Pat Lundvall has made plenty of headlines in her nine-year run as a commissioner for the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC). Alas, her term as a member on the executive board will be coming to an end at the end of October and she will not be re-appointed.
The first woman to have ever been elected as chair of the NAC in 2009, Lundvall joined the commission in 2007, having been appointed by Governor Jim Gibbons. Lundvall, a partner at law firm McDonald Carano Wilson LLP, is an award-winning legal practitioner who has earned recognition from Chambers USA, Legal Elite and was named among the “Best Lawyers in America” for her work in commercial litigation, along with her expertise in labor and employment law. Her online profile as an attorney boastfully proclaims her approach to legal representation: “One adjective is repeatedly used to describe her litigation style—aggressive.”
Lundvall’s pedigree and esteemed reputation among her peers is irrefutably glowing. However, it’s that aforementioned aggression and perceived reluctance for compromise is what has earned the ire of many fighters, combat sports fans and the UFC hierarchy over her nine-year stint as a commissioner for the NAC.
Despite the abuse she has undoubtedly encountered during her three terms as commissioner, Lundvall told MMA Fighting there were no regrets during that run. “I have served three terms for a total of nine years with the NAC. I considered every minute of it as a privilege and an honor.”
Under Lundvall’s stewardship and with her regular input, the NAC has done much to help combat sports and its growth over the last few years in Nevada—home of the world’s fighting capital, Las Vegas. In just the last couple of months, the Nevada Athletic Commission have followed the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) lead by following its protocol in drug testing, prohibiting all substances and methods of application as recommended by WADA—thus eliminating a loophole which allowed for intravenous hydration which was previously exploited by Floyd Mayweather Jr., who we will touch on later, along with a number of other new measures put in place.
However, the good work by the NAC was often undermined by the behaviors on display from its commissioners—namely Lundvall—with a series of controversies during her nine-year reign. Below, we chronicle the biggest NAC gaffes and faux pas during the Lundvall Era.
Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal had to face the Nevada Athletic Commission in 2012, having tested positive for the anabolic steroid Drostanolone following his win over Lorenz Larkin.
There has been a spate of recent positive drug tests being blamed on tainted “over the counter” supplements, with Yoel Romero being one of the latest examples. While Romero had his suspension cut short, Lawal’s claims were totally dismissed. But, it was Lundvall’s “condescending” tone and dubious line of questioning which courted controversy.
Lundvall made an effort to continually ask King Mo if he spoke English, something he took umbrage to. After his hearing, Lawal tweeted: “I shoulda stayed home! Lol. NSAC had they mind made up b4 we got there!”
King Mo’s punishment was a nine-month suspension and a $39,000 fine, while his win against Larkin was overturned to a “No Contest.” However, an even bigger punishment was meted out by fight promotion Strikeforce, then owned by Zuffa, who decided to terminate Lawal’s contract altogether due to his punishment and the comments he made. Strikeforce’s statement at the time read: “Following the outcome of today’s hearing with the Nevada State Athletic Commission and his subsequent reaction, Strikeforce has released Muhammad Lawal from his contract.”
King Mo appeared on television to apologize. However, Lundvall was not receptive to Lawal’s on-air apology nor the comments he made in the first place. Talking to the now-defunct Inside MMA, Lundvall said: “Well, number one: Mr. Lawal has not contacted me. But, if he did, I would take his call, and I very much would be happy to hear from him. To the extent that you have now informed me of something, I was not aware that he had expressed an apology.
“I was not upset, and I never considered it [Lundvall’s line of questioning] to be derogatory. What I was doing was laying the classic or standard foundation for the gentleman to make sure that he understood the form that he was signing, that it was designed to be a truthful statement and that the information he was supposed to put on the form was supposed to be true and correct.
“From my perspective, I’ve used that standard line of questioning for each and every athlete that has come before us, when their cantor on their pre-fight questionnaire has been an issue. On occasion, we do have fighters that come before us, that have indicated their trainers or maybe someone who was with them at the time or a manager has filled out the form—that they don’t read English, that they don’t understand English, which maybe a second or a third language for them. What we try to do is to ensure that, if we’re going to be taking that into account, that they do understand what it is that they’re signing and that they have read it.”
Nick Diaz has been left on the shelf since January 2015, when he lost a unanimous decision to Anderson Silva in the main event of UFC 183—a loss which was soon overturned as a No Contest following Silva’s positive test for steroids androstanolone and androsterone. However, Diaz also failed a drug test of his own, with his test flagging for the presence of marijuana metabolites in his system.
Silva was suitably dealt with. But, Diaz incurred the full wrath of Lundvall and the NAC. It was the third time Diaz had failed a drug test for marijuana. As a result, the NAC arguably produced their most ill-advised punishment yet, originally handing Diaz a five-year suspension from fighting alongside a $165,000 fine.
The five-year ban was suggested by Lundvall herself, but only after her initial motion for a lifetime ban was overruled by her peers. Following an appeal and plenty of media and fighter backlash, the ban and fine were reduced to 18 months and $100,000 respectively.
