As previously discussed, the UFC’s new anti-doping policy largely mirrors the World Anti Doping Code making USADA arbitration decisions highly relevant to UFC fighters.  If UFC fighters want to see what punishments will look like under the new UFC policy they need look no further than to USADA arbitration decisions.  To this end I will continue to summarize relevant decisions here.

Today, reasons for judgement were released addressing the start date of a 4 year suspension following a doping violation.

In today’s case ( USADA v. Trafeh) Trafeh was a professional distance runner. He was found with EPO and also violated USADA’s ‘whereabouts’ policy.  Following an arbitration the athlete was suspended from competition for 4 years for these violations.  The arbitrator ordered that the suspension commence from January 2012, which was the first date of the athlete’s anti doping violation.

Unsatisfied, USADA appealed arguing the 4 year suspension should begin on December 2014.  The Court of Arbitration for Sport agreed and granted the later date.  In reaching this conclusion the Court noted this was the mandatory outcome under the World Anti Doping Code.

UFC athletes should note that the language of ‘commencement of ineligibility period’ provisions are identical under the UFC’s policy reading as follows:

10.11 Commencement of Ineligibility Period

Except as provided below, the period of Ineligibility shall start on the date of the final hearing decision providing for Ineligibility or, if the hearing is waived or there is no hearing, on the date Ineligibility is accepted or otherwise imposed.

10.11.1 Delays Not Attributable to the Athlete or other Person

Where there have been substantial delays in the hearing process or other aspects of Doping Control not attributable to the Athlete or other Person, USADA may start the period of Ineligibility at an earlier date commencing as early as the date of Sample collection or the date on which another Anti-Doping Policy Violation last occurred. All Bout results achieved during the period of Ineligibility, including retroactive Ineligibility, may be Disqualified by UFC.

10.11.2 Timely Admission

Where the Athlete or other Person promptly (which, in all cases, for an Athlete means before the Athlete Bouts again) admits the Anti-Doping Policy Violation after being confronted with the Anti-Doping Policy Violation by USADA, the period of Ineligibility may start as early as the date of Sample collection or the date on which another Anti-Doping Policy Violation last occurred. In each case, however, where this Article is applied, the Athlete or other Person shall serve at least one-half of the period of Ineligibility going forward from the date the Athlete or other Person accepted the imposition of a sanction, the date of a hearing decision imposing a sanction, or the date the sanction is otherwise imposed. This Article shall not apply where the period of Ineligibility has already been reduced under Article

10.6.3. 10.11.3 Credit for Provisional Suspension or Period of Ineligibility Served

10.11.3.1 If a Provisional Suspension is imposed on, or voluntarily accepted by, an Athlete or other Person and that Provisional Suspension is respected, then the Athlete or other Person shall receive a credit for such period of Provisional Suspension against any period of Ineligibility which may ultimately be imposed.

10.11.3.2 No credit against a period of Ineligibility shall be given for any time period before the effective date of the Provisional Suspension, or suspension by any Athletic Commission, regardless of whether the Athlete elected not to compete.

Update – WSOF is now apparently seeking to change venue after learning elimination tournaments are illegal in Washington State.  Ariel Helwani posted the following tweet –

Helwanti Tweet Re Elimination Tournament

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Earlier today MMAJunkie reported that the World Series of Fighting plans a one night eight man elimination tournament to be held in Seattle in November with the following tweet –

WSOF Tweet Re Elimination Tournament

The problem with this?  Leaving aside the ABC’s medical committee’s stance that elimination tournament MMA should “not be endorsed” Washington State law prohibits elimination tournaments.  You can access Washington State’s Law Relating to Combative Sports here.

Specifically RCW 67 08.015(4) bans elimination tournaments reading as follows (bold emphasis is mine):

No amateur or professional no holds barred fighting or combative fighting type of contest, exhibition, match, or similar type of event, nor any elimination tournament, may be held in this state. Any person promoting such an event is guilty of a class C felony. Additionally, the director may apply to a superior court for an injunction against any and all promoters of a contest, and may request that the court seize all money and assets relating to the competition.

