The British Columbia Athletic Commission: Be Careful What You Wish For…

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British ColumbiaWhile Chris Franco’s name may not be a household one, it is acknowledged by those in the know as one of the most important in Canadian mixed martial arts.

Seventeen years ago, Franco founded Canada’s first MMA academy, which currently operates as FKP MMA and houses one of British Columbia’s most successful fight teams. Franco’s students benefit from his experience of traveling the world during the 90s and 00s to battle elite NHB/MMA, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, and bare-knuckle karate fighters.

Franco has also been a cornerman at major league MMA events including UFC 24, and has served as a ring/cageside judge for Superbrawl, bodogFIGHT, and twice for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (all with excellent performance reviews). He also holds a judging certification from Big John McCarthy, the sport’s top referee and the primary author of the Unified Rules of MMA.

But despite all that, Chris Franco is not qualified to fill a judge’s chair at UFC 174.

At least, that’s the opinion of newly-minted BC Athletic Commission (BCAC) Chair Dave Maedel — a man with zero MMA credentials that I could find — who denied Franco’s application after Franco had already jumped through all the regulatory hoops. The decision seems to fly in the face of logic, but after a little digging (a VERY little), a few possible motivations began to surface.

According to Franco, during the judging application process he was repeatedly asked by commission “associate” Mike Pattenaude (see footnote), “Are you willing to judge other events for us later this year?” A strange question to ask, and one that suggests that future availability might supersede quality on the BCAC’s list of judge-selecting criteria. Perhaps it was also a question that Franco was mistaken in answering honestly, when he told Pattenaude that his coaching/cornering duties on almost every show in the area would make him unavailable to judge on those same shows.

A more suspicious detail is that Franco recently challenged the BCAC’s attempt to prevent FKP MMA member George Gomez from competing on a recent Battlefield Fight League show. According to Franco, Pattenaude had cited medical concerns regarding Gomez, but refused to reveal the name of the medical professional who had raised such concerns. Franco went on to say that Pattenaude (who was fully aware that a licensed MD had already declared Gomez fit to fight) finally admitted that no one with legitimate medical credentials was involved in the decision to block Gomez from competing.

But after Franco paid for additional testing which proved that Gomez’ health and performance levels are in the highest percentile, the fight could no longer be stopped — a turn of events that appears to have put a wrinkle in the BCAC’s drawers.

Things look even screwier when Franco mentions that Bill Mahood, another Canadian MMA pioneer/UFC judge with roughly-equivalent credentials to Franco’s, was offered a judge’s seat by the BCAC in spite of Mahood no longer being a BC resident. While it can’t be argued that Mahood doesn’t deserve the seat, why would such an offer be made to Mahood only, and not the locally-based Franco as well?

When the BC Government announced the formation of the BCAC, Vancouverites rejoiced that their city council would no longer be able to stand in the way of professional MMA. But immediately upon the commission’s takeover, costs to promoters increased by 400% while services declined, and a commission chair with no apparent MMA experience began making decisions that cut the sport’s legs out from beneath it. Hardly the bright future that the British Columbia MMA community was hoping for.

In 2007, I stood before Vancouver City Council and appealed for government regulation of MMA. Thinking back to that day, I can’t help but remember the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”

(Neither Maedel nor Pattenaude responded to my request for an interview for this article)

FOOTNOTE: I referred to Pattenaude as a commission “associate” instead of a member after being told by Pattenaude that he is not a member of the BCAC. Which raises some interesting questions, such as:

  • Why has Pattenaude been handling BCAC business if he’s not a member?
  • Does this mean that a non-commission member is privy to private fighter information, including medical test results?
  • Why was I told by an attendee of last year’s Association of Boxing Commissions annual meeting that Pattenaude was at that meeting, representing the BCAC?
  • Did the BC taxpayer pick up the travel costs of “non-member” Pattenaude for said meeting?
  • Why was Franco reportedly told by the BCAC secretary that Pattenaude is in charge of “making sure that fighters are fairly matched”?
  • Do we have a non-commission member with no relevant matchmaking experience handling this job for the BCAC?


42 Responses to “ The British Columbia Athletic Commission: Be Careful What You Wish For… ”

  1. Fighter says:

    Did David Akin move to BC?

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  2. Brent says:

    How about the first event that they “regulated” on Vancouver Island and forgot that all athletes needed bloodwork, then told everyone they could not fight, then were referred to their own website that forgot to add the bloodwork testing. At that point a waiver was put together saying that all athletes acknowledge that no blood testing has been done and will not hold the BCAC responsible.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  3. Paul Lazenby says:

    Wow. I hadn’t heard about that, although after this article was written I did hear reports that Pattenaude forced a fighter who had just weighed in to remove his IV bag because it “violates the BCAC’s no-doping rules”. And if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, Pattenaude allowed the fighter to compete the next night, after alleging that the fighter had doped! This commission is f’ed up on so many levels.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  4. Robin Black says:

    Well researched and presented by Mr. Lazenby. Good stuff sir.

    One of the saddest things that we see repeatedly in regulation of MMA is that uninformed individuals who have no knowledge of or history with the sport make decisions for the sport.

    And the pioneers and the stakeholders like Chris Franco get pushed out.

