CNBC recently aired a documentary entitled "Ultimate Fighting: From Blood Sport to Big Time" featuring an interview with Robert Meyrowitz regarding his role as President of Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG), predecessor-in-interest to the Ultimate Fighting Championship brand.
When discussing SEG's need to obtain Nevada State Athletic Commission approval for mixed martial arts prior to selling the brand to Zuffa, LLC in January 2001, Meyrowitz stated:
"We went out there [to Nevada], it looked like we had the votes, we were told we did, and about midnight I got a phone call that one of the commissioners had changed his mind? and it turns out that commissioner was Lorenzo Fertitta, that he had changed his mind and that we wouldn't be able to get approval."
According to UFC President Dana White, Zuffa immediately challenged the false claims made by Meyrowitz and proof of the misstatements prompted CNBC to correct the content of the program in subsequent re-airings.
While appreciative of the networks efforts to ensure the accuracy of the encore presentations, Zuffa has informed CNBC this action alone is not adequate to address the detrimental effect of the fabricated and erroneous information contained in the original broadcast.
A copy of the document requesting the retraction was recently obtained by MMAFighting.com and the key elements are as follows:
1. False comments made by Mr. Meyrowitz pertaining to the sale of the UFC brand by SEG to Zuffa strongly imply that Lorenzo Fertitta attempted to improperly use his regulatory authority as a member of the NSAC to doom SEG's efforts to obtain NSAC approval of MMA.
2. The average member of CNBC's viewing audience would be tempted or even encouraged by Mr. Meyrowitz's false statements to believe that Lorenzo Fertitta sought to exploit his NSAC position for personal gain.
3. Mr. Meyrowitz is fully aware that no one ever called and told him Lorenzo Fertitta had changed his "vote" ? even had there been such a vote.
4. If any "midnight call" was received by Mr. Meyrowitz in reference to the hearing, it was not regarding any pending approval of MMA in Nevada and it certainly was not from Lorenzo Fertitta himself, any other member of the NSAC or other source authorized to speak on the NSAC's behalf.
5. Mr. Meyrowitz also gave an inaccurate portrayal to CNBC of how the Zuffa owners first contacted SEG regarding the possible purchase of the UFC brand by claiming that he first received a phone call from Dana White in which Mr. White stated "I have somebody who wants to buy this, you'll never guess who? I said give me one guess? Lorenzo Fertitta? he said 'how'd you guess? I said 'call me lucky.'"
6. Mr. Meyrowitz attempts to demonstrate a sinister motive by falsely stating that the same commissioner that voted against MMA's approval subsequently tried to approach SEG through a third party to acquire the UFC brand.
7. This description of events relating to Zuffa's purchase of the UFC assets from SEG aired on CNBC are inaccurate and Mr. Meyrowitz knows full well, at a much later date, months after resigning from the NSAC to pursue his new role as President of Station Casinos, Inc., Lorenzo Fertitta contacted Mr. Meyrowitz directly after learning that Mr. Meyrowitz was interested in selling a controlling interest in the UFC assets.
8. CNBC's editing of the false statements made by Mr. Meyrowitz are in such a way as it appears that Lorenzo Fertitta "voted" against Mr. Meyrowitz and immediately thereafter had Dana White call Mr. Meyrowitz to indicate that Lorenzo Fertitta wanted to buy the UFC assets. Such editing portrayed to CNBC's viewers that Lorenzo Fertitta abused his governmental position to obtain a private advantage-an impression that could not be further from the truth.
9. Eighteen months transpired between the NSAC public meeting and the time Lorenzo Fertitta spoke to Mr. Meyrowitz about the purchase of the UFC assets.
10. Mr. Meyrowitz's claim that the purpose of the (April 1999) meeting was to vote for the approval of MMA by the NSAC is false.
A copy of the Agenda and Minutes of the April 23, 1999 NSAC meeting has also been obtained.
The Agenda reveals there was no scheduled vote to approve MMA as a fully sanctioned sport in Nevada at such meeting, only a "presentation" by SEG (page 2 item 13 of published Agenda states: Presentation by SEG Sports Corporation and filing of the rules and regulations of the Mixed Martial Arts Council.
The published Minutes (page 1 item 4) of the April 23, 1999 meeting indicate: Mr. Meyrowitz and Mr. Chwasky addressed the commission regarding item #13 on the agenda. They asked that the item be deleted from the agenda. They also invited the commissioners to attend their next live event and then they will ask to be placed on a future agenda. Both Mr. Meyrowitz and Mr. Chwasky stated that they felt viewing an event of mixed martial arts would answer some of the questions that the commission might have. Marc Ratner stated that Chairman Ghanem would appoint a committee to attend the event and report back to the commission.
This sequence of events is recorded in the written factual record and directly contradicts Mr. Meyrowitz's recounting of such events during the CNBC interview. The record shows not only that no such vote was scheduled but that the NSAC, of which Lorenzo Fertitta was a commissioner at the time, appeared willing to embrace MMA and investigate it further by sending a committee to attend SEG's next event, thereby facilitating the process of educating NSAC commissioners about the sport and increasing the chances of MMA's ultimate approval and regulation.
The NSAC records appear to be inline with comments made by Lorenzo Fertitta during an interview with Joel Gold published in the February 2001 edition of Full Contact Fighter Magazine.
Excerpts of applicable content from the interview (available online in its entirety at http://www.fcfighter.com/news0103.htm):
FCF: When you were a member on the Nevada State Athletic Commission, I came out to Vegas along with the UFC and their lawyer. As it was told to me, there was to be a vote on whether the Nevada State Athletic Commission was going to approve the UFC. But a vote never did take place; can you tell me why a vote never happened and what was your feeling about the UFC at that time?
LF: I think there lies miscommunication. As far as the Commission was concerned, there never was supposed to be a vote; it was only an agenda item for discussion. We had never even discussed Mixed Martial Arts. We had never talked about it. We knew nothing about it. All of a sudden, it showed up on our agenda and, for whatever reason, people were expecting a vote and that is just not how the process works. What you have to understand is the reason that Nevada is looked at as one of the premier regulatory bodies throughout the world is because they do the homework. And that was not necessarily a time for a vote, but the time that got the ball rolling to start doing the homework.
What that means is myself and a fellow Commissioner and the head of the medical advisory board flew out to a UFC fight in Iowa and we started collecting data relative to Mixed Martial Arts, watching videos, reading publications and just trying to learn as much as we could about it, but I think that is where there was a little bit of miscommunication. There was never supposed to be a vote regarding Mixed Martial Arts.
Sanctioning in the state of Nevada was eventually approved and the first UFC event took place at the Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas on September 28, 2001.
According to Dave Meltzer (Wrestling Observer), Mr. Meyrowitz recently announced plans to return to the sport of MMA. Meyrowitz and leading event promoter Live Nation have signed a deal to start a new promotion and details of the partnership will be disclosed in the coming weeks.
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