POLLOCK'S MMA UPDATE: NY Times reports on guidelines for UFC cards

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/05/13/pollocks-mma-update-ny-times-reports-on-guidelines-for-ufc-cards/

Photo courtesy: UFC

MMA NEWS

**Kevin Draper of the New York Times has a story on the UFC’s procedural methods with a copy of their 20-page event operations plan. In the Times article, it outlined discrepancies between the operations plan and what actually happened during the UFC 249 broadcast with the key infractions being:
*Joe Rogan conducting post-fight interviews in the Octagon which violated their outline of social distancing guidelines and their original edict that no in-cage interviews would occur. On the broadcast, Daniel Cormier joked that Rogan “threw a fit” before the show and was said to have insisted on doing the interviews inside the cage.
*Numerous examples of contact made at the weigh-ins including fist bumps and Michelle Waterson hugging Dana White
*Instances of people not wearing protective masks during the event including Dana White at cage side, there were numerous examples of others either not wearing the mask properly or not wearing one at all
*The viral test for COVID-19 takes at least 24 hours for results to come back with Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza tested on Wednesday and his positive result did not come back until Friday. The report states several personnel members did not arrive until less than 48 hours before the show and one judge reportedly arrived Friday night
*They added that the UFC informed the Times that the event participation agreement (more about that below) has had the language amended for future shows and was “not intended to stifle or otherwise silence anyone’s opinion as long as it is based on facts”.

**The UFC’s 20-page event operations plan is available to read in full and was published in conjunction with the report from the New York Times.

**UFC is back tonight with another card from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena with their second card in five nights. The show is airing exclusively on ESPN+ in the U.S, so it won’t be a show where we get a sense of the interest level for a rank-and-file show. While they won’t be on television against AEW or NXT in the U.S, the show will broadcast on TSN in Canada against AEW on the same network. TSN1/3/4 will carry the UFC event beginning at 7 pm Eastern while TSN2 will carry Dynamite at 8.

Here is the full card and results of Tuesday’s weigh-ins:

MAIN CARD (9 pm Eastern on ESPN+, TSN 1/4/5 in Canada)

*Anthony Smith (205) vs. Glover Teixeira (205.5) – Smith rebounded from the loss to Jon Jones by submitting Alexander Gustafsson last year while Teixeira at age 40 has won three in a row and four of his last five. It’s a quality Fight Night main event but it’s hard to see either placing themselves in a championship picture with a victory. Teixeira fought Jones way back in April 2014 but would still be a fight or two away from that conversation occurring. Dominick Reyes, Jan Blachowicz, and Thiago Santos would all be considered the higher-ranked light heavyweights.
*Ben Rothwell (265) vs. Ovince Saint Preux (240.5) – After missing three years, Rothwell fought three times in 2019 losing his first two and coming off a TKO win over Stefan Struve. After losing two of his last three, Saint Preux is making his heavyweight debut on this card and that’s the intriguing element to see how his body responds without a weight cut.
*Alexander Hernandez (155) vs. Drew Dober (156) – Hernandez was on a good run until the Donald Cerrone loss last year. He came back defeating Francisco Trinaldo and Dober is a tough opponent at lightweight. Dober has won five of his last six and brings a lot of power to this fight. This could be an outstanding fight the way they match up.
*Ray Borg (135.5) vs. Ricky Simon (135) – Borg’s biggest opponent has been the scale throughout his UFC tenure missing weight four times, including once at bantamweight. Flyweight is hopefully a distant memory now. After the championship fight with Demetrious Johnson, he came back in 2019 with three fights and won his last two. Simon was on a great stretch with wins over tough opponents in Merab Dvalishvili and Rani Yahya but then dropped fights to Urijah Faber and Rob Font, who is up the food chain at 135. I’d favor Simon in this fight to get back on track, but a lot of that prognosis is centered on Borg and what type of camp he had and fighting at bantamweight. He made weight, which was the key.
*Thiago Moises (155.5) vs. Michael Johnson (156)

PRELIMINARY CARD (6 pm on ESPN+, TSN at 7 pm & Fight Pass at 6 in Canada)
*Andrei Arlovski (238) vs. Philipe Lins (236)
*Sijara Eubanks (136) vs. Sarah Moras (136)
*Brian Kelleher (145.5) vs. Hunter Azure (145)
*Chase Sherman (253) vs. Ike Villanueva (232)
*Omar Morales (155.5) vs. Gabriel Benitez (155.5)

**A middleweight fight scheduled between Marvin Vettori and Karl Roberson if off tonight’s show. Roberson missed weight at 187.5 pounds on Tuesday and the cancellation was reported Wednesday by Ariel Helwani of ESPN. Helwani added that Roberson fell ill after the weight cut and it was not related to COVID-19. Later in the day, a video emerged of an incident between the two fighters at the hotel with a slew of obscenities issued by Vettori towards Roberson:

An emotional @MarvinVettori run through Karl Roberson at the hotel and immediately unloads on him tons of F bombs (via @DrCapodaglio). pic.twitter.com/IpyyYAscjX

— Al Zullino (@phre) May 13, 2020

**UFC president Dana White was a guest on Tim & Sid on Sportsnet in Canada discussing this past weekend’s card.
*He wasn’t concerned about the lack of crowd because of The Ultimate Fighter and the Contender Series templates
*Khabib Nurmagomedov told him he would be ready in September, which was a switch from what White said earlier about the summer
*He hopes the Nevada Athletic Commission will allow them to run fights in the state and is ready to run cards at the UFC Apex
*White reiterated that Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza being flagged proved the system works and would have be worst if his positive test came back two days later
*By the time White goes home, he said he will have been tested eight times and they administer 1,100 tests this week alone with each test costing approximately $130-135
*He said there was no issue with the fighters and those asked to sign the non-disparagement agreement and repeated his stance that it is only to prevent people from spreading lies but are free to criticize and never stop their fighters from speaking their mind
*He called the media “the weak” once again and aren’t built like he is
*It sucked they had to announce Georges St-Pierre’s Hall of Fame news without a live crowd to see the video
*White loves Mike Tyson but is begging him not to come back and fight and added “he absolutely wants to do something”

