Leah Letson knocks out Elizabeth Phillips via head kick - Invicta FC 21

Leah Letson knocks out Elizabeth Phillips via head kick - Invicta FC 21 - January 14, 2017. Photo by Scott Hirano, Invicta FC

Loophole allows Elizabeth Phillips to compete 20 days after Invicta FC 21 knockout

Leah Letson knocks out Elizabeth Phillips via head kick - Invicta FC 21
Leah Letson knocks out Elizabeth Phillips via head kick Invicta FC 21 January 14 2017 Photo by Scott Hirano Invicta FC

Loophole allows Elizabeth Phillips to compete 20 days after Invicta FC 21 knockout

Former UFC bantamweight Elizabeth Phillips (5-5) was given a 60-day medical suspension following her Invicta FC 21 knockout loss to Leah Letson.  The knockout came via head kick and was called to an end by referee Mike England, January 14, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.

The suspension was handed down by the Office of Athletics, part of the Missouri Division of Professional Regulation. It is the responsibility of the Event’s licensed medical doctor – ringside physician to evaluate the severity of the KO and while still at the event, issue a medical suspension. Most suspensions vary between 30, 45, or 60 days. This is to assure that the fighter has time to recover from the knock out or blows suffered and be evaluated by a licensed medical doctor to assure they are able to fight again and when.

Click the link below to view a .PDF that details entire Invicta FC 21 results and suspensions handed down by the Office of Athletics.  There is also a .jpeg photo that details the results below that as well.

Invicta FC 21 results

Invicta FC 21 results and suspensions
Invicta FC 21 results and suspensions – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Just 20 days after the loss to Letson, Phillips then competed and won on a card in Washington.  The event was held by a promotion called ExciteFight on February 3, 2017 at the Northern Quest Resort and Casino in Spokane, Washington.

Phillips took on Sarah Howell in the Conquest of the Cage main event.

Fight takes place around 1:11:00 into the video below:

We reached out to officials in Washington to find out how a professional fighter, one who just competed in the UFC months ago, could go from a knockout loss in Missouri on January 14, and compete in Washington on February 3.

Weren’t there concerns for fighter safety?

Christine Anthony, of the Communications and Education Office, Washington State Department of Licensing tells MyMMANews:

“The event you are asking us about was held on tribal land at the Northern Quest Casino in Spokane, and we were not invited to oversee it, so we don’t have any information about the participants.”

The Loophole

Christine is correct.  The event was held on land owned by the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, and although there is an athletic commission in place in the state of Washington, they have no authority on tribal land.

We then reached out to Excite Fight who as of press time has yet to return any form of contact for a response.

The next logical step was to contact the Casino.

Justin Kobluk, Director of Entertainment at Northern Quest Resort and Casino tells MyMMANews:

“Thank you for your input regarding the recent MMA event at Northern Quest.  Fighter safety and the integrity of our events are absolutely paramount in everything we do and we have years of events maintaining an impeccable reputation.   Past events have included multiple MMA events, professional boxing and even hosting three years of the US National amateur boxing championships and Olympic qualifying.  I have passed your comments and concerns along to the fight promoter / matchmaker of this recent event and he will be able to address your concerns.”

The purpose of an athletic commission is to regulate all contests and exhibitions of unarmed combat within the state, including licensure and supervision of promoters, boxers, kickboxers, mixed martial arts fighters, seconds, ring officials, managers, and matchmakers. The commission is the final authority on licensing matters, having the ability to approve, deny, revoke, or suspend all licenses for unarmed combat.

Medical suspensions are common and as stated above are to protect the fighter.

What we have here is a fighter who has competed in the highest professional mixed martial arts organization in the UFC going back down to the feeder organizations with complete disregard for the rules, putting herself and others at risk.  Of course every fighter wants to compete, that’s why you train in the sport, but what is the purpose of a commission and the rules they are to enforce if fighters, managers, and promoters use a loophole in the system allowing the fighter to compete?

Technically what was done here is legal because no commission was allowed to intervene or oversee regulation.  It’s just like some suspensions are not upheld overseas.  Was Elizabeth the first to do this?  NO.  Will she be the last? More than likely not.  That’s why there is a loophole and a dangerous one at that.

There is the argument that fighter’s are not paid nearly enough and they can compete for the extra income.  That is all well and good and very understandable but again, it comes down to safety.

In a time when athletes and the majority of promoters are trying to propel the sport into acceptance, instances like these can cause more harm than good.  The UFC recently extended commitment to Cleveland Clinic and Fighters’ Brain Health Study in order to help set new standards for athlete health and safety.

Some gym owners and fight managers are even requiring fighters to get frequent brain scans. Conor McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh has made it mandatory at SBG Ireland.

Luckily Phillips was not hurt in the February 3 fight, but what if?

It seems as if the Office of Athletics in Missouri was unaware, then officials in Washington were unable to do anything about the event, and the Casino states that safety was paramount, but the promoter has yet to comment.

What if she had sustained another knockout blow?  What about concussions and the long-term effect on the brain?

Who would take the blame?  Is Elizabeth Phillips solely at fault, risking her health?  Is her manager to blame? How about the promoter?

The win did not go on Phillips’ professional record although there are instances where fights on Indian reservations are sanctioned through a third party and the outcome is logged in a fighter’s win-loss column.

Tim Lueckenhoff, Executive Director, Office of Athlete Agents, Missouri Division of Professional Regulation tells MyMMANews:

What she needs to understand is that this fight will cause her problems being approved for fights in the future because she ignored the suspension.”


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