Zuffa has announced their first substantive step in defending the anti-trust lawsuit against them by seeking to move the claim to Nevada.  They have released the following statement:

We care about our fighters and our fans and are proud of the company we have built.  Today’s legal filing is procedural in nature, asking the court in California to transfer the cases to Nevada.  Nevada has by far the strongest connection to the allegations in the complaint.  Zuffa is headquartered in Las Vegas.  The UFC employees who may be witnesses live and work in Las Vegas, and many fighters and other potential witnesses are also in Las Vegas.   More UFC events take place in Las Vegas than in any other city and the plaintiffs all agreed to litigate disputes with UFC in Nevada.  We believe that it is both fair and logical that the suits be heard in Nevada.

Adding to this site’s archives of combat sports safety studies, important findings were published today connecting reduced brain volume and slower processing speed to the number of years and the number of bouts combat sports athletes endure.

In today’s study (Repeated head trauma is associated with smaller thalamic volumes and slower processing speed) published at the British Journal of Sports Medicine, 224 fighters (131 mixed martial arts fighters and 93 boxers) were recruited along with 22 controls.  Each participant underwent computerised cognitive testing and volumetric brain MRI.  The results were that “Increasing exposure to repetitive head trauma measured by number of professional fights, years of fighting, or a Fight Exposure Score (FES) was associated with lower brain volumes, particularly the thalamus and caudate. In addition, speed of processing decreased with decreased thalamic volumes and with increasing fight exposure

The study concluded that “Greater exposure to repetitive head trauma is associated with lower brain volumes and lower processing speed in active professional fighters.“.

Perhaps not surprisingly, boxers were found to have endured more damage as illustrated by the following graphic:

Reduction of Brain Volume in Boxers v MMA Fighters

The study will follow up with its participants for baseline evaluation on an annual basis over the next 4 years. Given the longitudinal nature of this study important information is expected to be forthcoming in the following years giving far greater insight into the toll of combat sports on the brain.

As Kirik Jenness reports, the Tennessee Athletic Commission is subject to sunset legislation and unless a new law is passed continuing the commission they will dissolve in July of this year.  The deadline for introducing new legislation is February 12.

It appears lawmakers in Tennessee are looking to dissolve the commission simply “due to it not being profitable and able to sustain itself financially.”.  While government efficiency is always welcome, this analysis misses the mark.

The only reason for government control of sports such as MMA and boxing is participant safety, not state profit.  Much like the government would not stop regulating roadway safety because it is expensive, the government has no business turning away from combat sports regulation simply because of the cost.

The purpose of the Athletic Commission is to “ensure the Safety of the Competitors, the ring officials and the spectators of all contests of unarmed combat in the State of Tennessee.”.  Not to help the State turn a profit.

After being questioned about their expenses and revenues and revealing that they are not self sustainable, the Commission was asked by lawmakers to reveal their “accomplishments”.  The commission responded by highlighting all the televised events they oversaw in their jurisdiction.

This is a sad exchange by both parties involved.  The commission’s accomplishments include licencing competent officials, ensuring healthy competitors are licensed for competition and having a good track record of participant safety and promoter regulation.  Hosting events that make money for the State may be a collateral benefit but is an ‘accomplishment‘ that misses the mark.

The Nashville Sports Mix has been vocal about keeping the sport alive and regulated in the State.  If you agree that Tennessee lawmakers need to remember public safety over profit you should read their article and reach out to the referenced people to be vocal and take action.

Update January 22, 2015 – Silver has now indeed been arrested and charged in an alleged corruption and bribery scheme.  The full criminal complaint can be found here: Sheldon Silver Criminal Complaint

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As Yahoo Sports writer Kevin Iole speculated in 2013, Legal MMA in New York is not likely “until assembly speaker Sheldon Silver’s gone.

In a surprising twist of events, the New York Times reports that Silver is expected to be arrested tomorrow on corruption charges.  The Times reports as follows:

Federal authorities are expected to arrest Sheldon Silver, the powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly, on corruption charges on Thursday, people with knowledge of the matter said, in a case that is likely to throw Albany into disarray.

The investigation that led to the expected charges against Mr. Silver, a Democrat from the Lower East Side of Manhattan who has served as speaker for more than two decades, began after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in March abruptly shut down an anticorruption commission he had created in 2013.

Details of the specific charges to be brought against Mr. Silver were unclear on Wednesday night, but one of the people with knowledge of the matter said they stemmed from payments that Mr. Silver received from a small law firm that specializes in seeking reductions of New York City real estate taxes. Mr. Silver failed to list the payments from the firm, Goldberg & Iryami, on his annual financial disclosure filings, as required.