**This past weekend, it was reported an Event Participation Agreement was presented by the UFC to be signed by fighters and all those involved with UFC 249 – including members of the media. There were two points focused upon with one being the UFC looking to absolve themselves of any liability if those involved contracted COVID-19 or passed it on to others. The other point was limiting what could be said by those parties signing the agreement with fighters subject to all monies associated with the fight potentially being forfeited if they violated the agreement. The exact language in the agreement reads:

The Participant shall not, and shall cause its affiliates, agents and representatives not to, defame or disparage any of the Released Parties in any medium whatsoever in connection with the Activities. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the Participant will not suggest or communicate to any person or entity that the Activities have been or will be held without appropriate health, safety or other precautions, whether relating to COVID-19 or otherwise.

If the Participant is a Fighter, the Participant hereby acknowledges and agrees that in the event that the Participant breaches this Paragraph 7, the Company may revoke all or any part of any prize monies or awards won by the Participant in connection with the Activities, including, but not limited to, purses, win bonuses, other fight-related bonuses and event-based merchandise royalties.

When asked about this non-disparagement clause, UFC president Dana White stated it was only to prevent people from lying about any of the testings but they are free to criticize as long as it is true. The language in the agreement reads in a more ambiguous form than White’s description. The interpretation of true and false is typically subject to different interpretations in these specific cases. For instance, the example from White was someone stating there was no testing for COVID-19 testing, which is clearly false, and we have evidence to support testing that occurred. However, if a fighter were to go out and say there the testing was inadequate or done poorly, that is a grey area where the fighter may believe that to be the case and the UFC disagrees stating that it isn’t true.

Including the media brings up further issues regarding their chief role of reporting on the events and not being inhibited in any way with a document that can present the appearance of a penalty for doing their jobs.

This led to the MMAJA (Mixed Martial Arts Journalists Association) issuing a public statement requesting that media members not sign this agreement and offering additional legal advice and assistance for those concerned and signed by MMAJA officers Ben Fowlkes, Ariel Helwani, Josh Gross, Marc Raimondi, Dave Doyle, and Jeff Wagenheim:

The officers of the MMA Journalists Association are aware of a waiver that media members have been asked to sign when attending UFC events amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It is our opinion that this document is overly broad and overreaching in its scope, and may interfere with the ability of media members to do their jobs fully and effectively. We are advising members not to sign this document, even if it means foregoing in-person coverage of these UFC events.

We realize that this may put some MMAJA members in a difficult position, especially if they have been asked by their employers to attend and provide coverage of these events. To a point, we understand the UFC’s desire to take measures to protect itself legally and limit its own potential for liability during this uncertain time. We also understand the UFC’s desire to subject everyone who may come into contact with fighters or staff to COVID-19 testing and other reasonable safety measures.

But it is our belief that some of the restrictive language in the UFC’s agreement could have a chilling effect on journalists, possibly limiting their ability to fully and accurately report the facts. This is something we cannot support.

MMAJA officers reached out to the UFC to discuss the matter, but received no response. We also consulted with The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (https://www.rcfp.org/), which offers pro bono legal representation and other resources to “protect First Amendment freedoms and newsgathering rights of journalists.” RCFP legal fellow William Powell’s interpretation of the UFC participation agreement that MMAJA members and other credentialed media were asked to sign was that it was legally questionable and potentially ethically problematic. Going forward, RCFP offered consultation for MMAJA members, and would provide contact for a media attorney in Nevada if any of our members want to discuss challenging the agreement on public policy grounds.

We encourage members to reach out to us if they have any questions or concerns about our position. We offer our full and collective support to any MMAJA members who may be facing pressure to sign this document, or consequences stemming from their refusal to do so. Again, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us either individually or collectively with any issues or questions that may arise.

**In the New York Times piece today by Kevin Draper, they reported that the language in the agreement has been updated for future events with a UFC representative quoted as saying the agreement was “not intended to stifle or otherwise silence anyone’s opinion as long as it is based on facts”.

**MMA Junkie is reporting that the UFC’s Fight Night card that was expected to take place on May 23rd is now being targeted for May 30th but no location is confirmed. This means that AEW’s Double or Nothing pay-per-view will not have a UFC event going against them that night.

**Former UFC fighter Tim Gorman was arrested on Sunday by the Nebraska State Patrol where they found 121 pounds of marijuana along with other narcotics in his vehicle. According to WOWT, Gorman is facing two counts of possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana of over one pound, possession with intent to deliver and possession of money during a drug violation. This occurred Sunday when a trooper spotted him on the shoulder of the road and a K9 detected the odor and prompted a search of his vehicle. They discovered 121 pounds of marijuana, six pounds of THC concentrate, two vials of steroids, a small amount of cocaine, and $14,000 cash. He is currently in Buffalo County Jail in Kearney, Nebraska, and set to appear in court on June 17th with MMA Junke reporting his bond has been set at $250,000.

Gorman, 37, appeared on season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter in 2013 with coaches Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. He fought twice for the promotion in 2014 with losses to Mitch Gagnon and Thomas Almeida. He last fought in June 2015 defeating Justin Morrison on a card for the MCC group.

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