two-thirds majority vote from both Senate and Assembly, Senate Bill 29 easily passed, with Assemblyman Daly representing the lone dissenting vote. Governor Steve Sisolak approved the bill on May 29th, with effect taken on July 1st, 2019. It is unclear why it took exactly a year after SB29 was enacted for purse info to become private.
With this amendment, California is now effectively the only major state that provides access to fighter pay info for both boxing and MMA. Florida does have public purse info for MMA (despite the UFC’s lobbying efforts) but not for boxing, while a state such as Arizona releases purse breakdowns for both sports but otherwise seldom hosts major combat sporting events. For the rest of 2020, it’s quite conceivable that no UFC events will have reported payouts due to alternating between Abu Dhabi and Las Vegas.
On a semi-related note, you may be curious as to how journalists such as Mike Coppinger, Thomas Hauser, and Dan Rafael are able to report boxing purses even in states where payouts are not disclosed. That’s because the Muhammad Ali Act requires boxing promoters to submit full contract details to athletic commissions (and sign affidavits confirming no agreements have been withheld from AC). The UFC (and MMA as a whole) is not subject to these regulations, so side-letter deals don’t need to be reported. Boxers, managers, promoters, and commission officials all see the contract details, and sometimes we see those details leaked through promoters themselves. This is how it’s known well in advance that Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury’s actual guarantees for their February rematch were much higher than their recorded purses. (H/T John S. Nash)
Commission reported payouts may not paint a 100% accurate picture of what a fighter is truly making, but it does provide a valuable glimpse into things like pay distribution and estimated revenue splits between fighter and promoter. Moving forward, however, it looks like we’ll know substantially less — particularly in MMA and foremost the UFC — as a result of what’s transpired in Nevada.