UFC president Dana White this week praised the Nevada Athletic Commission once again for its decision to regulate slap fighting, but the commission chairman at the time of approval regrets it.
A primary ownership group consisting of White, UFC chief business officer Hunter Campbell, Zuffa founders Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, and UFC ownership group Endeavor succeeded in convincing the NAC last October to approve slap fighting. That cleared the way for the Power Slap League to run events at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Stephen Cloobeck served as NAC chairman last October when Campbell made a slap-fighting presentation to the commission before the governing body voted to approve the controversial combat sport. Two months later, Cloobeck stepped down. And now three months after his resignation, he apparently feels differently about approving slap fighting in Nevada.
“I made a mistake,” Cloobeck said, according to the Associated Press. “I’m not happy about it.”
White didn’t directly respond to Cloobeck’s admission, but he acknowledged it before going on about the NAC making the right call.
“As far as Cloobeck, he’s not on the commission anymore. But why wouldn’t you want it to be regulated?” White told The Spun. “We’re taking a lot of the risk out of combat sports. Regulation isn’t about personal taste or preference. Athletic commissions are tasked with protecting adults who are knowingly and willfully choosing to engage in an unarmed combat sport. A key function of their duty is to make sure the athletes are medically fit to compete.”
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As evidence of combatant health and safety being prioritized, White said this week at a news conference that a combatant recently was found to have a brain aneurysm through pre-fight medical testing. His scheduled contest for Saturday’s Power Slap 1 Finale was subsequently canceled.
Although White’s words about an athletic commission’s function ring true, critics have argued that slap fighting is completely unsafe to begin with given that participants aren’t allowed to defend themselves like they can in boxing, mixed martial arts and other traditional combat sports. Instead, slap fighting allows full-forced, open-hand slaps to the face that medical experts have stated will cause traumatic brain injuries. They’ve explained how these slaps can act as de facto punches depending on what part of the hand hits the face.
Footage from the first season of “Power Slap: Road to the Title” on TBS has been jarring, prompting outrage from Chris Nowinski, one of the nation’s leading concussion experts. Two members of Congress also spoke out against Power Slap, asking Warner Brothers and TBS for answers about its airing. There’s danger in trying to popularize the “sport,” critics say.
White this week said the outrage over Power Slap simply stems from his name being behind it.
“When it was going on before, nobody was covering it,” White said. “Because I’m involved now, everybody wants to attack it.”
White pointed to “over a billion views” of Power Slap content across social media platforms in touting its early success. However, viewership of Power Slap’s first season on TBS tells a different story.
Wednesday’s final episode pulled in just 220,000 viewers, according to Show Buzz Daily. It was the lowest rating of the season and came after the pro wrestling show “AEW: Dynamite” had 858,000 viewers as a lead into Power Slap.
Still, White insists that Power Slap is primed to become the next big thing as he compares the early stages of the promotion to that of the UFC.
“There’s so much deja vu for me with this whole Slap thing,” White said. “It is exactly like the beginning of the UFC, Season 1 of (‘The Ultimate Fighter’). Everybody’s sh*tting on the show, everybody’s talking negatively, ‘This isn’t a real sport, these people aren’t athletes, this shouldn’t be sanctioned.’ It’s exactly the same. The only thing that’s different is more media is covering it.”
He added, “The numbers don’t lie. This thing is a monster.”