I reached out to the Washington State Department of Licencing on whether they planned to approve this event.  They confirmed the event has not been approved and that legislation prohibits it.  Sandra Gonzales, the Departments Combative Sports Program Manager, responded as follows –

Thank you for your inquiry and link to an article regarding a possible elimination tournament to be held in Washington State. 

However, we have not approved this event and you are correct that Washington State law prohibits these types of events.”.

Perhaps the event is planned to be hosted on tribal land, however, if the event is held in a venue where the State’s Department of Licencing has jurisdiction it will be off limits.

A study was recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reviewing the Amateur International Boxing Association’s recent rule change to remove headgear from international competition.

In the recent study (Because Not All Blows To the Head are the Same) the authors suggest that one type of impact, namely head clashes, can lead to serious injury and headgear is effective in reducing these risks.

The study reviews a specific case involving  22 year old boxer who suffered an acute subdural haematoma following an international bout where he received multiple head to head impacts.

The study notes that while the number of direct punches to the head are relatively similar with and without headgear, head to head impacts rose more than 40% with no headgear.

The study suggests that the risk of injury from head clashes is a reason to revisit the issue of whether headgear should be worn in amateur boxing.

A journal subscription is needed to access the full article but an extract is available here.

In the latest prosecution alleging UFC pay per view piracy, reasons for judgement were released recently by the US District Court, E.D. California, assessing damages at a fraction of what was claimed.

In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Al-Arshad) the Defendant operated a commercial establishment and displayed UFC 165 on five television sets.  The Defendant did not pay the commercial sub licencing fee to do so which would have been at least $750.  There were between 25-35 patrons at the establishment during the program.

The Plaintiff sued and asked for maximum statutory damages of $110,000.  The Court largely rejected this claim as being disproportionate to the harm caused and recommenced total damages at $3,250.  In rejecting maximum damages District Judge McAuliffe reasoned as follows:

It is undisputed Defendant did not charge a cover for patrons to enter the Restaurant to watch the Program, nor did Defendant increase prices, or require food and drink purchases. There were also very few patrons in the bar and only five televisions broadcasting the Program. (See Andrews Decl, p. 2.) Plaintiff also presents no evidence Defendant is a repeat offender. Given these facts, the Court in its discretion finds the minimum statutory damage amount to be appropriate.

Accordingly, the Court RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff be awarded the minimum statutory damages allowed, $1,000…

Plaintiff also requests enhanced damages pursuant to Section 605(e)(3)(C)(ii). (Doc. 20-1 at 15-21.) This section authorizes the Court to award up to $100,000, in its discretion, upon finding that the violation “was committed willfully and for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial gain.” 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii)…

The Court does not find that an award of maximum damages under Section 605 is appropriate here. There is no evidence of significant “commercial advantage or private financial gain” in the instant case. Plaintiff has presented evidence that Defendant had five television sets in his commercial establishment that displayed the Program, and the affiant asserts that there were between 25-35 patrons present during its investigation. (See Andrews Decl., p. 2-3.) However, as already discussed, there is no evidence that Defendants assessed a cover charge, required a minimum purchase from patrons, or had a special premium on food and drinks on the night of the fight. See Kingvision Pay-PerView, Ltd. v. Backman, 102 F. Supp. 2d 1196, 1198 n.2 (N.D. Cal. 2000) (stating that “[a]n establishment that does not promote itself by advertising the Program, does not assess a cover charge, and does not charge a special premium for food and drinks hardly seems like the willful perpetrators envisioned by the statute’s framers.”). Plaintiff has also failed to present evidence that Defendant has violated Section 605 on prior occasions.

In light of the above mentioned facts, the Court does not agree that the maximum enhanced damages award is warranted. Although Plaintiff cites to several out-of-district cases to support its request for maximum enhanced damages possible (Doc. 20 at 15-21), Plaintiff has not cited any binding precedent or identified any specific circumstances that justify such a high award here. Accordingly, the Court concludes that an award of $1,500—twice the value of the commercial license to air the program—is more than adequate and just to compensate Plaintiff for lost profits and to deter Defendant’s future infringement…

Based on the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff’s application for default judgment (Doc. 20) be GRANTED and judgment entered be entered in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendant in the amount of $3,250 in total damages.