The total amount of the payments was unclear, but another person has said they were substantial and were made over several years.

This New York Daily News article from late 2014 may have insight into the potential background facts behind the rumoured arrest.

Last year the NSAC took bold steps in attempting to drug test Wanderlei Silva, who at the time was not licensed with the commission.  After Silva unceremoniously ducked the test the NSAC doubled down and issued Silva a lifetime ban for the alleged infraction of their rules.

Earlier this year I discussed why the NSAC was legally on thin ice.  Ross Goodman, Silva’s lawyer, has now filed a memorandum of points and authorities in support of their request for immediate reversal of the NSAC decision.  You can find the full memorandum here (Wanderlei Silva Memorandum of Points and Authorities).

Goodman makes sound points as to why that the commission overstepped their bounds.  The Commission failed to voice any reasons justifying their stance on jurisdiction when they punished Silva.  I have asked the NSAC to provide me with a copy of their Court filings in this case and will update this article when these are provided to me.

Overshadowed in yesterday’s NSAC hearing was Francisco Rivera’s appeal to overturn his loss to Uriah Faber at UFC 181.  After stunning Rivera with an eye poke in the second round, Faber went on to win via bulldog choke.

The referee, Mario Yamasaki, did not notice the eye poke but it was quite evident, on instant replay, that the eye poke occurred and was instrumental in the the final series of events ending the bout.  The NSAC adjourned the hearing for a month as they were unsure if they had jurisdiction to overturn the result.  They asked for legal arguments addressing this issue.  In all likelihood they do not have jurisdiction.  Here’s the breakdown –

Other than when a positive drug test is involved, the NSAC can only overturn a decision in the limited circumstances set out in chapter 467.770.  These are as follows:

1.  The Commission determines that there was collusion affecting the result of the contest or exhibition;

2.  The compilation of the scorecards of the judges discloses an error which shows that the decision was given to the wrong unarmed combatant; or

3.  As the result of an error in interpreting a provision of this chapter, the referee has rendered an incorrect decision.

Clearly 1 and 2 don’t apply.  The only argument can be #3.  Francisco can argue that the referee ‘misinterpreted’ the rules as eye pokes are prohibited, and if seen, should have resulted in a break of up to five minutes.

This argument, however, will likely fall short of the mark.  A referee missing a foul is clearly different than a referee misinterpreting the rules and is not contemplated in the plain reading of point #3.

Rivera can argue that the foul was clear on instant replay and the referee should have changed his decision after this became clear.  Unfortunately this will fall short of the mark as well as Nevada’s instant replay rule is limited as follows

After making a determination, a referee may view a replay, if available, at the conclusion of a contest or exhibition stopped immediately due to an injury to an unarmed combatant

So the use of replay is only to be used when the contest is stopped due to an injury.  Here the contest was stopped due to legal submission so the instant replay rule is not triggered.

In short, unless the rules are overhauled, the NSAC would not have jurisdiction to overturn this bout decision based on a referee missing an unintentional eye poke.

UPDATE January 16, 2016 - the full CIR test results were released and can be found here – jon-jones-ufc-182-steroid-profile

January 8, 2015Bleacher Report has interviewed NSAC Director Bennett who confirms that CIR testing was indeed done and that “none of the results were a concern“.

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In the wake of Jon Jones’ recent cocaine scandal, a potentially bigger and more important story has developed.  The out of competition tests Jones had prior to his UFC 182 light heavyweight title defense revealed seemingly unusual testosterone to epitestosterone ratios.  You can click here for background information on this.

A lot of questions are being asked about these findings and speculation is being raised as to the possible cause of these low levels.  Further testing can apparently clear the air.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission, the government body who sanctioned these tests, has the ability to address these questions.  Jones’ samples were reviewed by the World Anti Doping Agency accredited lab in Salt Lake City.  This is a world class facility and there is a strong likelihood the samples still remain in their custody.  If the samples are still available CIR Testing can reveal whether synthetic testosterone played a role in the readings.

The NSAC, who continue to have jurisdiction over this matter, and whose mission statement is to “ensure the health and safety of the contestants” have a duty to get to the bottom of this matter.  They can request that CIR testing be done if the samples are still available.

I have asked the NSAC to confirm if Jones’ samples are still available and whether their office any plans to conduct CIR testing.  I will update this article if/when they reply.

Today it was announced that Jon Jones tested positive for cocaine metabolites in a random drug test taken 30 days prior to his latest title defense at UFC 182.

The results were known ahead of the bout so why was the fight allowed to proceed?  Because cocaine, while prohibited by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, is only banned ‘in competition’.

