LAS VEGAS — There’s levels to misconduct in combat sports. And, well, fight fixing is pretty high on the list.
Tae Hyun Bang was sentenced to 10 months in jail last week in South Korea for his involvement in a fight-fixing scandal regarding his 2015 UFC fight with Leo Kuntz. The court said Bang took nearly $100,000 to throw the fight against Kuntz, but didn’t go through with it. Bang ended up winning a split decision.
The betting lines on the fight, which took place in Seoul, moved significantly leading up to the bout. And it was recognized by UFC officials, who warned Bang at the time.
UFC president Dana White said Tuesday at a media lunch that UFC matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby contacted Bang when the lines changed rapidly.
“We caught wind of that thing,” White said. “You know, there was talk about it. So, Joe and Sean called him and he said, ‘No, no, I would never blah blah blah.’ And he didn’t do it, but he still went to jail. As you can see with USADA and the drug-testing and everything else, guys don’t f*cking learn lessons, but hopefully you learn that one. You get caught doing that shit — and he didn’t even do it. He took the money, but didn’t fix the fight. And he got 10 months in jail.
“You get suspended for a year for drugs, you get suspended for two years. You go to f*cking jail for doing this shit. Hopefully that’s a lesson learned for everybody.”
White said there’s no concern about fight-fixing being a widespread issue in the UFC.
“This thing is a major sport now that you can actually bet on,” he said. “And those guys know that shit. Those guys know, when that line is moving around, people know what’s going on. It’s very hard to do. Plus, if you look at the limits that you’re allowed to bet, what you’re allowed to bet isn’t worth going to jail for 10 months. Or if you’re the bad guy trying to get the kid to throw the fight, there just isn’t that much money in it.”
Three other people involved with attempting to get Bang to throw the fight were also sentenced to jail last week.
In the end, the UFC boss just doesn’t think trying to fix fights it worth it considering the potential penalty.
“You gotta look at risk versus reward,” White said. “If I’m gonna try to throw a fight, you’ve gotta set me up for life. Because i’m gonna get banned from my sport, I’m gonna go to jail for god knows how long. He got 10 months and he didn’t do it. What would he get if he did it?”
Zuffa Boxing in the works
White said that at the beginning of 2018 he’s going to host all the top movers and shakers of the boxing industry at UFC headquarters in Las Vegas to discuss Zuffa’s transition to boxing. All the movers and shakers with the exception of longtime UFC enemy Bob Arum and new White antagonist Oscar De La Hoya, of course.
“Hell no,” White said. “I don’t need them. Can’t work with them. De La Hoya hates Arum and Arum hates De La Hoya. They’re exactly alike. Both of those guys are carbon copies of each other.”
White said his boxing venture will run under WME-IMG, like the UFC, and feature deep cards like his MMA promotion. The idea is to start small and build new stars, which White said boxing is lacking right now.
“Right now, I have two different plans,” said White, who added that New York promoter Lou DiBella is one of the people coming to the meeting. “I have a Plan A and a Plan B. And I’m not sure which I’m gonna go with. But I’m gonna sit down, I’m gonna talk to everybody in the industry. They all want to come out here, they all want to talk. Fighters want to come out here and talk. So many people. So I’m gonna take like a month at the beginning of the year and just focus on this thing and see what we’re gonna do.”
People in boxing, including fighters, are “excited” about the possibility of White and Zuffa coming into their sport, White said. Why now? White joked that he’s “bored” doesn’t have anything to do.
“I think that right now is the right time,” he said. “I just feel it. I feel like it’s the right time. Listen, can I do it? I don’t know. Will it work? I don’t know. But I feel like I have a pretty good idea of how to make it work. And I’ll give it a shot.”
How close was Woodley vs. Diaz?
According to White, the rumored UFC 219 main event between welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and Nate Diaz was never officially offered to either. White said a UFC attorney, who has a good rapport with the Diaz brothers, broached the topic, but White and matchmaker Sean Shelby shot it down.
“Me or Sean were like, how does he deserve to fight Tyron Woodley?” White said. “There’s a list of guys waiting to fight Tyron Woodley and this dude is gonna fight? What are you talking about?”
White said the situation was a “nightmare” and just “a guy who works here who went off the reservation” and asked Woodley and Diaz about it. White said the UFC has offered Diaz multiple fights as part of their agreement to get fighters three fights per year, but he hasn’t accepted.
“Nate Diaz has turned down a fight with everybody on the roster,” White said.
Diaz’s team has made it clear publicly that he is not necessarily turning down opponents, but the money offered to him.
Woodley told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani on Monday that he maintains there was a real fight offer and he was training for the bout.
“Delusional Dana constantly demotes me as a fighter when the job is to promote his fighters, especially champions,” Woodley said. “Why would I get in camp, and why would Nate give a 15 million dollar purse request if there was no fight? It’s obvious they haven’t found their blockbuster headliner yet. This was a reality, and they know it. The inability to come to financial terms with Nate killed it.”
Notes: White said Paige VanZant did not call him to ask out of the fight with Jessica Eye, but Urijah Faber did on behalf of VanZant, saying Eye was not “as highly ranked as we would like.” … No decision has been made yet on whether Joanna Jedrzejczyk will get an immediate rematch with Rose Namajunas, but it “makes sense,” per White. … CM Punk is coming to UFC 218 in Detroit this weekend “wants to talk to me,” White said. White said he loves CM Punk, but “he makes a lot of money.”