Ten years ago Jon Jones lost a fight.
Actually, he didn’t lose the fight, he was just given a loss on his record. Jones battered and bloodied the affable but overmatched Matt “The Hammer” Hamill. He took control of the fight midway through the first round with a trip takedown and went immediately into side control. Jones then mounted Hamill and started raining down punches and elbows. Hammill defended as well as he could and held on for a while until Jones delivered a pair of downward elbows.
Hamill was cut open and the referee immediately stood Jones up and docked him a point for the illegal elbows. Under the unified rules of MMA “12 to 6” elbows to a downed opponent are against the rules. Joe Rogan said on the broadcast at the time and has repeated this week that the rule came into place after someone saw a video of a karate practitioner breaking an ice block with his elbow. This assertion has never been verified but has clearly remained part of MMA folklore for the past decade.
SiriusXM radio host Luke Thomas reached out to New Jersey Athletic Commission Chairman Larry Hazzard, who told Thomas via an email read on today’s broadcast of “The Luke Thomas Show” that the iceblock story simply isn’t true and that the 12 to 6 rule was made with consultation with physicians and former UFC commissioner Jeff Blatnick.
Regardless of the inception of the rule, it was the rule, and the referee interpreted at that moment that it was broken. After docking Jones a point and checking on Hamill, the fight was stopped and Hamill, being unable to continue after the elbows, won the fight by disqualification.
It’s still the lone loss on Jones’ record. It was questioned at the time and fans are very familiar that the loss very much comes with an asterisk and that Jones is essentially an undefeated fighter.
At the time, Dana White vowed to book Jones as if he won the fight and he followed through with that. Jones headlined a show against Brandon Vera in his next fight and was fighting for the light heavyweight title a year after that.
Jones attempted to appeal the referee’s decision, but the Nevada Athletic Commission declined to hear the case. Everyone moved on, Jones has had a great but troubled career and has done just fine for himself despite that blemish on his record.
Now, nearly a full decade later, UFC president Dana White wants to go back and have the ruling on that fight overturned to a no-contest or even a win for Jones.
“That one loss on his record, we’re trying to get that (overturned),” White told “The Sedano Show” on ESPN radio. “It was at a time and a place in the Nevada State Athletic Commission when it was at its worst.”
UFC color commentator Joe Rogan agreed with White’s intention to have the result overturned. In a tweet, Rogan called the 12-6 rule “one of the dumbest rules in combat sports.”
I’m in agreement with this 100%. The 12-6 elbow rule is one of the dumbest rules in combat sports. At the very least that fight should be a no contest. He was completely dominant.
— Joe Rogan (@joerogan) June 25, 2019
There is a very strong argument that the 12-6 rule isn’t necessary and should be abolished. It’s difficult to interpret in the heat of the moment for both fighters and officials. Also, Hamill wasn’t severely hurt from the elbows. He was deemed unable to continue due to the cut and bleeding into his eye, but many legal strikes could create a similar outcome.
Bringing this fight back up has stirred up much debate about what is or isn’t and what should or shouldn’t be legal in an MMA fight and whether Jones deserves to have that loss on his record overturned or not. But in all of this debate, people are missing the big picture issue here.
The Nevada commission should not grant Dana White’s request to have the result overturned for one simple reason, and that reason alone:
Fight promoters should not be influencing fight outcomes.
In a world full of interim titles, questionable matchmaking, pulsing and freak show fights, perhaps the last bastion of credibility in MMA is that the state athletic commissions oversee and regulate the sport. When promoters begin meddling in making and changing rules and ultimately the results of fights, said results don’t mean anything anymore. UFC and Dana White should focus on promoting fights and allow the regulators to do the regulation.
The NFL is able to suggest and change fight rules, but ultimately there are 32 owners and a players union that have to also agree on those rules. If Dana White has the influence to change the outcome of a fight from ten years ago, that is a dangerous amount of power for one man to have if fight results are to be taken seriously.
So why does he care now?
Jones’ DQ loss to Hamill is nothing new. It gets referenced every time Jones fights as a way to remind fans that he is, in essence, still undefeated. I have two theory’s as to why Dana White might want to change this result now after all these years. One is promotional and one is personal.
Let’s start with personal. The referee who stopped the fight and awarded it to Hamill by DQ? None other than Steve Mazzagatti. Dana White hates Steve Mazzagatti and he isn’t shy about it.
“I’ve had my issues with Steve Mazzagatti for a very long time,” White said in a May 2014 interview. Don’t know the guy personally. He could be the nicest guy in the world. He’s just not a good referee. A referee is a guy who is supposed to be in control of the fight the whole time. Not only are the fighters supposed to know what’s going on but all the judges and fans are supposed to know what’s going on. Nobody ever knows what’s going on with Mazzagatti and his refereeing. The guy needs a lot more work before he ends up being in big fights on big stages and can affect peoples’ careers and lives.”
In the below media scrum, White spends nine minutes blasting “f-ing toolbox” Mazzagatti.
White maintains this stance on Mazzagatti to this day, telling “The Sedano Show” that Mazzagatti “shouldn’t have been in there.”
So needless to say, Dana White doesn’t like Steve Mazzagatti. Perhaps the best revenge White could get on him would be to erase his biggest mistake.
The promotional incentive for White to do this requires a few pieces to come together perfectly but could pay off if he’s insistent that the loss is removed from Jones’ record.
My theory is that White wants to be able to promote Jon Jones as officially undefeated so that he can take on another undefeated fighter down the line with that other fighter being Israel Adesanya.
Adesanya currently sits at 17-0 and is slated to unify the middleweight title with Robert Whittaker later this year. Should he come out on top, and be willing to make the move up to light heavyweight, a Jones-Adesanya fight could do massive business.
The magic that happened when Adesanya fought Anderson Silva earlier this year was truly something special. One of the greatest fighters of all time up against a younger counterpart cut from the same cloth told a great story and the fight delivered in the cage. Jones vs. Adesanya is a very similar concept only Jones is still at top form. Add the promotional caveat of two undefeated fighters, one a veteran, and the other an up and comer ready to take the throne and we have ourselves a very marketable fight.
Dana White absolutely shouldn’t be trying to influence the results of fights or commission or referee decisions. But if he does get his way, the potential payoff is big.
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