Legal Considerations in Chris Weidman’s Appeal

Posted: April 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

UpdateToday the NYSAC released a statement defending the result noting “In New York State, it has been held that the Commission may review video evidence in order to meet its obligation to render correct determinations and act in the best interest of the sport“.  Where this policy is written and its parameters are unclear.

Further update – the above language likely refers to Frank v. Stevens, 52 A.D.3d 316 (N.Y. App. 2008) where the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York held that the Commission “retains the power and discretion to reverse a referee’s in-fight determination” and in doing so can review videotape evidence.

Whether the referee can utilize instant replay to overturn his own earlier decision is murkier given the language of the NYSAC’s regulations.  However, since video can be utilized on appeal Weidman’s chances of overturning the TKO loss are slim to none.

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The New York State Athletic Commission has faced a host of controversies from UFC 210 – From Daniel Cormier pulling a fast one during weigh ins to the commission’s flip flopping on the legality of breast implants the event had its share of regulatory issues.

The latest controversy involves Chris Weidman and the turn of events that led to his TKO loss to Gegard Mousasi.

Action was stopped after what referee Dan Miragliotta initially deemed to be an illegal knee to a grounded opponent.  Weidman was given time to recover from the apparent foul.  During this time Miragliotta changed his opinion as to the legality of the knee.  In doing so he apparently relied on either video replay or the opinions of other ringside officials. Weidman, upon medical examination, was deemed unfit to continue thus ending the bout with a TKO defeat.

As reported by MMAJunkie, Weidman has decided to appeal this outcome.

On the one hand the NYSAC can attempt to frame this as simply a run of the mill TKO based on medical advice following a legal strike.  Weidman, on the other hand, will frame this as an unjust outcome with a referee improperly relying on video replay to change his previous decision.  So what legal factors are in play?

The fight ending blow was delivered when Weidman had one hand on the mat.  While the old ‘unified rules’ of MMA used to define this as a grounded fighter New York is one of the many jurisdictions to adopt the ABC’s recommended rule changes to the definition of grounded fighter which now reads as follows 

A grounded fighter is defined as: Any part of the body, other than a single hand and soles of the feet touching the fighting area floor. To be grounded, both hands palm/fist down, and/or any other body part must be touching the fighting area floor.

Section 212.10(15) of the NYSAC’s regulations prohibits “Kneeing the head of a grounded opponent” but since the grounded fighter definition was not triggered no foul occurred.

The referee erroneously called a foul and stopped the action.  From here things get a little tricky.

In justifying the end result the NYSAC can rely on regulation 212.12(c) which reads as follows

If an injury sustained during competition as a result of a legal maneuver is severe enough that the referee or ringside physician terminates a bout, the injured contestant shall lose by technical knockout.

Weidman, on the other hand, will want the original call of a foul to stand triggering section 212.12(b) which stipulates that

If the referee determines that a contest or exhibition of professional mixed martial arts may not continue because of an injury suffered as the result of an accidental foul, the contest or exhibition shall be declared a no contest if the foul occurs during either of the following: (1) The first two rounds of a scheduled three-round contest or exhibition

The NYSAC’s rules do not expressly make provision for the use of video replay so to the extent that Miragliotta relied on video or other ringside officials to change his mind Weidman can argue there is fettered discretion.

There is no controversy in the bout being stopped on medical advice with Section 212.13 specifically giving the ringside physician authority to stop a contest with subsection (b) reading as follows:

The referee is the immediate arbiter of the contest. The referee and the ringside physician are the only individuals authorized to enter the ring or fenced area at any time during competition, and either shall be authorized to stop a contest at any time.

This is repeated in s. 208.6(b) which states ” The ringside physician may terminate any professional combative sport contest or exhibition at any time if, in the opinion of such physician, the health or well-being of any participant would be significantly jeopardized by continuation of the contest or exhibition.

The same section, however, can also prove problematic for the decision as the “referee is the immediate arbiter of the contest” and to the extent that the referee consulted with others Weidman can argue that he improperly fettered his discretion.

Section 206.14 provides appellate and due process rights to Weidman.  The section, however, is silent on what circumstances the NYSAC can overturn the result of the contest.

Section 212.1 appears to defer to the ABC’s ‘unified rules’ reading as follows

The authority to render final determinations based on the application and interpretation of the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts for contests held within the State of New York shall be vested in the State Athletic Commission.

These unfortunately are also silent on appeal standards leaving a void.

The most common test for appeals in other jurisdictions, such as Nevada, restricts overturning of contests to the following scenarios –

  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.

Assuming the NYSAC is prepared to adopt this standard number 3 would be the only applicable factor meaning the appeal result will largely rest on the Referee’s actions.

If Miragliotta admits or the evidence otherwise establishes that he improperly delegated his discretion to video replay or others Weidman may have a chance of succeeding.  More likely, however is that the TKO defeat stands as the NYSAC will need to ensure the “final determination” on appeal is consistent with the ABC Unified Rules which it presently is even though Miragliotta took an unusual path to get there.

In other words, getting it right is more important than the route to get there.

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  1. […] Legal Considerations in Chris Weidman’s Appeal […]

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