Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Decline and Fall of the Fertitta Empire

Part 1: Castration, Collusion, Corruption

Once upon a time the UFC had its own set of rules, its own referees, and its own judges. The crowds cheered and stars were born, the management poor but the product pure. All too soon its popularity threatened the boxing establishment, the Luddite before the mechanized loom. The response was violent. The establishment used political influence, in the form of McCain and the athletic commissions, to castrate the virile, threatening sport in its youth.

With boxing promoter gratuities and battle cries of human cockfighting, McCain annihilated the cable revenue stream, leaving his gutted victim to wither away in obscurity, leaving establishment-approved combat sports nicely protected and taxed in this indestructible Citadel of corporatism.

Proud new owner of an enemy’s balls, shrunken though they were by the former lack of testing, the Citadel began to mold the UFC in its own image, imposing gloves, rounds, and weight classes; arbitrarily restricting techniques it disliked, including “pressure points”.

Though a eunuch may have a decided advantage in a human cockfight, the Citadel is all but invincible in total war. Our castrato could only plead, in his pleasant soprano voice, for sanctioning. He needed recognition by the Citadel – recognition that would allow him to breathe.

The Citadel simply waited, merciless and patient, for SEG to breathe its last. Then, for two million dollars, former Nevada State Athletic Commissioner Lorenzo Fertitta and his brother made the purchase. The NSAC immediately provided sanctioning, the pay per view contracts were restored. Business, now paying the required tribute, was booming. Former MMA-ban proponent, Executive Director of the NSAC, and boxing HoF member Marc Ratner eventually became Vice-President for Regulatory Affairs. The UFC had been assimilated. It was now part of the Citadel.

The CSAC, obviously, is within the walls. You need only read of its treatment of promotions in competition with the UFC/Citadel, most notably the difference in treatment of Diaz and Sanchez for identical crimes.

Sponsorships, pay per views, and finally, the infamous reality show on Spike, buoyed by a timeslot following pro-wrestling. Spike, reality TV, and pro-wrestling. Three apparent contradictions of the Flynn Effect.

The marketing of Dana White was one of the program’s most effective manipulations: pre-TUF fans observed what was once a cringing, middle-class, suit- wearing aerobics instructor, ever smirking forced congratulations and awkwardly awarding belts, transformed by the magic of editing and acting into a hard-talking, street-tough father figure, fair but firm. This image appealed to the young fans of the show, many of whom were likely fatherless bastards, and to this day, any post criticizing the UFC or White is met with a torrent of misspelled vitriol, stamped with post-04 join dates. These are the UFC’s unofficial soldiers, a sort of Dana White fanclub / paramilitary organization. They are most fittingly referred to as “Whiteshirts”.

The Whiteshirts, of course, now hold most of the power, and many eunuch-era fans have lost interest. Those impotent originals that remain, though having lost immediate influence to the castration, maintain the most extensive networks of contacts in the MMA community, and hold the majority of the knowledge. The elite twenty percent of the Pareto Principle. I will leave a small hint to these, the Castrati, as to their future role, which will be fully explained in a future installment.


“An important figure in the Ottoman court was the Chief Black Eunuch (Kızlar Ağası or Harem Ağası). In control of the Harem and a perfect net of spies in the Black Eunuchs, the Chief Eunuch was involved in almost every palace intrigue and could thereby gain power over either the sultan or one of his viziers, ministers or other court officials.”

“The Ultimate Fighter” itself is such an effective tool of manipulation, such an efficient popularizer of mediocrity, and so widely watched and well known that it must be considered as nothing less than the Citadel’s propaganda wing.

Returning to sanctioning: the Castrati were ecstatic, and, defending it, often wrote proudly of MMA being “a sanctioned sport”. This approval was, to my memory, unanimous. The benefits are obvious, and both the Castrati and the Whiteshirts approve of them. Oversight. Regulation. Prevention of corruption. These ideas are so widely believed and so little questioned that few would consider an alternative.

But we view reality with imperfect eyes. At times, it is helpful to alter our perception as the ancients and the mystics did: with drugs. A tiny tweak of your neurotransmitters to connect our points of view. I offer you a single psilocybin mushroom.

Common sense: Sanctioning reduces corruption by providing external oversight.

Psilocybin mushroom: Sanctioning increases corruption through displacement of blame. Consider boxing, which we all know to be corrupt, in which promoters wine and dine, or sometimes bribe, judges, and consider that those same judges now work the UFC. What is the standard Whiteshirt response to accusations of corruption after the results of absurd decisions? “The UFC doesn’t appoint the judges; the athletic commission does.” Any idea of boycott is quickly abandoned.

The UFC, then, and indeed, the Citadel itself, has little incentive to provide fair decisions, and in many cases, a large incentive to provide foul ones. If we accept that boxing judges are influenced by promoters, and thus that promoters have found ways to influence them, it becomes obvious that the UFC, as a quite profitable sub-department of the Citadel, could easily use such methods to influence Citadel judges.

