Disclaimer: This is a long article. Anytime I write something it's going to be long; this should be known by now. If you don't like it, the ‘Back' button is very conveniently located and to paraphrase Dave Chappelle: ‘You clicked on my face!'
Hello again friends! I've been feeling the bug to write for a little bit now, but I just couldn't find my muse to inspire me. Then, like a lightning bolt, inspiration struck. I was (allegedly) inebriated watching UFC 286, when yet another shitty decision was read out with a scorecard that made no sense. What fight it was doesn't even matter, you can plug-and-play almost any decision from this year in here and it'll fit. At LEAST one judge will have a scorecard that makes no sense. Whether it be a split decision with two judges having different winners at 30-27, or an inexplicable draw, this shit is constant. So why did inspiration strike this time instead of the others? Well, dear reader, I had my hand down my pants giving Tom and Jerry a good scratching; and when the egregious scorecard was read, I startled in surprise and punched myself in the nuts. So, with just having had my physical the other day and judging now being a literal pain in my balls, I knew what I had to do. Take a long look at our NSAC.
Each year there are almost 10,000 cases of testicular cancer diagnosed in the US, which is almost the same amount of botched decisions we MMA fans get the misfortune of seeing. But unlike a urologist staring at the human turkey-neck all day, we are in no way compensated for this viewing displeasure. In fact, we pay them and are constantly given these inexplicably bad scorecards and decisions. It's like paying for a private lap dance at the Spearmint Rhino and being given CCTV footage from a truck stop bathroom. Yet we do nothing except mildly complain for ten minutes about the judges and say "the commissions should do something!" like they're a government agency with a complaint department. But that's not who they are at all, not even NSAC.
For some background athletic commissions are to MMA what the testicles are to the more fun dangly bit. They're not the sexy, exciting thing, they're not the reason anyone shows up, they hang out in the background seemingly not doing much of anything, but without them the whole thing goes limp. And also like the twins, people really aren't that curious nor have much knowledge about them. So, what is an athletic commission in terms of MMA? Well, it's everything. They control the rules, the licensing, the locations, the fighters, everything about the sport we love runs through an athletic commission. And if the promotion wants to keep running events, they do what the athletic commissions say. If an athletic commission mandated that the only acceptable cup is the new Brahma BallsTM one by ‘The Rock', that's what fighters are wearing or they're not fighting. (Seriously though, the dude goes by ‘The Rock' and his last name is Johnson. How does he have his own shoe but not a cup?)
But why worry about NSAC specifically? Lotta SACs out there, not to mention other places like Abu Dhabi, England, etc who all have their own commissions. We worry about them because NSAC is like the Johnny Sins of SACs. All the other schlubs take their cues from what they see them do. For example, when the new Unified Rules of MMA came out, NSAC opposed the new definition of a grounded opponent and stuck with the old one, thereby making the New Unified Rules of MMA neither all that new nor unified. It could even be said there were vas deferens between the SACs in terms of the rules. It took until 2020 for everyone to compromise and agree on the definition of a grounded fighter, which is, *shockingly*, like the one NSAC wanted the whole time. When the UFC was getting everything ready for Fight Island over in the UAE, they modeled their ruleset after NSAC. Yet (be honest, no Googling ahead) what do you really know about NSAC? Like testicles dipped in glitter, the truth is pretty nuts.
The history of NSAC dates all the way back to 1941, back before Vegas was even really VEGAS. They have existed ever since, through the boom years, the Mob years, and the new era of billion-dollar corporate owners. The actual laws that govern the commission are found in NRS 467 and NAC 467. They're not thrilling reads, although I did like the part where they have the mandated section on losing your license if you owe child support. Maybe the fighter pay crowd will find it interesting how much the commission gets in fees/taxes for an event, but that's someone else's hill to die on. We're pondering our SAC. Anyways, NSAC is governed by its commissioners, and they all meet monthly to vote on items of importance. Each of the five commissioners are appointed by the governor to serve a three-year term, and the governor appoints one of the five to be the chairperson. There is an executive director to handle the "day-to-day," and six or seven other full-time employees. And that's it. One of the biggest influences on our sport is barely big enough to field a company softball team. And the five commissioners aren't full time positions, so NSAC is really just eight full-time state employees. That alone should explain why the judging and refing are so consistently fucked up, but it's important to do a full, thorough, check during these kinds of SAC examinations and not just rush through it.