As recently discussed, one of the most important questions in combat sports medicine is how much head trauma is too much?

Although the answer is not known, the current regulatory landscape could use improvement in deciding when regulators should pull the plug on an athlete that is ‘too tough for their own good‘.  To this end an important study was published today in the Journal of The Physician and Sports Medicine addressing this issue and calling for regulatory consistency.

In today’s article titled Determining Brain Fitness to Fight: Has the Time Come? the authors highlight the fact that “up to 20-50% of former professional boxers” exhibit symptoms of  chronic brain injury.  They further note that “the precise threshold of damage required for the production of both acute and chronic neuropathology remains elusive; thus early detection and appropriate management of neurological injury in professional boxing is imperative“.

The note that without central regulation “there is little uniformity with regard to the medical regulation of professional boxing in the United States” with some commissions understanding the perils of head trauma far less than others.  The authors call for a uniform set of minimum requirements for brain safety that would be available and shared between states.  The recommended standards include –

  • Standardized neurological testing
  • Use of Neuroimaging
  • Adoption of a Fight Exposure Index to identify High Risk Fighters
  • To consider looking to biomarkers in future years if their clinical significance becomes clearer

The article ends with the following conclusion –

Unfortunately, acute and chronic brain injuries are the most common injuries sustained by boxers. The sport has long been regulated by state commissions, but currently these governing bodies vary greatly in providing for the neurologic health of boxers. Many states lack best practice medical requirements and enforcement varies widely, which leads to forum shopping by the boxer until a favorable fighting venue is located. State regulation of boxing also results in conflicts of interest because stringent regulation by a state may lead to lost revenues when a bout is scheduled elsewhere. Boxing remains the only major sport in this country that lacks a central regulatory organization. Concussion and lasting brain damage is an especially significant risk for boxers, as the goal of the sport is, in fact, to deliver a concussion to the opponent. With studies estimating that up to half of all boxers will suffer from chronic traumatic brain injuries, the time has come for the development of uniform minimum requirements for brain safety that all states incorporate. The health of boxers and the long-term viability of the sport both depend on it.

MMAFA Website Logo

Today the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association launched a new website.  Included at the site are articles, videos, archived podcasts and other media addressing issues important to the organization.  Fighters, Press and Supporters can sign up for the organizations newsletters as well.  Among the information contained there is the following background and mission statement of the organization

The Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association (“MMAFA”) is an association comprised entirely of mixed   martial artists and their trainers.  Modeled closely after the Major League Baseball Players’ Association and the Screen Actors Guild, the MMAFA will be led and directed by its members and their elected member representatives.  The MMAFA aims to maximize the influence and earning capacity of its members in the sport of mixed martial arts.The trademarks, logos, website, domains, and all other property of the MMAFA will be held in trust for the collective benefit of MMAFA members.  The MMAFA provides its members with a brand that can be monetized through the sale of merchandise, and through licensing to third parties.  The MMAFA also provides the following to all of its members:
  • Media platform and publicity vehicle to promote and publicize the activities of our members;
  • Revenue maximization through merchandising and licensing of collective brand; and
  • Lobbying, and if necessary, litigation vehicle.

The Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association assisted its members in a breach of contract dispute with promoter EliteXC. The MMAFA, on behalf of its members, forwarded a demand letter to EliteXC officials seeking a release of its members from EliteXC contracts.  The MMAFA also drafted a complaint that it was prepared to file in the event that EliteXC refused to voluntarily release the fighters from their promotional agreements.  The dispute was resolved shortly thereafter when Strikeforce, a mixed martial arts promotion, acquired the promotional agreements of fighters in an asset sale.

 The MMAFA’s mission statement is set forth below:

MISSION STATEMENT
 
a) To bring together in this organization, regardless of race, creed, color or nationality, all competitive mixed martial artists, coaches and trainers.
b) To establish improvements in the economic, physical and security conditions of employment for mixed martial artists, coaches and trainers.
c) To provide information and assistance to mixed martial artists, coaches and trainers and engage in activities to advance and safeguard their welfare.
d) To establish, conduct, and maintain such educational, recreational, social and charitable enterprises as may assist in the advancement of the Association and it Members.
e) To develop such projects and enterprises which will bring further benefits and revenues to Members as individuals or to the Association as an entity.
f) To promote and foster the best interest of mixed martial arts.
g) To take all steps and actions, consistent with the Constitution and Bylaws of the Association, to implement and carry out the objects, rights, activities and responsibilities of this organization.

