Nearly every fighter has been in, or at least heard of, one of “those shows” – the kind of show where the promoter’s check bounces, or where they learn the cage is actually a spray painted dog pen, or where the ringside “doctor” is actually a local boxing trainer with a first aid badge. They happen all the time and have earned monikers like “bush league”, “back alley”, or “bar room” promotions. One such promotion took this lack of ethics a step further on Saturday, December 11.
Nemesis Fighting had all the trappings of a new regional player. They used their inaugural event MMA Global Invasion to lure big name fighters such as former UFC stars “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine (14-9-1), “Fire” Eliot Marshall (9-2), Terry Martin (20-8), and “The Headhunter” Paul Buentello (28-13) with promises of big paydays and premium fighter accommodations. The promotion even held the event at a popular resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic with full “MMA Vacation Packages” available. Nemesis thus far was on point and focused on taking care of its fighters and putting on a solid event. Or so it seemed.
When the fighters arrived at the weigh-ins it all came apart. Fighters found that their opponents changed without notice, some even several times. They were permitted to come to the weigh-ins at any time during a two-hour period where the head promoter Tim Fields had them step on a digital scale and recorded their weight without a staredown with their foe, or ever even seeing him. The fighters then found out that there was only one qualified official in the building, veteran MMA referee Mario Yamasaki, and the locker rooms were unmonitored. The fighters then learned there was no doctor or even paramedic on site. No time keeper, either. And finally, only after all 24 men stepped into the cage and put on the performance of a lifetime, they found out they weren’t getting paid, either. At least eight of the card’s fighters have come forward and said that their paychecks from the promotion bounced and that any attempts to reach the promoter to rectify the situation have gone answered.
Bad promotions exist; it is an unavoidable facet of the sport. However the managers and representatives of the fighters need to take action to ensure that such promotions not only never operate again, but that they are made an example for other would-be quick buck promoters. The crimes of Nemesis Fighting were both grievous and numerous. UFC veteran “Fire” Eliot Marshall (9-2), who competed on the card, said that some of the local Dominican fighters were putting analgesic heat rubs Bengay and IcyHot on their legs and back, for which Yamasaki forced the men to shower or not be allowed to fight. Such an incident wouldn’t have happened had there been officials monitoring the back stage area. The hand wrappings and gloves of the fighters were not inspected in any way. With no timekeeper, at least one fight was stopped only because a fighter’s corner threw in the towel an estimated eight minutes into the first round. After that fight, the promoter recruited an “official timekeeper” – an unknown man from the audience – to time the rounds on his cell phone stopwatch (observers claim he was also texting while keeping time), which still led to uneven rounds ranging from four to five-and-a-half minutes long. Following suit, the only medical staff was a security person with a very basic first aid kit in a tool box who cared for one fighter following a brutal KO by splashing water in the fallen warrior’s face until he woke up on his own. Eliot Marshall told MMA Weekly,
My plan was not to stand up too much after I saw that there was no doctor. I was like, you know what, let’s go to the ground.”
The final and arguably most reprehensible grievance came the following morning when the fighters reported to get paid. They came to find out that they had all been duped. Head promoter Tim Fields had hopped a flight back to the USA that morning and planned on ditching the fighters in Punta Canta without pay. When the fighters went to confront his partner in his hotel room, they found him scrambling to pack and get away himself. He wrote out checks for the fighter’s pay, but every one of them bounced. Matters only got worse from there. The gym that rented Nemesis the cage was unpaid and furious, threatening to kill the promoter. The cause for the issue was that Fields also bilked the resort that hosted the event and the venue responded by booting all associated with the show out of their rooms and locking the cage up as collateral until the bill was satisfied. Nemesis had managed to do on a large scale what small back woods promoters have done for years to the unknowing amateurs and entry level pros on a smaller scale, and it will happen again unless the representatives of the fighters involved take drastic action.
The biggest issue with handling a promotion like Nemesis which intentionally scams fighters, venues, and other people associated with an MMA show is that the representatives of said scammed parties typically pursue civil damages against the offending promotion. The wise con artist sets up an S Corporation which pays out to him all the monies of the corporation BEFORE the lawsuits come about. This means that the promoter takes the money out of the company and all that’s left for the fighters to sue for is the brand name and the assets (of which there are none in most cases) of the company. Even if they manage to hit the promoter for fraud or other damages, it is so easy, especially in fights not regulated by a commission, to hide the money so that the fighters walk out of the courtroom with only a worthless judgment. What needs to happen to stop promoters who host fights in non-commissioned states and overseas to skirt the law is to seek criminal prosecution against the promoter and his agents. A corporation protects these scum bags from civil liability – it does not release them from criminal liability for their own actions.
The Nemesis situation is a prime opportunity to set a legal precedent that would halt dishonest promoters in their tracks. Criminal charges would be extremely difficult to get convictions for in a situation such as this and requires a very skilled legal team that the majority of fighters who fight for such fly-by-night promotions simply cannot afford. Nemesis however chose to con well known fighters from camps that have plenty of money to retain such a legal team between them. Should they see the value of such a case, the promoter Tim Fields and his management team (if one exists) could be brought up on charges including criminal fraud, criminal negligence, and conspiracy to commit fraud (if more than three parties are involved) among any number of other statutes, possibly even racketeering if it could be reasonably assumed that the Nemesis organization was formed solely for the purpose of assisting in the crime of fraud.
Most of these charges would be very difficult if not impossible to prove to the point that Fields would actually be indited on them, but the attempt should be made if only on the off chance that at least one of the charges stick. All it would take is one conviction to set a precedent from which every other promoter who even thinks about trying to screw over a fighter can be convicted from. In this case, the less that stellar legal system of the Dominican Republic may actually play into the fighters’ favor. Not only could a good lawyer easily manipulate this legal system, but charges involved with fleeing the country could be tacked onto any conviction Fields faces to extend the punitive measures levied against him. The beauty of criminal charges is that Fields is no longer protected by a corporate shield for his offenses and just one small victory against him could enable fighters to end this ages old plague on the combat sports world once and for all.