Diaz’s attorney Lucas Middlebrook later called the hearing a “kangaroo court” out to make an example of Diaz, largely pointing the finger at Lundvall for her line of questioning and clear “animosity” displayed at Diaz for invoking his Fifth Amendment rights.
The Navada Commission did its best to irk the combat sports world in their aired hearing with Conor McGregor, who was present over the phone, following his part in the bottle-throwing fracas with Nate Diaz at their press conference ahead of UFC 202.
The Nevada Attorney General recommended the NSAC fine McGregor $25,000 and give the Dubliner 25 hours of community service for his role in the quarrel—in addition to five hours of “media training,” which is something I seriously doubt McGregor requires given the expertise he has displayed in playing the media game since bursting on the international MMA scene on a chilly April night in Stockholm, Sweden, back in 2013.
However, once McGregor’s attorney suggested the possibility of legal action against the NSAC, the commission—led by the controversial Lundvall—decided to double his community service time and increased the fine to 5% of his UFC 202 purse, which works out as $150,000—six times the figure initially recommended by the state’s attorney general in a decision decried as “insane” by UFC President Dana White. This smacked of a personal vendetta against McGregor, with Lundvall stating the Dubliner “needed to be humbled” during the hearing.
The disciplinary action was met with further chagrin from the MMA community and backfired on the Nevada Athletic Commission. Dana White later stated McGregor, the biggest figure and money draw in combat sports since Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s ongoing hiatus, had no interest in competing in the state any time soon—an attitude McGregor later confirmed in an interview with Rolling Stone.
“I don’t see Nevada in my future, for the foreseeable future is how I see it,” McGregor told Rolling Stone. “I’m free to do what I want… I’m good. I’m good. New York, New York. That’s what I think.
“I thought they might respect [McGregor calling in] a little bit more. I owned up. I man’d up. I’m here. I apologized. I’m not trying to blame nobody, although they fired the rounds off first. I didn’t think they would even go that route because I didn’t think this was like a real thing. Are they going to come and arrest me or what the fuck is that? I wanted to give them the respect and I felt they would have respected that but they didn’t. So, whatever. It is what it is. Good luck trying to get it [the money].”
Lundvall continued her streak, attempting to dish another lifetime ban out—this time to MMA living legend Wanderlei Silva.
“The Axe Murderer” landed himself in trouble after fleeing a random drug test in Las Vegas ahead of a long-awaited grudge match against serial trash talker Chael Sonnen. The Brazilian later admitted to dodging his drug test for taking a series of diuretics—a banned substance in the state.
The Lundvall-led NAC came down hard on Silva, initially able to pass a lifetime suspension during the meeting before the decision was overturned by a Nevada judge, who branded the ruling as “arbitrary, capricious and not supported by substantial evidence.”
The commission later agreed on a softer three-year punishment and a $70,000 fine and will be eligible to reapply for a fighting license in 2017, with the ban retroactive to May 24th, 2014. However, aged 40, Silva has a limited window of opportunity to earn money from fighting, his main source of income, and has since signed with Bellator and Rizin—and could compete in the latter promotion’s home of Japan, where Silva initially built his star. Silva is now at a crossroads where he could compete in Japan well away from the USA and the ban’s jurisdiction. But, such a decision could complicate things should he choose to compete in the USA in the future.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The NAC have long been accused of protecting their former star money-maker, Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. Money’s rap sheet is too long to include in this article, but he has a series of publicised domestic assault charges to his name and a long history of intimidating women.
The commission has long masqueraded as a court of law—proven above with their attempts to dish out over-the-top, draconian bans on those who compete and generate money for the self-styled fight capital of the world. But, for whatever reason, Mayweather has long dodged any punishment from the NAC for his misdemeanours outside of the ring—something they’re entitled to do, especially given his crimes are in relation to violence.
ESPN’s Outside The Lines ran an investigative documentary trailing Mayweather and one of the subjects which arose was his checkered past. Totally unrepentant and dodging the question in its entirety, Mayweather’s response was rather callous. The documentary’s angle then turned to the NAC itself—saying that Lundvall herself was the reason the commission had never taken action.
OTL: You can suspend licenses for somebody who is arrested for anything north of a traffic violation. And you didn’t do anything when a guy assaulted the mother of his children in front of his kids?
Pat Lundvall: I disagree with your characterization strongly. The criminal justice system had decided what this man’s punishment was. A judge had made that decision. And we paid respect to that decision.
OTL: The optics. It just doesn’t look good, does it?
PL: The optics are your business. The optics are not my business.
Lundvall was more than happy to suggest a life-time ban for Nick Diaz failing a third drug test for marijuana—which was irrefutably consumed/ingested well before his fight against Anderson Silva thanks to the evidence provided by his legal team—but, is reluctant to merely comment on Mayweather’s serious issues with the law, let alone exact a punishment for those crimes. Rightfully, many questioned the motives of Lundvall and her commission following this interview.
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