Arizona lawyer and founder of the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association Rob Maysey appeared on a podcast earlier this week where he discussed his efforts at organizing fighters, the anti-trust lawsuits, the Ali Act and other legal issues in the landscape of MMA.

The MMAFA’s organizing efforts are perhaps one of the biggest fights in MMA right now and are not without challenge and controversy.  During his interview Maysey explains there are many fighters that are now part of the organization and these go well beyond those that have publicly identified themselves.    Maysey notes as follows –

In fact there are already many more that are already active participants in what the fighters are doing they are just not yet public.  Essentially we tell all the guys ‘we are not going to publicize you until you are comfortable.  We’re not outing you. You can out yourselves’  Fighters are going gym to gym right now.  That process is underway.  Just because you guys have seen about 7 guys public, don’t assume its 7.  Its many more.”

These growing numbers are apparently making some people uncomfortable to the point that Maysey’s efforts are resulting in threats against him and his law firm.  Maysey commented as follows –

I am getting threats.  My firm has been threatened.   My job has been threatened.  Numerous times.  And they are very blunt.  ‘Rob your life at your firm is about to become very rough’.”

The podcast experienced technical difficulties shortly after and the full interview is not available but I encourage anyone interested in the details of the battle to organize MMA fighters to listen to ‘part 1’ of the interview.

I have reached out to Maysey asking for him to elaborate about the nature of the threats he is receiving.  I will update this article if he replies.

Update – August 18, 2015 – another useful discussion was recently published in the text “Brain Neurotrauma” confirming that more insight into CTE is needed with the authors noting “Despite extensive publicity, the real risk of CTE among amateur and professional players has not been measured or adequately characterized and notions derived from autopsy studies, although useful for understanding mechanisms, cannot give an accurate picture of the range of outcomes after repeat concussions and are limited because of ascertainment bias

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As recently discussed, science does not have a clear understanding of how many hits are too many when it comes to a career in combative sports.  What is known, however, is that an accumulation of trauma, both concussive and sub-concussive, play a role in the development of CTE.

A study was recently published in the Journal of Current Pain and Headache Reports titled “Concussion in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy” confirming this understanding.

The authors note that “Overall, the number of years of exposure, not the number of concussions, was significantly associated with worse tau pathology in CTE. This suggests that it is the chronic and repetitive nature of head trauma, irrespective of concussive symptoms, that is the most important driver of disease.”

The study’s Abstract, which can be found here (I can’t republish the full study yet as it is behind a paywall) notes:

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that occurs in association with repetitive mild traumatic brain injury. It is associated with a variety of clinical symptoms in multiple domains, and there is a distinct pattern of pathological changes. The abnormal tau pathology in CTE occurs uniquely in those regions of the brain that are likely most susceptible to stress concentration during trauma. CTE has been associated with a variety of types of repetitive head trauma, most frequently contact sports. In cases published to date, the mean length of exposure to repetitive head trauma was 15.4 years. The clinical symptoms of the disease began after a mean latency of 14.5 years with a mean age of death of 59.3 years. Most subjects had a reported history of concussions with a mean of 20.3. However, 16 % of published CTE subjects did not have a history of concussion suggesting that subconcussive hits are sufficient to lead to the development of CTE. Overall, the number of years of exposure, not the number of concussions, was significantly associated with worse tau pathology in CTE. This suggests that it is the chronic and repetitive nature of head trauma, irrespective of concussive symptoms, that is the most important driver of disease. CTE and exposure to repetitive head trauma is also associated with a variety of other neurodegenerations, including Alzheimer disease. In fact, amyloid β peptide deposition is altered and accelerated in CTE and is associated with worse disease. Here, we review the current exposure, clinical, and pathological associations of CTE.


“Arena Combat”, a two on two variation of mixed martial arts hosted in an arena equipped with padded obstacles, has recently been approved by the South Carolina Athletic Commission.