Like any SAC, it's also crucial to be aware of your own (family) history. While not common, testicular cancer will affect 1 in 250 men in your lifetime. Think about that the next time they do a crowd shot at a UFC event and announce the attendance. And it is a very treatable cancer, with high success rates if caught early! That's why the importance of the self-check can't be overstated; get in there, root around, and make sure that if you are the unlucky 1 in 250, you catch it early. And since we're getting under the hood and rooting around, let's look at these commissioners who run NSAC and steer a large part of the MMA world.
Recently, NSAC was brought to our attention again when the former chairperson, Stephen Cloobeck made public comments about "regretting" sanctioning Power Slap. Dana White fired back in typical Dana fashion, while also calling NSAC the best athletic commission in the world. Although I personally disagree, Dana has experience with many more SACs than I do, so I will have to defer to his expertise in this area. Mr. Cloobeck resigned his post two years into his tenure at NSAC, but since he is the former chairperson and this is pretty recent, why not take a look too? We're fresh out of the shower, we're relaxed, let's grab a hold and get in there.
Stephen Cloobeck: Like many things with NSAC, the circumstances around his resignation are open to interpretation. In his resignation letter, he states that he can't work with the new governor elect, Joe Lombardo. The reason he cites is the lack of cooperation when Mr. Lombardo was the Sheriff of Nevada and was investigating the death of Nathan Valencia. If anyone is interested, you can just Google the name and stories will pop right up. I'm not going to say any more about that, because that young man and his family deserve better than to be mentioned in a tongue-in-cheek write up by a dumbass like me. Safe to say, Mr. Lombardo and Mr. Cloobeck went rounds in the public arena over it, and when Mr. Lombardo was elected, I'd be surprised if Mr. Cloobeck's days weren't numbered regardless of his sudden moral stand and subsequent resignation.
Maybe Mr. Cloobeck really did have a crisis of conscience about working for a man he didn't like and didn't respect and that is the sole reason he quit. Maybe he was acting as a weapon of the governor during a tough campaign, and knew he had to quit before he was fired once his guy lost. Maybe he knew Mr. Lombardo would be pissed he didn't donate to his election campaign. Maybe a combination of the three. Maybe none. I can't say. What I do know is that Power Slap was sanctioned in October of 2022, nearly a year after the tragedy occurred that he supposedly resigned over. Personally, I find it puzzling that someone so concerned with investigations, integrity, and safety would rubber stamp a "sport" that allows undefended, full-force blows to the head without some thought and research. Particularly given the tragedy he was currently presiding over. You'd think someone with that position would at least take enough time and learn enough about what they're sanctioning to not feel "regret" about it three months later, right? Not for me to say, we're all adults, draw your conclusions. Either way, Mr. Cloobeck is no longer with the SAC. So, when he left, who took over?
Anthony A. Marnell III: He's the son of the legendary (in Vegas) Tony Marnell II. Tony Marnell helped build several casinos you may have visited, like the Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio, and Wynn Las Vegas. Additionally, he built and operated the Rio until it was sold to Harrah's in the late 90's. Anthony Marnell continued in his father's footsteps, opening the M Resort at the worst possible time (the '08 Recession) and in the worst location for that time (Henderson). The M ended up being bought out by Penn in a process that I'm not even sure a financial accountant could explain in a way without making me drink. From what I can tell "they" (I have no idea who ‘they' are, some bank?) sold $860 million of debt for $230.5 million. I have no fucking clue how any of that works, but usually when you see a numbers difference like that you can bet the average working stiff is about to find he has an enlarged taxticle. Anyways, getting back on track before this article takes a hard-right into some of my thoughts on government spending.
Regardless of some bank's financial maneuvering that I wish I could pull on my mortgage company, Mr. Marnell stayed running the M for four years following the sale, before purchasing another casino (one whose former owner happened to be on the Nevada Gaming Commission before being caught up in a money laundering scheme) and moving on. Mr. Marnell has been on everything from the Board of Trustees for the Boys and Girls Club to the State Board of Equalization, before finally being appointed to NSAC in 2014. And when Stephen Cloobeck left, he was appointed to be the head of the commission. When you hear about someone being "connected", it's this guy. He's been with the tops of the state political elite and gaming industry his entire life. He seems to be the type of guy who is never told someone is ‘out to lunch' when he calls their office, and he probably has the governor's personal cell phone number.
