Without federal regulations, mixed martial arts promoters are forced to abide by guidelines that often vary both in type and size as they hold events in different states. The World Series of Fighting (WSOF) ran headlong into this particular challenge as they held their second show overall and first in New Jersey on Saturday evening at Revel Resort and Casino in Atlantic City.
As it turns out, the show came close to never happening. Aside from complications prior to the weigh-ins, the organization failed to comply with state regulations as it pertains to creating a complete, safe cage. In short, WSOF initially provided both a canvas and cage pads too small for their own cage. Bloody Elbow was the first to report the news.
Nick Lembo, counsel for the New Jersey Athletic Control Board and the commission official in charge of cage inspection, didn't specifically articulate how close WSOF II was to cancellation, but noted there is precedent within New Jersey to cancel shows whose cages don't meet articulated state parameters. "Yeah, it's happened before," Lembo told MMA Fighting. "We had a show, I believe, in August. We cancelled the show because it only had one cage door."
"It was a new canvas and they get new pads for every show," Lembo explained of the WSOF's predicament and why things were amiss. He said at 4 p.m. ET on Friday before the weigh-ins he observed the canvas and pads were insufficient for the show to be allowed to continue, but was told of the WSOF's plans to ensure the event could take place on time.
Lembo said a canvas was flown in the following day and cage pads were borrowed from the locally-based promotion Cage Fury Fighting Championships (CFFC). "I guess about 3 p.m. ET on Saturday is when I had done a final inspection. They had brought in the canvas from the first show and took the pads from Cage Fury," he said.
The prelims began at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday evening, meaning the show was approved to go forward just hours prior to the planned start of the event.
Cage issues, however, weren't the only regulatory hurdles WSOF faced. Two other problems tripped up the upstart MMA promotion prior to Friday's weigh-ins, namely, medical paperwork and an scale that lacked proper certification.
"There's certain paperwork that needs to be completed before the weigh-in starts, before anyone gets on the scale," Lembo said. "There was a misunderstanding on their part about medical insurance. We want executed claim forms for each fighter in the case of an injury, so that we have it already completed and already executed the page by the promoter. Then we can just give it to the fighter, their representative, or the EMT or if our ringside physician is going over, if necessary, so there's no delay in processing the payments for the medical insurance. They had a misunderstanding that that had to be completed [prior to the weigh-ins]. They had the claim forms, but they didn't have them fully executed for each fighter."
Lembo said this partly contributed to the approximately hour-long delay to the start of the weigh-in. The other problem was WSOF's attempted use of an improper scale. "The scale has to be certified in New Jersey," he said. "They had a scale that was certified from their last show [in Nevada], but the scale has to be certified by the Office of Weights and Measures in the county that you're having the show in."
WSOF again leaned on the promotional infrastructure of the CFFC to resolve the issue. "[WSOF] used Cage Fury's [scale]," said Lembo. "[CFFC] had their scale there because they do shows at the Borgota and they keep their scale there, which is just another casino not too far away."
Ultimately the show moved forward despite the numerous regulatory problems. Still, the experience was a unique, state-based challenge for the promotion now only through its second-ever show. "It was their first time in New Jersey," said Lembo. "I think they were getting acclimated to the process."