There exists motive; there exist means. And the evidence? We will assume that it is profitable to the Citadel that the fighter with greater name-recognition wins. I have selected what I believe to be the most controversial decisions of post-assimilation UFC:






-Ortiz-Griffin 1


The decision in each of these fights went to the fighter who had greater name-recognition prior to the fight, with the sole exception of Jackson-Griffin (easily explainable by TUF vs. Pride implications). Verify on Google trends. I already have. If you have a counter-example – a very controversial decision in post-assimilation UFC in which the decision went the way of the fighter with lesser name-recognition – please let me know.

Motive, means, evidence. And what of unsanctioned MMA? What was widely considered the worst decision in UFC history prior to assimilation? Rutten-Randleman. In Pride? Jackson-Rua, perhaps. These may have been poor decisions, but they certainly can’t compete in terms of outrageousness with half of the sanction-enhanced list. Simply put: there were no Rua-Machida level robberies in MMA prior to sanctioning because the promotion would have borne the blame.

What, then, does sanctioning provide? The unified rules and judging criteria, which are nothing but a ludicrous permutation of boxing’s, created by boxing bureaucrats for boxing bureaucrats.

Pride, on the other hand, with no need to please such an out-of-touch group, designed rules and judging criteria specifically for MMA. When comparing Pride’s rules and criteria to the UFC’s, both Whiteshirts and Castrati agree, in most cases, that Pride’s were superior, with two exceptions: the ban on elbows and the ring.

It’s quite telling that the two main “problems” with the pride format are precisely those that descend from boxing. Importing boxing artefacts such as the 10 point must system, mandatory gloves, and overly short rounds is at best debatable and usually absurd.

What else, then, does sanctioning provide? Judges such as Peoples – the quintessence of sclerotic bureaucracy: utterly incompetent, corrupt, and immune to dismissal.

And lastly, sanctioning provides an extra tax, called a “licensing fee”:

NRS 467.107 Additional fees for license of promoter; exemption; regulations.1. In addition to the payment of any other fees and money due under this chapter, every promoter, except as provided in subsection 2, shall pay a license fee of:(a) Four percent of the total gross receipts from admission fees to the live contest or exhibition of unarmed combat, exclusive of any federal tax or tax imposed by any political subdivision of this state; and(b) Three percent of the first $1,000,000, and 1 percent of the next $2,000,000, of the total gross receipts from the sale, lease or other exploitation of broadcasting, television and motion picture rights for that contest or exhibition, without any deductions for commissions, brokerage fees, distribution fees, advertising, contestants’ purses or any other expenses or charges.”

So for the service of decreasing the quality of the judging, rules, and integrity of a promotion, the NSAC feels entitled to charge a tax that must also decrease fighter’s salaries.

The entire Citadel – the UFC, the commissions, the boxing promoters, the casinos, the corporate sponsors, the lobbied politicians – is simply another iteration of the corporatist phenomenon, and the UFC-NSAC’s interchangeable personnel, shared financial interest, and collusive nature recall the relationship of Goldman Sachs to the Department of the Treasury. The protectionism of government bureaucracy coupled with corporate power breed the worst kind of arrogance – not the ambitious arrogance of a creative entrepreneur, but the passive, innate arrogance of a bored, entitled monarch. As John Derbyshire writes of a 30 year Goldman Sachs employee:

“For me the turning point in the drift toward paranoia was this summer when I listened to an interview with Charles Ellis, author of The Partnership: The Making of Goldman Sachs. What disturbed and alarmed me was Ellis’ undisguised contempt for the radio host and the callers. Granted, it is generally frustrating for intelligent people to come on these shows where they are asked to hold forth for 30 minutes and engage with dull interlocutors. But Ellis’ own attitude to the whole affair suggested an angel come down from on high, he made no effort at all, and refused to hide his lack of effort. What he thought of everyone else was clear, mortals were beneath his consideration. When he did deign to speak Ellis calmly would assert that Goldman Sachs was insured and protected no matter what happened to the economy, specifically, even if AIG collapsed.”

Now who does that sound like? People who plead to Keith Kizer to fix the problems (invariably answered with bureaucratic condescension) are missing this key fact: Kizer is the problem. You’re asking the man who’s directly in charge of selecting the judges of all non-title fights for change. He neglected to watch Machida-Rua or Couture-Vera. He’s not worried about incompetent judges - he’s the one who selects them.

Boxing has had decades of sanctioning, and is filled with corruption and incompetence. It sucked the life from the sport. Now it begins in MMA. The UFC-NSAC hybrid has no oversight – but it also has no foresight. It will consume itself in its corruption and incompetence while another promotion emerges.

My next installment will explain exactly how, and how the Castrati will help.


  1. I don't know what's funny about what the Fertittas are doing to Mikey Burnett.

    The sport needs grown ups. You don't get it. You get Glenn Beck, but you don't get anything else. Global warming, health care, it's all a conspiracy to you. But when station casinos employees start losing their jobs, when wall street scams cause people to lose their homes, you sit back and mock them.

    Fuck you asshole.

  2. I agree with incendie. Hope change!