During Saturday's World Series of Fighting 5 telecast on NBCSports, reporter Joey Varner made a startling announcement. A new Jersey Athletic Commission staffer reportedly saw a cornerman give middleweight Elvis Mutapcic a medication from a bottle containing several different prescription pills, as they were readying to walk down the aisle for the main card fight with Jesse Taylor. Not knowing what was in them, and with no record of a waiver or other form of approval, NJSAC counsel Nick Lembo cancelled the contest.
"There were some prescriptions that weren't given to our doctors during the physicals and that weren't approved by us, the commission," said Lembo. "So since we don't know what they are and what they do, we cancelled the fight.
"We can't take that chance to have that fight go off, so those things need to be looked at, and they need to be talked about. We just feel that we're not going to have a fight in New Jersey when we don't know what someone is taking."
Mutapcic said the entire thing was a case of mistaken identity.
"I really don't know what happened, what she saw," said the Bosnian American. "She might have been taking some medication, herself. I put in a good 10-week training camp. I worked my ass off. I know Taylor's ready. I'm not sure if she misstated me for my manager, who has a heart prescription. He was the one that had it. We're all dressed the same - same T-shirt, same hat. I mean, there's four of us, and she's pointing me out, that I took it. I say I'll take a blood test. I'll give a hair sample if they need it. I've got nothing in my system. I'm completely clean."
WSoF president Ray Sefo said the bottle contained six or more different pills, and blamed the corner for incometence.
"It is sad to see this happen," said Sefo. "I've been in martial arts for 25 years and have never seen anything like this. Elvis has been training for this fight for 10 weeks. But the commission has made its decision and we have to live with it. Because this was an issue with the fighters manager, both fighters will receive their show money."
NJSAC commissioner Aaron Davis later issued a more detailed explanation to MMAJunkie.
It is always the least pleasing option for a Commission to cancel a contest, especially on fight night. We are very cognizant of the negative effect on the promotion, fighters and our fans. However, our first and foremost concern must always be the health and safety of the competitors and the integrity of the contest.
Simply put, there are substances which are permitted to be in the possession of the fighter and his or her corner; but there are a multitude of substances that are NOT allowed in the corner.
Fighters and corners should be aware of published banned substances lists Fighters are also responsible for what their chosen corners bring into the backstage area. Such may be why some promotions refuse to allow corners to even bring their own water, Vaseline, Gatorade or other items into the venue warm up areas.
This agency recovered substances which were not permissible to be in the corner, and which were never disclosed to the Commission in advance. Several different types of a cache of pills were found all located in one single prescription container.
The prescription bottle was noticed by an Inspector, the Inspector advised Nick Lembo of its presence. Next, Lembo went with the Inspector and Referee Dan Miragliotta to retrieve the bottle. The bottle was obtained, and was brought to cage side physicians. At that point, the corner man was questioned in the presence of three NJSACB representatives. Based on the recovered bottle as well as the conversation with the corner person, this agency was very uncomfortable with moving forward with the scheduled contest.
Again, a fighter and his corner team cannot bring any substances of their choosing into the locker room, especially when not declaring same. The dressing room and backstage area is a non public, controlled area for an obvious purpose. That purpose is to limit the ability to allow an individual to provide an unfair advantage, mitigate later unfair advantage claims, and limit the ability to tamper with substances and equipment.
We have not yet been provided with any independent drug test results, but would be surprised if such testing included all substances on the WADA banned list, and was performed by an accredited lab. From what we have been told by reporters about this independent test, the number and types of substances tested for were minimal at best. Regardless, whether or not the banned substances were ingested, they were not permissible in the locker room area. These items were not allowed to be in the possession of the fighter or his corners. These items were not permissible to be kept without advance disclosure.
Attached is a photo of the undeclared items in the corner's possession just prior to the contest.
As World Series of Fighting President Ray Sefo said in an NBC interview on fight night, there were at least six or more different kinds of pills in the bottle and he put the blame on the incompetence of the corner.
Upon reflection, we are extremely confident in our actions and decisions with regard to this matter.
We would vigorously contest any legal action, and would welcome any contest to our actions which were made in the best interests of fairness, safety and integrity to the contest and the sport.