History of MMA in United States: Nevada

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This is the 28th of a 50-part series documenting the history and current state of MMA for each of the 50 states in the United States of America. You can find the rest of the series to date here. Each part will chronicle the history of MMA as well as several notable fighters and camps in each state. This is the history of Nevada MMA. Be sure to check out the previous part, Nebraska

History of in Nevada MMA

Nevada, the 36th state to join the Union, is widely known for being the fight capital of the world. Nevada could easily have its own series with the amount of history in connection to the world of MMA. Las Vegas is the home of the UFC. It also has been the host site for many of the biggest moments in the sport’s history.

Nevada Athletic Commission

The Nevada Athletic Commission, also known as NSAC, is the governing body for within the state of Nevada. The commission was created in 1941. The commission is made up of five part-time board members. Each serves a three-year term while the chairman serves a two-year term. Arguably they have the biggest spotlight in the MMA world always on them. With that said, the NAC’s shortcomings will always stand out among other commissions.

The Tenure of Pat Lundvall

The first woman ever elected chair of the NAC, Pat Lundvall, has had a mixed review of her tenure serving with the NAC from 2007 to 2016. Known in the legal world for her “aggressive” style, that often translated over into rulings and her input through the NAC in regards to suspensions and fines levied against combat sports athletes. There have been several incidents with several high profile fighters but we will just look at a couple here.

“King Mo” Lawal Incident

In 2012 former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, Muhammed Lawal, came before the commission in reference to a testing positive for an anabolic steroid. At the beginning of questioning, Lundvall asked King Mo if he spoke English, which Lawal took as racist and offensive. Lawal posted a tweet shortly after the hearing (which he later deleted) stating Lundvall was being racist for asking him if he can speak English. Some have looked at it as Lundvall trying to use a legal tactic to back Lawal in a corner for withholding information on his license application, while others look at it as her being inappropriate. Many have cited the latter as their preference because the question came into play several minutes after the session began and it was clear Lawal could speak English.

Nick Diaz Incident

In the beginning of 2015, Nick Diaz came before the NAC board for a hearing. It was in relation to a failed drug test from his contest with Anderson Silva. Lundvall went as far as to recommend a lifetime ban for this being his third failed marijuana test. Her request was denied by her peers and a five-year ban was settled on along with a $165,000 fine. After an appeal, the ban was dropped to 18 months and the fine to $100,000. Diaz’s attorney referred to the hearing as a “kangaroo court” with Lundvall upset at Diaz for invoking his fifth amendment right to not self-incriminate.

Major Organization Visit the Combat Sports Capital of the World

It would take way too much time to cover all of the events that have taken place in Nevada, mainly Las Vegas. Even monumental UFC moments in Las Vegas could be it’s on mini-series. As of all UFC events prior to UFC 228, Las Vegas has hosted 117 events. Bellator has also made appearances in Nevada, albeit only two and none in Las Vegas.

Some Major Moments in Nevada for the UFC

The First Las Vegas MMA Show

In the early days of the UFC, it was extremely difficult for the UFC to find homes. The sport still had a “cockfighting” appearance and scared off many potential hosts and pay-per-view providers. Under the Zuffa banner of owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, UFC 33: Victory in Vegas was the first UFC event to be held in Nevada. UFC 33 was also the first MMA event sanctioned by the NAC.

The card was less than stellar with every main card fight going to decision. Dana White even made the statement in a press conference after UFC 111, “UFC 33 is the only one where I remember where very fight sucked.” The main event featured Tito Ortiz defeating Vladimir Matyushenko to retain the UFC light heavyweight title. Though the poor reviews, the card was stacked with talent such as Chuck Liddell, Matt Serra, Yves Edwards, Ricardo Almeida, and Din Thomas. The inventor of the Peruvian Necktie, Tony DeSouza, also competed on the undercard. The event took place on September 28, 2001, in the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Other Moments in Nevada for the UFC

Las Vegas is certainly title town for the UFC. UFC titles have changed hands 43 times in the company’s history (this is not counting successful title defenses.) The first came with Dave Menne defeating Gil Castillo at UFC 33, the state’s first MMA event. Matt Hughes won the welterweight title at the company’s next Las Vegas event, UFC 34, and went on a five-fight winning streak toward his hall of fame career.

The moment that arguably saved the UFC and mixed martial arts potentially was The Ultimate Fighter: Team Couture vs. Team Liddell Finale which took place on April 09, 2005 at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas. The finale card was the ending to the very first season of The Ultimate Fighter reality-based television show which aired on Spike TV. The co-main event featured one of the greatest fights of all time as light heavyweight finalists Forrest Griffin took on Stephan Bonnar in a three-round decision war, which saw Griffin take the victory. Both fighters ended up earning a contract immediately after the bout for their instant classic. The card and the first season of TUF are a, “who’s who” of the mixed martial arts world.

Fighters and Camps In/From Nevada

As with every other section on Nevada, this has the potential to be its own mini-series. Being the fight capital of the world, many of the best fighters from all over the world now call Las Vegas home. Due to this, it can be difficult to list all of the fighters with a Nevada connection.

The Young Syndicate MMA Up and Comer

One of those young up and coming fighters that now calls Las Vegas home is Sherrard “The Thriller” Blackledge. Blackledge trains at the highly respected Syndicate MMA, home to some of the best MMA talent in the world. Some of those include Khalil Rountree Jr., Jessica-Rose Clark, Eric Spicely, and Louisiana’s own JD Domengeaux. Blackledge is currently 7-1-1 winning his last five in a row. He has made multiple Tuff-N-Uff appearances as well as with the WFC. Blackledge is coming off of a second-round knockout in June 2018.

“Of my short time in the sport, I’ve noticed the fans in Nevada are very passionate about combat sports,” Blackledge told MMASucka. “Being the city of entertainment, they truly enjoy a ‘entertainer’.” Blackledge has only been in the sports capital of the world for a few years but has noticed the sport’s popularity increase. “I came here about four years ago and have known about MMA for the past three years, so to be here during this time the sport has peaked most has been amazing. I’ve gotten to fight in front of thousands due to the increased popularity of the sport,” Blackledge said. Certainly with a home like Syndicate MMA, look for Blackledge to continue his progression.

Las Vegas’ Born Legend

Las Vegas is now linked to the careers of many fighters. Very few can claim the distinction like Frank Mir of being born in Las Vegas. The former UFC heavyweight champion currently competes under the Bellator banner. He is coming off of a loss to Fedor Emelianenko in the Grand Prix tournament. During his run in the UFC, Mir claimed the heavyweight title in June 2004. After a near career-ending motorcycle wreck, Mir was forced to vacate. He fought is his way back and reclaimed the title four years later defeating Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 92. The division’s winningest fighter will go down as a UFC great and one of the greatest combat sports athletes ever from Nevada.

Part 29 of the series will be the state of New Hampshire. Stay tuned to MMASucka for the whole series and all of the breaking news in the world of MMA.

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Matt's love and passion for martial arts began at the age of four with Taekwondo. Matt later trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu while serving nearly ten years in law enforcement. Matt has just recently discovered his passion of writing on mixed martial arts.

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