Despite the many blunders of the Illinois Athletic Commission (IAC) last Thursday night in Chicago, the Professional Fighters League delivered some high-level MMA on the shores of Lake Michigan in their second ever event.
I will be the first person to admit, when I first heard of the plans to rebrand the World Series of Fighting, I was intrigued. As much as I enjoyed the WSOF broadcasts, the production was growing a bit stale for my liking. So, when Carlos Silva and Ray Sefo announced plans to structure their mixed martial arts organization in a more traditional sports sense, the MMA community was forced to play the wait and see game.
Fast-forward two years and the Professional Fighters League is off and running, albeit with growing pains of its own.
The PFL’s first ever event held at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY was largely a success. There were big knock-outs, some competitive fights, the point system seems to work well, and most importantly perhaps, the New York State Athletic Commission did not drop the ball like they have done in the past.
Building on that momentum Ray Sefo and company rolled into the Windy City with a solid 13- fight card. Little did he know the Illinois Athletic Commission would be responsible for deciding the outcome of three of those contests.
The IAC would make their first error in judgement just three fights in; Robert Watley was awarded three points for the victory and an additional two points for the second round TKO. Here in lies the problem, Watley didn’t knock Thiago Tavares out, rather he accidentally committed a low blow that resulted in Tavares exhausting his allotted five minutes of recovery time. Based on previous outcomes, scenarios like this have always been ruled as no contests.
This minor oversight may not have been an issue for commissions in the past, however, the PFL is predicated on the validity of its point system. And if state commissions can’t get the most basic of rules correct the PFL will suffer from their ineptitude.
The second IAC blunder occurred during the Facebook prelims feature bout, when Brandon Halsey defeated Smealinho Rama via doctor stoppage at the end of the second round. This one’s simple right? The correct ruling should have been Halsey TKO via doctor stoppage 5:00 round 2. Not so fast says the Illinois Athletic Commission who ruled the fight to be stopped via the doctor at the one second mark in round three. Not only is this an egregious mistake on behalf of the IAC, but it also could potentially cost Halsey a spot in the post season.
The final and most unforgivable misshape of the evening isn’t entirely on the IAC, but they are culpable to some degree.
Efrain Escudero submitted Jason High in the third round via guillotine choke, or did he? I know referee Josh Stewart personally, he has been a mainstay on the Illinois MMA scene for some time. He is a good official with a very respectable track record, but it is my opinion that he blew this call. It all happened very fast, Escudero had High in a guillotine choke, High would make a series of quick movements with his hands that Stewart interpreted as a tap. Even after watching and re-watching the replay there live, I couldn’t in good conscious admit to seeing a tap out by High.
Making the matter worse, the overseeing body for the Illinois Athletic Commission – the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) reviewed these instances and came to the same conclusion. That is of course no surprise.
Both Tavares and High plan on appealing, but we all know how that will most likely play out.
Mike Straus @AKAstraus21 is a credentialed MMA journalist and a member of the MMAJA. He has been a fan of the sport since its inception and has been covering the sport professionally for three years. In the past, he has produced content for Fansided’s Cagepages, mma-media.com, and Combatpress.com. He currently contributes for MyMMANews.com, he is a staff writer for Cagesidepress.com, and LowKickMMA.com. He most recently began writing for BJPenn.com.