Last Saturday, Georges St-Pierre defended his title for the ninth consecutive time against No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks. The verdict was a split decision victory for the champion. The majority of those involved with the media called the fight for Hendricks. Even UFC President Dana White felt GSP only clearly won one round of the contest, which was a more radical statement than most were making.

Split decisions will always bring talk of controversy and changes to judging and regulation. When it happens in big fights, White is the first one to call out whomever he feels is at fault. But despite all White’s ranting and raving, it seems nothing changes because it would appear there is little he can do about it.

Or is there?

During the UFC 167 post-fight press conference, White went so far as to say that he was “scared” to put on big fights in Vegas, and that the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) is the “worst commission on the planet.”

Despite the UFC having a great relationship with the Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand casinos, both properties of MGM Resorts International, as well as strong gates thanks in no part to the perfect storm of fight culture, tourism and gambling for which Las Vegas is famous for, the underlying tone of White’s statements were that if things don’t change with the NSAC, then the number of UFC title fights in Vegas will.

These statements could be nothing more than strong rhetoric, but with current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones pulling out of his anticipated UFC 170 bout, there are currently no title fights scheduled in Vegas for 2014. It’s still too early to know if things will stay that way or not, but so long as it does, White and the UFC brass have a stronger bargaining chip than they think they do. They may be at their wits’ end with regard to political pull, but nothing gets state governments working faster than the thought of losing millions of taxable dollars on their economy, especially an economy dependent on tourism and gambling, both endeavors the UFC helps to accommodate.

If we assume this strategy is going to be a viable option the UFC flexes, then there are only two achievable outcomes, neither of which hurts the sport or the fans in either the short run or the long run.

The short-run solution would be to simply hold more title fights in the promotion’s other “A” markets, such as Toronto, Montreal, Sacramento, Newark and Atlantic City. It would also encourage the promotion to hold more title fights overseas in places like London, Manchester, Stockholm, Sydney or Macau, or in its “B” markets, like Seattle, where ticket sales aren’t very strong without a big-name fight, or breakout markets like Mexico where the promotion can make a big splash right off the top.

In the long run, once the state of Nevada realizes the UFC is not bluffing, there will have to be either a shake-up in leadership or in the way of doing business for the NSAC. It’s unlikely state legislators and those in the governor’s office will want their constituents to lose out on the periodic boost the UFC brings to their economy. One way or the other, a change will have to occur, and this time White and his partners in crime, UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta Jr., will be more than welcome to come back to the table and talk, but this time with the upper hand. After all, it’s not like there’s an equally strong MMA organization capable of filling the void the UFC would leave behind.

It’s not clear what types of changes would actually occur, but it’s safe to say they would have to be ones that benefit both the fighters and the sport, and would need to include, at a minimum, a more responsible process for hiring and vetting properly trained judges and referees as well as a more effective system for addressing grievances and incompetence. It won’t be perfect, but it has to be better.

With the UFC’s focus on global domination, it’s safe to say the promotion can survive without the NSAC as it continues to expand into new markets and grow its domestic audience one free show at a time thanks to its multi-year broadcast and cable network deal with Fox Entertainment Group. Still, it would be a shame to see a whole year go by without having a single title fight in Las Vegas. But that shame would not be on Dana White or the UFC, it would be on the NSAC and its Executive Director, Keith Kizer.

Surely, Las Vegas hopes it doesn’t come to that, but in this case, their loss is our gain. There are only so many belts to go around, and they can only be defended so often. So until something is done to change the way the business of handling officials is done, we can all sit back and place the blame on the NSAC, and put all the shame on Kizer, because honestly, it’s the easy thing to do. So with that said, for shame Keith Kizer, for shame. And that’s the bottom line.

Photo: UFC President Dana White (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

  • What a crock! Nick Diaz vs Road Runner Condit,Jon Jones vs Alexander,Gsp vs Johnny Hendrix,Ronda baddest girl in woman mma yeah! Dana is having problems hiding what is way to avoius! UFC future in the rocks! Who really believes him being scared of Nevada? Please! Let people know who is running the show? How many times will it take before people realize the facts!