Gregory Bortolin: He's The Director of Communications for the Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development. Jesus, with a title like that Patrick Bateman might orgasm when he sees the business card. Mr. Bortolin went from the Assistant Director of Communications, Manager of Media Relation (ffs, was this guy paid by how many words were in his title?) to the Director of Communications and Press Secretary for former Nevada governor Kenny Guinn. Once Kenny Guinn left office, Mr. Bortolin continued as one godawfully long title after another until he was appointed to NSAC back in October 2022. Interesting coincidence. By all appearances Mr. Bortolin is a communications and media relations guru. Let's just say I'd bet that if Mr. Bortolin had a favorite band, it'd be The Spin Doctors. Which is very fortuitous timing for NSAC; their chairperson was going head-to-head with the current sheriff and governor candidate, and a media relations expert just happens to get appointed as a commissioner right then. Btw, why are The Spin Doctors never mentioned in Midnight Mania? ‘Two Princes' is a song that you will absolutely sing along to if it comes on, so long as no one is in the car with you. Anyways. Yet another interesting coincidence! Kenny Guinn, the former governor that Mr. Bortolin worked for that got him his start in politics, was board members of MGM with...
Jim Murren: Calling Jim Murren ‘just' the former CEO and Chairman of the MGM is like calling a vasectomy doctor ‘Mr. Fix-It.' While technically true, you're dramatically underselling it. In addition to being the CEO for an international gaming company, he's been on the board of three different universities, been the Director of US Equity Research for Deutsche Bank and been on the National Infrastructure Advisory Council. He was even appointed to lead the state of Nevada's COVID-19 Response, Relief, and Recovery Task Force by the same guy who appointed him to NSAC. The Governor of Nevada. You know how one testicle is always bigger than the other? Well, by all appearances Mr. Murren is the big ball in the SAC.
In addition to all of that, he was hardly a flaccid CEO while at MGM. Not only did he bring them through the Great Recession in pretty good shape (if you weren't aware, that decimated the hospitality industry at the time), he's had MGM (the employer) celebrated for its diversity and inclusion initiatives. This is a guy who gets shit done and looks good doing it (perception wise, he's not my cup of tea in the looks department, although he could be considered handsome I suppose). From what I can tell, Mr. Murren was appointed to NSAC between October 20, 2021 and November 17th, 2021 and he interestingly (or my Duck Duck Go is going seriously haywire) never really mentions his affiliation with NSAC. You know what they say, guys that have a big...influence...don't have to brag about it.
Side note: It was real pain in the balls finding anything that confirmed that the ‘Jim Murren' on the NSAC documents was the same one as the MGM guy. Right now, I'm still only like 92% sure it's the same guy, but fuck it, I'm not a journalist and I found a couple of articles written by other real journalists that say it is. So, if I'm wrong, sue them. And who I am afraid is going to be doing the suing for this SAC inspection:
Alexander G. Chen: From what I can tell, he's a lawyer in Nevada. Possibly a prosecutor? I'll be honest, I can't find anything on Mr. Chen. Every other one of the commissioners has some sort of public-facing profile, but this guy I can barely find anything outside of him being on NSAC. He had to be appointed by the governor, but where you'd expect to find something about who he is or why he was appointed, there's very little information. Not at all dissimilar to an undescended testicle, you know something should be there but there's nothing.
Man, I need a break. I'm no spring chicken, and even in my younger days I wasn't known for my stamina. Btw don't listen to ‘em fellas. You're not ‘too quick.' You just value efficiency and their timing was late. Anyway, since most of us aren't like Sting who can just go for hours and hours and hours, feel free take a break. Walk around, stretch it out, grab some juice, we're going back in for round two in just a minute.
Pour another drink, spark another bowl, let's do this! Quick aside: if you do spark another bowl, keep in mind that smoking the doge can up your risk of testicular cancer, particularly in those that toke the ganja weekly or more. So, please, make doubly sure to check ‘em out if you're a fan of the Devil's Lettuce, or if you have an undescended testicle as that's another risk factor. If you meet both criteria, I can only assume the latter led to the former.
Alright, back to it! What do you call a dog with no hind legs and a metal nutsack?
Chris Ault: Arguably the most well known of all NSAC commissioners Mr. Ault is also the first one of the commissioners to have some connection to athletics, which my research indicates is a key component of the Nevada Athletic Commission. Also, did you know that in the legal references it is referred to as the ‘Nevada Athletic Commission,' not the ‘Nevada STATE Athletic Commission?' I don't know where or when the ‘S' was added to NSAC, but I'm glad it was, or this write up probably never happens. ‘NSAC' opens a world of more possibilities than ‘NAC'. Anyways.
