By: Jesse Donathan
Something stinks in Beantown and to those intimately familiar with “The Anatomy of the Fight Game,” virtually no part of combat sports remains beyond reproach. If once is happenstance, twice is coincidence and three times is a full-blown conspiracy, then there is something going on in Beantown that needs to be investigated. Boston is a beautiful city with a long and illustrious fight history, renowned the world over, though as happenstance would have it, one unfortunately steeped in impropriety and corruption. With MMA well on its way to becoming a global phenomenon, the experiences of UFC President Dana White indicate that there is every reason to be concerned.
“I had a kind of run-in with Whitey Bulger and his guys,” said UFC President Dana White in a February 28, 2011 BleacherReport.com article titled, “MMA: Without Irish Gangster Whitey Bulger, Would the UFC Have Survived?” According to White, “They showed up at the gym looking for money. It was time to leave,” writes author Colin Linneweber. The BleacherReport.com article went on to note that, “White may have never abandoned his boxing gym had he not been threatened with extortion by notorious Irish gangster Whitey Bulger before the criminal went on the lam in 1995.”
Photo Credit: GregHardyJr Twitter Account
Bulger, who once reportedly employed the services legendary boxing trainer Freddie Roach, is one of the most infamous crime bosses in US history. A ruthless and violent criminal once described by prosecutors as someone with “no redeeming qualities,” Bulger was the former mafia don of the Winter Hill Gang, whose crimes included, among other things, “Fixing horse races and even a gang war with another Irish American outfit over crime spoils,” according to a 2013 LA Times report titled, ”Whitey Bulger likened to Satan by victim’s son at sentencing hearing.”
Fast forwarding to this past weekend at UFC on ESPN 6, as coincidence would have it, controversy arose from the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission as a bizarre set of circumstances unfolded just before the evenings co-main event. According to an October 19, 2019 Bad Guy Inc. YouTube video titled, “Greg Hardy’s inhaler…who’s at fault?” former UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen weighed in on the latest controversy surrounding former NFL star Greg Hardy’s (5-1-0, 1 NC) use of an inhaler mid-fight as well as exploring the idea of exactly who is at fault in this made for media mixed martial arts disaster.
“Greg Hardy goes out and he fights Ben Sosoli from Australia,” explains Sonnen. “Now I’m gonna tell you right now, I don’t want to hear it from you, I’m going to take you on a whole bunch of different directions,” warned the ESPN MMA analyst. “Before any, ‘Aw, Chael, you believe in conspiracy theories?’ – No, I’m not, hear me out on this alright, let’s just have a little bit of fun. Let’s just be some fans, let’s just be some people talking, but let’s just be wide minded,” a non-conspiratorial Sonnen said as he began to lay out his case.
“Now, let’s get into the fun. So, in between the second round and third round, Hardy’s corner comes in and Hardy calls for the inhaler. The corner says, ‘It’s USADA approved,’ he says that to a commission official that’s there and then says, ‘It’s in my pocket,’ and then takes the inhaler out and gives it to Greg Hardy who uses the inhaler,” said Sonnen. Not finished there, in no uncertain terms Sonnen went wanted to make this point very clear, “That is against the rules to the clearest and the highest of levels.”
With the kind of insight that only an industry insider could deliver, Sonnen went on to discuss some of the finer points of mixed martial arts competition that isn’t reported on a regular basis, including the rather obvious nature of the infraction from the Greg Hardy camp in question.
“Is it against the rules, yes, is it clearly against the rules, yes. Does it matter in the least if it is USADA approved … no, of course not!” said Sonnen. “To put this, but I want to put this into prospective for you, see, I know this, this is clear to me but I’ve did the sport for 22-years, but you guys may not know that, you may go, ‘Hey, wait a minute, if it’s not a problem with USADA, I thought he could take it?’ No, not even close,” exclaimed Sonnen.
Continuing, “By example, you cannot have Gatorade,” explained Chael. “Not only can you not have Gatorade during the fight, you can’t have Gatorade the second you enter the building. The second you walk into the locker room, the only thing you are allowed to put into your body is water. Oh, and by the way, a water that they, meaning the commission, hand you,” said Sonnen.
According to Chael, who once infamously took UFC middleweight legend Anderson Silva behind the woodshed for five rounds before succumbing to a come from behind submission hold to the UFC great, “Hold on, stories not over. He asked the commissioner, ‘Can I do this?’ The commissioner told him, ‘Yes.’ Greg Hardy has a reasonable right to rely on that information, including if that information is wrong, he has a reasonable right to expect it to be accurate information and then to rely on it, which is what he did,” explained Sonnen.
“That only means, okay, that he cannot be disciplined, there will not be a hearing, there will not be a revocation of his license, there will not be a monetary disciplinary action in my opinion,” said Sonnen. “It does not mean that his opponent can’t look at it and say, ‘A commission official gave bad information, which allowed an illegal advantage to my opponent,’ which it did, right?”
In explaining that Hardy’s opponent Ben Sosoli (7-2-0, 2 NC) should file an appeal, Chael went on to note that, “The question becomes who is at fault? In many parts, the question becomes who’s at fault. You have a commission who has the ultimate say, as a matter of a fact, the only say, not USADA and certainly not the promotion, it’s the commission. You would have a claim against that commission,” explained the longtime mixed martial arts veteran.
Stepping back into time, according to a January 26, 2018 MMAFighting.com article titled, “Mass confusion: Miscommunication leads to two different rulesets being used at UFC 220,” author Marc Raimondi writes that miscommunication at UFC 220 in Boston lead to mass confusion between the officials and fighters at the event.
According to Raimondi, “Everything was going as it usually does for Kyle Bochniak backstage at UFC 220. His hands were wrapped and approved by the commission. He went over the game plan with his coach. The referee for his fight with Brandon Davis came over and laid out the in-cage rules.” But according to the MMAFighting.com report, “Less than an hour later, Bochniak was warming up and “getting in the zone,” as he put it, for the important fight. Just as he was about to walk out, another referee came to him and said there had been a change.”
In a rather bizarre turn of events, according to Raimondi, “The first ref had told him the new Unified Rules of MMA would be in place for the fight; the second ref said to forget that — the commission had made a change and now it was actually the old rules. The ref comes in and says the athletic commission has changed it back to the old rules,” Bochniak said. And I’m like, ‘Whoa whoa whoa, what’s the old rules again?’”
The document went on to conclude that, “A miscommunication between the UFC, the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission (MSAC) and the referees working the card led to the rules being switched from new to old in the middle of the event.”
Bochniak went on to describe the bizarre set of events as a curve ball, something he had not previously seen before while ultimately downplaying the resulting confusion surrounding the use of two different sets of rules applied to the same UFC 220 event. They say where there is smoke, there is fire, and its unusual events like these and those that transpired at UFC on ESPN 6 with Greg Hardy, and the use of a commission approved inhaler that are really pause for concern.
Boston is a truly beautiful city with a long and storied history in boxing, though one unfortunately marred by impropriety and corruption. With mixed martial arts well on its way to becoming a global phenomenon, the experiences of UFC President Dana White, Greg Hardy and Kyle Bochniak indicate that there is every reason to be concerned. “The Anatomy of the Fight Game” suggests every conceivable angle in combat sports is potentially susceptible to perversion, if once is happenstance, twice is coincidence and three times is a full-blown conspiracy, then something stinks in Beantown that needs to be investigated.