by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
Nick Lembo, the Deputy Attorney General of the state of New Jersey, has publicly responded to the latest in a series of factually incorrect statements about the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship as it relates to New Jersey.
The factually incorrect statements in question have been made in a series of media interviews by UFC President Dana White over a period of months, as fully detailed later in this article.
In his role as Deputy Attorney General of New Jersey, Nick Lembo also serves as Counsel to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, and he has written letters of correction to numerous mainstream media reporters who have printed the false statements that have been made by White.
Lembo carbon-copied MMAWeekly on several of these e-mails, and we previously published them on MMAWeekly (see “Related Links” at the bottom of this story). In the letters, Lembo listed all of the MMA rules and sanctioning regulations that were in place in the state of New Jersey before Zuffa bought the UFC, as Lembo attempted to “clarify what, in my opinion, were misleading, confusing or erroneous statements” made in the newspaper articles.
The specific false statements that have repeatedly been made by UFC President Dana White are that Zuffa got the UFC regulated and sanctioned by major athletic commissions for the first time, and that the previous owners “ran from regulation” or “didn’t want to be regulated.”
In fact, the “old UFC” also ran fully sanctioned UFC events in states such as Iowa, Louisiana, and Mississippi. While those states do not have “major athletic commissions,” New Jersey certainly does, as it is regarded as having the second-biggest sanctioning body (behind only Nevada’s) in terms of importance and prestige.
In addition to getting fully sanctioned in New Jersey, the previous owners of the UFC also made an unsuccessful attempt to get sanctioned in Nevada before selling the UFC to Zuffa, so it is completely false that the previous owners “ran from regulation” or “ran from sanctioning.”
The most prominent occasion on which these misstatements were repeated was during a national television appearance on ESPNews’ The Hot List in July, as White said that the UFC “wasn’t sanctioned by any of the major athletic commissions” before Zuffa bought it, which is factually incorrect. White also said on ESPNews, “When we first bought the sport… it was not in any of the major venues here in the United States,” which is also factually incorrect unless the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey is not considered a major venue.
The false statements that were made on ESPNews were not an isolated incident. To list just two of many possible examples, White told the Washington Times in July, “The first thing we knew we had to do was to get it sanctioned by all the major athletic commissions. We sat down with officials from Nevada and New Jersey in 2002, and we got that done,” again repeating the false claim that Zuffa got the sport sanctioned in New Jersey.
White told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in July, “I could see that if this was done the right way, if someone didn’t run away from regulation but embraced it, if someone cleaned it up and shined it a little, this thing could be huge,” again repeating the false claim that the previous owners ran from regulation.
There are far more examples that could be cited, as Lembo also wrote letters of correction to other publications that printed false information, including the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Daily News, and Miami Herald.
Upon being sent the letters of correction from Lembo that were previously carbon-copied to MMAWeekly and published on the site, most of these media outlets stopped printing the false statements in subsequent articles about the UFC. In all likelihood, many of them were probably not aware that they were printing false statements when they printed the aforementioned quotes about Zuffa’s role in the UFC’s history.
In the case of Miami Herald reporter Bob Emanuel, Jr., he responded via e-mail to Lembo’s letter of correction in late August, which was then carbon-copied to MMAWeekly. Emanuel, Jr. wrote, “Thank you for the information. Unfortunately, unlike most other sports, the history of the UFC is not well documented. Facts, often, get blurred depending on which version of history you are hearing. I will likely do a follow-up in the near future (as time permits).”
Despite this e-mail, the Miami Herald published an article written by Emanuel, Jr. on September 5th (viewable at http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/sports/boxing/15441561.htm) which repeated many of the same claims, including the following quote from Dana White: “Senator McCain’s big problem with the UFC was that they wouldn’t get sanctioned. The old owner didn’t want to get sanctioned, didn’t want to have rules and regulations. We felt differently. We felt it should be regulated. We agreed with McCain. The sport should be regulated. It should have rules and regulations — refs, judges, etc. We weren’t arguing with him. We went to the athletic commissions, sat down with them, came up with a set of rules and regulations. It’s all downhill from there.”
These consistently false statements are puzzling, if for no other reason because they are completely unnecessary. Zuffa legitimately did a lot of great things for the sport in the aforementioned time period (and also has in the years since then), such as getting sanctioning in Nevada, unifying the rules between Nevada and the pre-existing New Jersey sanctioning, and getting back on cable PPV. There is no valid reason to continue to propagate these false statements, as the truth is more than flattering enough.
Nick Lembo will continue to send letters of correction to the authors of such articles as part of his job as the Counsel to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board and the Deputy Attorney General of the state of New Jersey.
Of course, this begs the question of why Lembo wouldn’t also send letters of correction directly to the person who is making these false statements in the first place, Dana White, in addition to sending letters of correction to the publications that print these false statements. MMAWeekly asked Lembo that very question, and he granted us permission to print his response:
” It seems that the [Miami Herald] reporter, Mr. Emanuel, Jr. chose to ignore my e-mail to him placing the topic in the correct historical perspective. This, even though he responded to my e-mail alerting him of the facts prior to writing his second article on the same subjects.
As far as your suggestion that I write Mr. Dana White directly (re: my email to various reporters), it is not necessary. My initial response to the reporters was also forwarded, by me, to a UFC official.
I have been contacted by two individuals with top positions in the UFC to discuss my reply to these articles. Both individuals were very aware and knowledgeable about my emails to various media on the subject. Neither individual in the UFC disagreed with one scintilla of the factual history which I had detailed. They claimed that Dana was misquoted, that the writers chose not to write other details involving New Jersey that Dana gave them and that Dana was just ‘being a promoter.’
I have absolutely nothing against Dana White or the UFC. In fact, I hardly know Dana White. I rarely, if ever, dealt with him during the UFC’s New Jersey shows. I think the UFC has done great things for the mixed martial arts fan and the sport of mixed martial arts in the United States.
Therefore, I am at a complete loss as to why Dana has chosen to continue to ignore the true history of this great sport. He seems to be unwilling, for whatever reason, to accept the truth and instead chooses to continue to repeatedly make false claims about the origins of Zuffa and the history of mixed martial arts in the United States.
Deputy Attorney General, State of New Jersey
State Athletic Control Board Counsel ”