by Charles Jay
Whether it’s boxing or mixed martial arts, there are a lot of agendas at work….at all times.
So of course you knew, since they occupy the same town (and it’s barely big enough for the two of them) that Dana White, the president of the UFC, was going to have issues with Floyd Mayweather getting a free pass from the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his May 5 fight against Miguel Cotto.
White is up in arms over what he feels is a double standard at work. You see, in his stable he has Chael Sonnen, a middleweight who he thinks may have gotten a raw deal from the Nevada State Athletic Commission. over a substance-related issue, and he is not anticipating favorable treatment for Nick Diaz, who has tested positive for marijuana, while Mayweather, in his estimation, skates away scot-free after a criminal conviction, via plea deal.
Looking at it from one angle, it might sound a little silly that Nevada would lack perspective. After all, whatever White’s fighters may have been suspended for, it doesn’t amount to time spent in jail, does it?
But if there is any city where money talks, it’s Las Vegas, so why should Dana White be surprised at all?
Neither Chael Sonnen nor Nick Diaz are at the star level Floyd Mayweather occupies. Neither of them can generate the money, for an event, or a city, that Mayweather has already done. That may not sound fair, but athletic commissions are encouraged, or in some cases, mandated to be self-sufficient, and the way they take giant steps in that direction
This sounds like someone feigning the “babe in the woods” routine here. As if White, and his partners, the Fertitta brothers, would be unfamiliar with the concept of “juice” when it came to an athletic commission. Okay, maybe that’s a poor choice of words, and we don’t intend to throw the double entendre out there; “juice” as we refer to it means power or influence. And you’re going to tell me the guys from the UFC haven’t exercised some of that in Nevada? It’s not like other MMA organizations, for as long as they lasted, ever gained any kind of a foothold in the city of Las Vegas.
And if you believe the stories that have circulated for years in MMA circles, Lorenzo Fertitta may have helped to facilitate his own bargain-basement purchase of the UFC in the first place by tipping the scales on a vote of disapproval of sanction by the commission – while he was sitting on it – that contributed to reducing the struggling organization’s value even more, before he jumped in with White to “save the day.”
So no tears please.
In a strange way, White has fallen victim to his own business model. The UFC’s strategy is designed not to highlight the stars as much as it highlights the brand. That’s the way they do business, that’s what they trumpet, and that’s what’s been successful. In effect, he is a victim of his own, for lack of a better word, “genius.”
Yeah, there are “stars,” for certain. Brock Lesnar was a draw on the order of some of boxing’s best on pay-per-view, but when you come to think of it, could Lesnar, or any other UFC standout, fill up a casino with players who make a difference to the bottom line? Mixed martial arts isn’t what is necessarily known as a “casino sport,” at least not yet. If it was, don’t you think that the Fertittas would have constructed an arena by now at one of his own Station Casinos properties and held some of their UFC events there?
The point is, in the entire Las Vegas landscape, considerations for individual UFC fighters just don’t “register” as much as they do with some boxers, because of their relative effects on the local economy, which means bringing people into casinos for the purposes of wagering. It’s a cynical view, but valid nonetheless.
One could expect to hear an “apples and oranges” argument here. Again, as silly as this may sound to the layman, whatever Floyd Mayweather may have been sentenced for, it was unrelated to his performance or behavior in the ring during an event that was sanctioned by a boxing commission. The primary function of the Nevada State Athletic Commission is not to enforce the criminal laws, but to enforce boxing law, as they are authorized to do so in the Nevada Statutes.
Offenses that may have taken place regarding Sonnen and Diaz fall within those parameters. In Sonnen’s case, it is a complicated story, as he was suspended by California for having an absurdly high testosterone level, was found to have not been truthful in subsequent testimony regarding the case, and was not truthful about his own communication with the NSAC previous to that. However, what seemed to tip the scales as far as subsequent votes in both Nevada and California to indefinitely suspend him was something that happened outside of the Octagon – a money laundering conviction that was related to a mortgage fraud scheme Sonnen was involved in. Ultimately, the courts ruled that Sonnen be fined $10,000 with two years’ probation for this white-collar crime, which, unlike Mayweather’s offense, was non-violent.
And so you’ll be seeing “Floyd Joy,” live and in person, at the MGM on May 5.
Because money talks. But seriously, that’s not something anyone had to tell Dana White.