Anthony Johnson Will File a Complaint With New York Commission Over "Towel-Gate"

Fightland Blog

By Josh Rosenblatt

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Any hopes the bumbling and beleaguered New York State Athletic Commission had that this weekend’s numerous regulatory fiascoes would just vanish with the end of UFC 210 are fading quickly away. Following the controversy of a co-main event, which was called off after Gegard Mousasi hit Chris Weidman in the head with legal knees that referee Dan Miragliotta took to be illegal only to be told by ringside officials that they were in fact legal, Weidman, through his manager, has already stated his intention to appeal his TKO loss. Meanwhile, the chaos of that fight has emboldened the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board to reiterate its opposition to changes to the so-called “downed-opponent rule.” In an email sent yesterday NJSACB Commissioner Larry Hazzard Sr. asked the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports to reconsider the new rule, which makes it illegal to knee the head of an opponent who has both hands on the ground—a rule, New Jersey believes, that will result in more head injuries in MMA and more confusion for referees and officials, and that will not prevent fighters from “playing the game” of keeping their hands on the ground to avoid getting kneed, as demonstrated to such calamitous effect by Weidman Saturday night.

Unfortunately for the NYSAC, the complaints don’t end there. Yesterday it was reported that main event loser Anthony “Rumble” Johnson will be putting off his retirement from MMA long enough to file an official complaint with the commission over the way they handled the weigh-ins for his fight with light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier.

You’ll recall that Cormier weighed 1.2 pounds over the 205 weight limit at about 10:57am the day before the fight, after which he disappeared into a back room and then returned to the scale two minutes later magically weighing exactly 205—this, of course, after being spotted by the gathered MMA press and anyone with eyes to see holding onto and leaning on a towel being held taut for him by a teammate. Cormier pled innocence, of course, and NYSAC Executive Director Tony Giardina claimed not to have seen the towel grab, and even Johnson seemed unconcerned at the time, but now, with the benefit of time and coming off a bruising loss, “Rumble” has apparently changed his mind.

Speaking to ESPN yesterday, Johnson’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, said his client’s rights had been “violated” by the actions of Cormier and the New York commission. “Everyone saw what happened,” Abdelaziz said. “How do you lose 1.2 pounds in two minutes?”

Abdelaziz and Johnson are right to be skeptical, of course, but they’re not foolish enough to believe those extra 1.2 pounds gave Cormier the advantage he needed to beat Johnson as soundly as he did. No, they’re reasonable men, and as such they’re not asking that Cormier’s victory be overturned, only that the champion be punished and his challenger rewarded.

"We don't want to take anything away from [Cormier]. He earned that win," Abdelaziz said. "But [Cormier] needs to give up 20 percent of his purse to Anthony.” Following Monday’s report on ESPN, Johnson’s lawyer, Craig Zimmerman, confirmed the story on MMAFighting.com and listed his client’s other demands.

“[W]e need acknowledgment that the weigh-in was handled incorrectly,” Johnson said. “And … we need New York to clean up the weigh-in procedures so this doesn’t happen again.”

All of which seems like small price to pay, not to mention the wise thing to do, for the NYSAC, which, in just the few short months that MMA has been legal in New York, has shown itself to be the gang that couldn’t shoot straight (for further evidence see Germaine de Randamie’s unpunished after-the-bell punches at UFC 208 and the attempt to pull Pearl Gonzalez from this weekend’s event for having breast implants). The NYSAC needs a win badly, and maybe the best way to get one is to listen to Craig Zimmerman, who, referencing yet another controversy from Saturday’s event (officials consulting instant replay video to determine the result of the Mousasi/Weidman fight, against NYSAC policy), tore into Giardina and his entire commission for either not seeing what they should have seen or lying about it afterwards.

“People are talking about instant replay during the fight; what about instant replay during the weigh-in then?” Zimmerman said. “Looks like [Cormier is] leaning on a towel to me.”

And to us, Craig. 


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