Mr. Ault was the quarterback for the University of the Former-Divorce-Capital-of-the-World (also known as the University of Nevada-Reno) in the ‘60s. He eventually became their coach and was the face of Wolfpack football for many, many years. His impact on the program was such that they even named their field ‘Chris Ault Field' while he was still actively coaching. That takes some real stones to name something after a guy who could suddenly decide to leave and coach for a rival. Imagine having the coach you named the field after come back and kick your team's ass all over said field. It'd be the most UNR thing to ever happen to the Wolf Pack. Fortunately, that didn't happen, and just last month Mr. Ault was appointed to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. Lest we think he's just an ole ball coach, don't forget that during each of his three coaching tenures, he was also the athletic director. He served as UNR's AD for 18 years so it's safe to assume he knows whose pair to twist, and whose he needs to tickle, to get shit done.
Jeff Mullen: While Jeff Mullen isn't a commissioner, he is the executive director of NSAC. Remember back in the beginning, when we are all so much younger, I mentioned that NSAC has an Executive Director to handle the ‘day to day operations?' That's this guy. I'm sure you noticed but none of these commissioners really have any combat sports experience. They probably wouldn't know Herb Dean from Jimmy Dean, much less realize it would probably be safer to let the fights be reffed by a tube of sausage instead of ole Herb. I kid. Sort of. Herb's been doing a better job lately, not great mind you, but better. It's like when the kid who was failing class starts applying himself and gets a C-. You don't push for the A, you take the improvement and move on. Although I do wonder when he's going to relapse into ‘404: Herb Not Found' mode and let someone get beaten through the canvas again.
Regardless of Herb's (many, many) faults, it's Mr. Mullen who keeps putting Herb in the position to fail. As the executive director he is responsible for all the little details of a bout, like assigning the judges and referees, making sure that someone is not being mismatched with a superior opponent, and ensuring that a contestant is not on suspension. So, the next time Sal's scorecard of 31-29 is read out and we're all losing our shit, if we're in Vegas we can send our complaints to Mr. Mullen's office. Or, you could join the monthly NSAC call where they ‘invite public feedback.' It's not the most up to date calendar, but if you keep an eye on it you can find the agenda posted prior to the monthly meeting that'll have a phone number to call in and make public comments. Just sayin.
Mr. Mullen doesn't actually get to vote on matters related to NSAC, which makes perfect sense for something run by the government. Why wouldn't the only person who officially knows anything about the subject being voted on get a vote? That'd make too much sense. Instead, let's appoint five part-time people who don't know much; and have the guy who does know something be the one to feed them the information they need to vote on the issues. Government, an ancient word meaning "to make simple shit complicated." So, while Mr. Mullen doesn't get a vote, it is safe to assume he still has a lot of influence on the decisions made by NSAC. He could be considered like the brain of the SAC. He has a lot of knowledge and presumably good reasons for his positions, but the SAC gonna do what the SAC wanna do. Anyone reading who's ever said ‘hold my beer and watch this' knows exactly what I'm talking about.
And that's about it for the key players of NSAC. Keep in mind this is just the current generation and with the governorship just changing hands, there's been some recent turnover. We didn't even talk about the commissioner who just resigned and happened to be a vice president at a company owned by the Fertitta brothers. Or any of the other possible tomfoolery and fun they've had over the years. This is just the state of your NSAC as of April 2023.
Alright, we did it. We gave ourselves a good SAC check. Now may not be the time to mention it, but I'm not actually an expert on any of this. I just said I'd help take a look, I have no idea if it's a healthy SAC or something we need to worry about. Based off my reading it appears to be operating like the law intended, but they also list Steve Mazzagatti under their referee section with no warning label, so you'll have to draw your own conclusions.
But hopefully next time we see something inexplicable in the cage, we'll know why the commission doesn't "do something about it." They don't exist to make the sports we love better, more accessible, or even safer. They exist to make sure that the money flows from the promoter to the state as seamlessly as possible and that nothing untoward happens during an event that will draw public scrutiny and threaten that revenue stream. International Fight Week has almost $150 million of economic impact for the City of Las Vegas, and that's all money the government can skim taxes from. Factor in big boxing events, other big UFC cards in addition to the small shows, the amateurs that sell tickets, all of it, and you get a rather big chunk of change in short order. Why rock that boat just because some refs can't stop a fight or judge can't score it correctly? Keep in mind who is on the commission and what they're really there to do when someone says "they should do something about ___."
Keep your boys downstairs in mind too. They don't get a month where everyone wears baby blue for them (my emails to the UFC saying they should mandate baby blue for the cups this month have thus far gone unanswered). And the next time you're in the shower staring dead-eyed at your iPhone in a sandwich bag, release your grip and move down a little lower. Give ‘em a quick check and make sure everything is good so we can all hang around bitching about MMA a while longer.