The SCAC has the distinction of the being the first North American State or Provincial commission to approve such a professional combative sport.  While a similar event has been previously hosted in Virginia, that was an amateur event that escaped scrutiny of the State’s athletic commission.

When approving events outside the norm commissions sometimes take liberties with the application of their rules but a quick analysis of South Carolina’s regulatory scheme shows that their State Commission is created with powers broad enough to approve novel forms of combative sports.

Unlike many jurisdictions that have a defined list of combative sports commissions can approve, South Carolina has taken a more open ended approach defining regulated combative sports as “any professional sport where participants intend and actually kick, punch, and use other techniques to injure or disable an opponent in an event or exhibition before an audience on a platform, a pad, or in an area surrounded by ropes or other markings.

The Regulations go on to not require contests to be one vs one (though they did think of reducing to writing the fact that you can’t fight an animal in the Palmetto State with regulation 20-24.3 reading “The Commission will not sanction events involving animals, other than human beings, nor issue permits for events in which they participate“.)

Moving on, Regulation 20-24.4 specifically allows the SCAC to approve an event for whcih “No Regulations Exist” reading as follows:

 When an application for a permit is received and no regulations exist for that type of event, the Commission may: 1. Deny the permit 2. Designate that regulation for a related combative art be used 3. Designate that acceptance of regulations of a licensed school be used, unless they conflict with the State’s laws and regulations. 

So, the lesson being, if you are looking to push the boundaries of modern combative sprots, South Carolina may welcome you so long as you don’t want to fight a kangaroo.

Here are the minutes specifically approving this Event –

Event Permitting Hearing: Arena Combat/Casey Oxendine

The Commission held an event permitting hearing regarding Arena Combat with the CEO of HipShow, Casey Oxendine, to approve Arena Combat under MMA. Blake Grice, head referee in South Carolina and Georgia, joined the meeting via teleconference to provide his input regarding an arena combat event that he 6 refereed. Discussion ensued regarding the safety of the fighters, rules of the event, number of doctor’s and EMT’s present and event insurance.

MOTION: Mr. McCullough made the motion to enter Executive Session to obtain legal advice. Mr. Shoemake seconded the motion, which carried unanimously.

MOTION: Mr. Shoemake made the motion to grant a one time approval for an event permit upon compliance of the following conditions: Removal of Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight weight classes from the events, the presence of three (3) fight doctors, a 3 – 4 hour training session for participating referees, requirement of referees to use football style whistles, the head referee would have a microphone and that South Carolina’s Rules and Regulations are adopted as reference. Finally, HipShow has thirty (30) days to submit an application for an event permit.

In my ongoing efforts highlighting the prosecution of UFC Pay Per View piracy cases, reasons for judgement were released this month by the US District Court, D. Hawaii, with some troubling allegations.

In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc v. Chalfont) the Plaintiff company, who has commercial licencing rights for various UFC pay per view programs, alleged that the Defendant displayed UFC 147 in a commercial establishment without paying the sub licencing fee and sued for damages.  The Plaintiff’s investigator claimed that “he observed a Dell computer “on the bar in the back” showing part of UFC 147, including a fight between Fabricio Werdum and Mike Russow“.

The Defendant disputed the allegations claiming that

  • No portion of UFC 147 was shown at the Tavern
  • That he suspected that the Defendant’s investigator “entrapped him by placing scenes of UFC 147 on the public computer Chalfont provided for the use of his guests”
  • that the computer allegedly involved was not capable of effectively streaming the program,
  • that the investigator’s pictures from the night of the alleged violation were actually taken at a later date.

Joe Hand sought summary judgement against the Defendant arguing, among other things, that

  • the opposition to the claim was filed one day late
  • the opposition used the wrong size font
  • the opposition was not double spaced

Chief District Judge Mollway found these arguments unpersuasive noting no prejudice arose from these technical deficiencies.  The Court dismissed Joe Hand’s bid for summary judgement noting there are enough triable factual issues to make summary judgement inappropriate.

It should be noted that none of the allegations of the parties (be it piracy on behalf of the defendant or entrapment or on behalf of the plaintiff) have yet been proven.  I will further report on this case as reported reasons for judgement come to light.