Kurt Holobaugh and his management team are planning an appeal to the nine month suspension he was handed after willfully admitting to using an IV after the weigh-ins for his bout on the Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series back in July.
The commission handed down the nine month suspension on Tuesday along with a $750 fine after Holobaugh disclosed that he used an IV ahead of his win against Matt Bessette that was also overturned to a no contest.
Holobaugh’s manager Bryan Hamper from Suckerpunch Entertainment explained that the entire issue stems from his fighter not understanding the rules in Nevada much more than any attempt to actually cheat the system.
In fact, Holobaugh was only caught because he willfully disclosed that he used an IV because otherwise no one would have ever known.
According to Hamper, the problem started at the weigh-ins where Holobaugh filled out his pre-fight questionnaire for Nevada and checked the box that stated he was going to use an IV. Because he wasn’t under USADA testing protocols for the fight, Holobaugh believed IV use was still allowed, not knowing that Nevada had adapted the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) rules that bans athletes from using an IV over 50mL unless specifically authorized by a physician.
“As he filling out his commission paperwork at weigh-ins while he’s sucked out, he’s on weight and he fills it out and checks the box that talks about IV use,” Hamper explained when speaking to MMAWeekly. “[The commission representative] sees his response and they say you can’t check that box, you have to check the other way. Because basically he was saying ‘I intend to use an IV’. He checks the box, they tell him, no you have to check the other box.
“He erases his answer and checks the other box. It’s very clear to see that he erased and checked the other box after being told with the commission to do so.”
Hamper says that’s where the problems start with this suspension because the commission representative could have easily told Holobaugh that IV use is banned rather than just telling him to fill out his paperwork a different way. Had Holobaugh known that IV use wasn’t allowed, Hamper knows that would have stopped him from doing it in the first place.
“It’s an education issue,” Hamper explained. “If they would have said he can’t take an IV [at the weigh-ins], Kurt would have never taken an IV. He understood he wasn’t under USADA protocol so there’s no statute that says he couldn’t use and IV. Needless to say, Nevada had changed their regulations and it can only be administered in a hospital now. It’s an education issue, not a case of trying to have any wrongdoing or try to hide anything.”
After earning a contract to fight in the UFC, Holobaugh entered the USADA testing program and once again disclosed that he used an IV, which then raised a red flag with the agency who then notified Nevada about what happened. That’s when the process started that eventually ended with the nine-month suspension.
“He willfully discloses that he used the IV during the Contender Series fight in Nevada. Upon receiving that, USADA knows that’s a violation and they have to go back to Nevada and notify them. That’s what happened. He checked the box about IV use, was told he can’t do that and told the check the other box,” Hamper said.
“He willfully disclosed that used it and we are where we are and they’re trying to make an example out of him.”
Hamper said that he plans to exhaust all resources to appeal the decision because he doesn’t feel like Holobaugh got a fair shake in the matter. When B.J. Penn disclosed that he took an IV while under the USADA testing protocol, he was handed a six-month suspension while Holobaugh got nine months for the same infraction.
Of course, Penn was punished by USADA rather than the Nevada State Athletic Commission but Hamper still believes that his fighter was handed too harsh of a punishment.
“We’re going to exercise any appeal process that’s available. Jeff [Novitsky] from the UFC said that he would love to speak on behalf of the situation and there was no malicious intent in anything Kurt did. He willfully disclosed everything. It’s an education issue. He’s not a cheater,” Hamper said.
“Now he’s entered into the USADA program and he has this stigma around him when he filled out the paperwork properly and was instructed to change it. That’s my biggest issue with this whole thing. I can’t help but feel like we got railroaded. There are catastrophic ramifications for this action. He’s the primary caregiver to three kids he has sole custody of and now he has no way to earn an income. This is a really major issue. With his family structure, he would never have put himself in this situation. The biggest thing that Kurt’s worried about is not the no contest, it’s that people will think he’s a cheater.”
In a separate statement to MMAFighting, UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitsky took part of the blame for what happened with Holobaugh because the Contender Series falls into a grey area where the fighters on those shows aren’t under UFC contract and aren’t educated in the same way as athletes already on the roster.
Novitsky also admitted that the only reason Holobaugh faced the suspension in the first place is because he honestly disclosed his IV use and now he’s paying for it.
“I really almost take a level of self responsibility on this one, because that Contender Series is a bit of a gray area,” Novitzky said. “We really didn’t, until this happened, educate those fighters towards the IV ban or even the Nevada rules they’d be subject to are. We do that now going forward, but I wish looking back that we had, because I probably could have prevented that.
“I think that they realized that this guy wasn’t trying to break this rule or try to cheat on purpose. Again, if not for his honesty, no one would have known about it.”
If there’s a silver lining in this entire mess, Hamper says that the UFC still plans on keeping Holobaugh on the roster despite the suspension and his win being overturned to a no contest. Of course that still doesn’t clear his name and the last thing Holobaugh wants is to be associated with cheating.
“His UFC contract’s not in jeopardy,” Hamper said. “But now we have the stigma of being caught up in a situation where people think he’s a cheater and we’ve got nine months where he’s not able to earn an income. Of course in a perfect world he fights in nine months but we don’t always live in that. There are injuries in training and situations that could prevent him from fighting right away, he might have to get booked later than nine months from now. It can be catastrophic to his ability to earn a living.”
Holobaugh said the same in a statement provided by his management team over the fiasco that ended with him being suspended until April 2018.
“Upon hearing the Nevada ruling, I’m extremely troubled by their decision to overturn the fight to a no contest and suspend me nine months,” Holobaugh said. “Every step of the way, I complied to the procedures that were put in front of me. I also willfully acknowledged this on my pre-screening form with USADA. This was an education error. This was not something that was done with any malicious intent.
“I tried to comply to the best of my ability and I want to move forward and clear my name of any wrongdoing.”