An LLC managed by UFC president Dana White, UFC COO Lawrence Epstein, “The Ultimate Fighter” producer Craig Piligian and former UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta took one step closer to staging slap fighting events at the UFC Apex in Nevada.
On Tuesday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission, following a presentation from UFC chief business officer Hunter Campbell, voted to regulate and oversee the activities of a promotion called “Dana White’s Power Slap League.”
In its simplest terms, slap fighting features two individuals standing across from each other and taking open-handed slaps to the jaw until one of them can’t continue. It’s common to see competitors badly concussed or fall completely unconscious from the blows.
Campbell said of the sport, “After testing it, it became clear to us that there’s massive potential here as a sport, not unlike the early years of the UFC.”
Slap fighting is all offense and no defense, removing most of the skill seen from other combat sports while ramping up on the brain trauma and injuries. As Luke Thomas of CBS Sports said after news broke of the NSAC’s approval, “If boxing is to hit and not be hit, slap fighting is kinda the opposite where getting hit is specifically arranged and done without impediment.”
If the individuals involved in this UFC-affiliated slap fighting league did their due diligence, they — and the NSAC — should be aware that the sport has resulted in a fatality.
That death, as lawyer Erik Magraken at CombatSportsLaw pointed out, occurred in Poland in 2021.
On October 22, 46-year-old slap fighter, Artur “Waluś” Walczak, fell to the ground after being knocked out. Walczak was knocked down four times during the event and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Walczak was taken to the hospital, where he was placed in a medically induced coma. Although attempts were made, Walczak never regained consciousness. He died of multi-organ failure in November.
In speaking to ESPN, Hunter Campbell repeated language that will be familiar to anyone who has followed MMA since the early days of the UFC through the time when ZUFFA purchased the organization.
“It made all the sense in the world to go toward regulation before the sport’s commencing, for all the obvious reasons — No. 1, the health and safety of the competitors,” said Campbell.
It’s hard to fathom how health and safety could even be in the conversation when we are discussing a competition whose sole purpose is to basically guarantee brain trauma or injury. Removing any semblance of defense from slap fighting eliminates any idea that the activity can be safe.
Adding a stamp from the athletic commission, some rehashed words from two decades ago, plus mouthpieces and ear plugs won’t make slap fighting magically safe.
As MMA journalist Simon Head wrote, “MMA: A sport where the fight ends if you are not intelligently defending yourself. Slap Fighting: A sport where the rules insist that you refrain from intelligently defending yourself.”
The NSAC was under no obligation to approve slap fighting but they did, and as Magraken pointed out, they significantly missed the mark.
“When NSAC adopts variants of combat sports they are supposed to consider,” Magraken wrote, “‘the health and safety of the unarmed combatants participating in the contest or exhibition and the reputation of unarmed combat in this State.’ Today they failed with flying colours.
“This is a shameful day for combat sports regulators who purport to take health and safety seriously.”
I couldn’t agree more. The NSAC are supposed to be the ones focusing on protecting competitors, but sanctioning slap fighting events promoted by White and company only shows how both the promoter and the commission’s lines about athlete health are nothing more than lip service.