NAC 467.850 Subsection (f) adopts the WADA prohibited list of substances.  The latest edition lists cocaine as a prohibited substance but not out of competition (ie prohibited at any time) but only in-competition. Cocaine is listed under S6 of the Prohibited list which comes with the following stipulation In addition to the categories S0 to S5 and M1 to M3 defined above,

the following categories are prohibited In-Competition:”

Generally “In-Competition” means the period commencing twelve hours before a Competition in which the athlete is scheduled to participate through the end of such Competition and the Sample collection process related to such Competition.

Interestingly NAC 467.850 specifically states that stimulants cannot be administered “either before or during a contest or exhibition” but the term before is not defined so it can be argued that cocaine use some 30 days prior to bout is prohibited but the NSAC seems content to defer to the WADA distinctions of in and out of competition use.

While the result does not overturn the result of the bout the door is open for potential discipline with NAC 467.886 prohibiting a licencee from engaging in “any activity that will bring disrepute to unarmed combat“.

Some interesting points to consider from all of this –

1. Why is the NSAC testing out of competition for a substance not banned out of competition?

2. Since the results were available prior to the bout why the delay in releasing the results to the public?

3.  Why are the results being released publicly at all since the substance is beyond the scope of the relevant substances to be tested for during the timeframe?

4.  The NSAC has told the LA Times that “discipline is an option available to the commission”.  While this is certainly true, why would the commission not canvass the matter of discipline once the results were known instead of waiting until after the lucrative bout took place?

5.   What, if anything, is the UFC prepared to do about this as the use of cocaine violates their Code of Conduct which specifically allows for discipline to be imposed for “substance abuse”.?

In my ongoing efforts to highlight studies addressing safety issues in combat sports, an interesting study was recently published by Benjamin Lee and Stuart McGill from the Spine Biomechanics Laboratory, at the University of Waterloo (Canada) testing the peak forces caused by MMA gloves contrasted with 16 oz boxing gloves.  The study also reviewed the time to peak force between these gloves along with their patterns of wear during 10,000 strikes.

The study reached the following conclusions:

MMA  gloves  produced  4‐5  times  greater peak force and 5 times faster load rate compared to the boxing glove. However, MMA gloves also showed signs of material fatigue, with peak  force increasing by 35% and rate of loading increasing by 60% over  the duration of  the  test. Boxing glove  characteristics  did  deteriorate  but  to  a  lesser  extent.  In  summary,  the  kinetic  properties  of  MMA  glove  differed substantially from the boxing glove resulting in impacts characterized by higher peak forces and more rapid development of  force. Material properties including stiffness and  thickness play a role in  the kinetic characteristics upon impact, and can be inferred to alter injury mechanisms of blunt force trauma. 

The full study can be found here: Striking dynamics and kinetic properties of boxing and MMA gloves

I asked physicist Jason Thalken, a person who knows a thing or two about the science of striking, for some feedback on the importance of this data who felt that the peak force metric was not nearly as important as the faster time to peak force produced by MMA gloves.  Here are Jason’s comments:

Jason Thalken 1

JAson Thalken 2

As a long time fan of MMA and other combat sports I feel past, current and future athletes are owed a fair and sober discussion of the realities of traumatic brain injury.  Yes a bit of common sense tells us these sports have inherent dangers and yes being hit in the head is not good for ones health.  That said, the legacy of traumatic brain injury usually builds slowly over time and can be a near invisible problem that deserves its ever increasing attention.

To this end I recently came across a video and medical case study from storied MMA veteran Guy Mezger who has been left with a legacy of traumatic brain injury after ‘17 years of being hit in the head.’

Here is Guy’s story along with a case study detailing his symptoms.  I’m not sharing this to bash the sport, simply pointing out an ugly byproduct that can come with a career in MMA.

Guy presented with:

  • daily bouts of severe dizziness
  • was not able to perform normal daily activities due to lack of balance
  • difficulty tracking written word
  • difficulty walking
  • daily mental fatigue
  • memory loss
  • Profound reduction in his balance on a normal surface, even with his eyes open.
  • Severe reduction in balance on a flat surface, with eyes closed.
  • Profound reduction in balance on an unstable surface with eyes open.
  • Profound reduction in balance on an unstable (foam) surface with eyes open.

The below video is an advertisement detailing some treatments Mezger took which fortunately appear to have lessened some of his symptoms.  Despite the commercial nature of the below video the points made about having an exit strategy and the focus on brain health are worth highlighting for those involved in combat sports.

On a related note, former MMA fighter and boxer Michele “Diablita” Gutierrez recently shared the long term effects she has suffered from combat sports which can be found here.