    I don’t know the particulars in this case but I know Paul Lazenby is well informed and beyond reproach.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  5. Cody Krahn says:

    I found the commission difficult to deal with when I fought in Ft. st John in April.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 12 Thumb down 6

  6. Graham Weenk says:

    I agree with Cody, taping regulations were down right ridiculous

    Well-loved! Thumb up 12 Thumb down 6

  7. Jonathan says:

    Sad that the lessons from Calgary and Edmonton were not learnt when it came to BC. People still seem to think that MMA is a sport which can either be governed by people with tertiary knowledge of an aspect of MMA or just a general sports/admin background. Having a background in Boxing does not qualify you to make regulatory decisions about MMA anymore than having skated qualifies you to regulate hockey. Decisions around licensing, appointments and, rules all of which support the key reason for a regulator’s existence which is safety, are made with only a finite knowledge of the whole.

    Add to that the fact that people use a regulatory body as a career builder and you have a recipe for continued ridiculousness. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – find fighters and coaches who have an interest in assisting with building the sport and have them run an advisory board who can start to call out commissions on their stupidity.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  8. ken kupsch says:

    The problem is simple and I tell people this every time I hear about Provincial Commissions. Bigger government is not better.

    Every small commission has their own rules that you have to deal with and I have no problem with that. If you don’t like it, you can go to another town and work with that commission.

    When you give all the control in a province to one commission, you will have never ending problems because you have built a big money absorbing bureaucratic machine that answers to no one.

    Please understand that the higher costs, sooner or later, all trickle down to the athletes and to the fans.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2

  9. John Cooper says:

    Clearly I am biased, but as an active & licensed Judge & Referee in BC, despite growing pains over the BCAC’s very recent history, I have seen exceptional judging and refereeing at virtually every event I have attended. We have some very qualified and competent officials at event’s in BC. Change can be difficult but I am very optimistic that MMA in BC will be better in the long run with a Provincial Commission applying consistent Provincial standards.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 19

  10. Paul Lazenby says:

    Well, John, when I see the BCAC applying “consistent provincial standards” to the shows they oversee, I’ll agree with you. Right now, they’ve been doing anything but.

    I never said that we don’t have some good judges and referees in BC. What I did say is that we have people steering the ship whose inexperience and ego makes them incapable of performing that task even close to adequately.

    And by the way, if your “consistent provincial standards” involve warning cornermen prior to the show to “just shut up” if they have an issue (as was reported to me by a trainer who recently sat through a rules meeting run by you), then I would suggest that those standards might be adjusted to allow for a bit mroe diplomacy.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 14 Thumb down 7

  11. John Cooper says:

    Although we may share a different opinion on the BCAC performance to date, I think we are both willing to lend a hand to make it better and that I respect.

    With respect to my rules meetings, When referencing behaviour standards of cornermen during time outs i believe the recommendation of silence to be appropriate. :-)

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 13

  12. Paul Lazenby says:

    And a recommendation of silence can take many forms. Pity you chose one that was so rude and condescending.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 16 Thumb down 6

  13. BOOBOO says:

    I KNEW I SHOULD HAVE WENT TO FUCKN COLLEGE , THIS BRAINIAK SHIT CAN BE CONFUSING . OH , OR MABE CAUSE ITS 420 ( TAHOE TIME ) , HELL I M FUKN CONFUSED WITH ALL POLITICAL POLITICS ,

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 11

  14. Yogi says:

    BEEP! BEEP! BOO BOO
    I KNEW YOU’D REAR YOU UGLY HEAD SOONER OR LATER.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  15. Yogi says:

    TALKIN THE SAME SHIT ABOUT YOUR DRUGS AGAIN. WHO GIVES A FLYIN FUCK.
    MAN, YOU ARE SO COOL

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

  16. Nathan Swayze says:

    I have seen some pretty weak stuff out of the new commission, and this includes their licensing requirements for fighters (2 passport photos?). I definitely get the sense that the people involved have very little experience in combat sports. This particularly refers to some commission officials in the dressing rooms who I am sure have never been there before. And yet I still see some of the same ridiculous matchups that were there prior where a guy who trains by watching fights in his basement is pitted against a guy from a legitimate gym.

    In John Cooper’s defence I have had him ref more than one of my fights and I have been more than happy with his treatment and performance, as far as judging in this sport-it is an absolute joke and has been for a while. Judges need to be selected on experience within the sport and I would love to know that Chris Franco was judging my fight.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  17. mcinnes says:

    The BCAC was super incompetent at a show I was at recently. they’re probably the worst commission I’ve ever seen, and I’m from ontario.. that’s bad.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  18. curious george says:

    which show mcinnes?

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  19. curious george says:

    and how so

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  20. Fighter says:

    Well put Ken.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  21. Can Yallits says:

    The rules meeting I sat through from the BCAC before Fivestar Fight Leagues Fort St.John show was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever sat through. The referee attempting to explain the rules could barely speak, let alone read. After that, I lost all confidence in that particular referees ability to ensure our fighters safety. That referee was also used in most of the professional fights, over another referee with much, much more experience, but was from Alberta.

    Also, an athlete incurred a very obvious injury during a bout, and another cornerman and myself expressed that the fight should be over, honestly concerned about his safety. At that point, we were threatened disqualification by a BCAC official, who did it in a very overly-aggressive manner, obviously trying to display his authority. And even later, we were made to explain ourselves for our “outburst”.

    I think they should more concerned about the illiterate referee than us voicing our opinion in the corner over a very appropriate matter. Not to mention the hoops we had to jump through simply to obtain corner licenses. Lining pockets can be justified if the service they were providing was quality.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 22 Thumb down 3

  22. curious george says:

    lol at getting a thumbs down for asking which show, and what was bad. I’ve been to a bunch of the shows lately and was curious which one..I’ve seen some crazy stuff and some good stuff

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  23. Cody Krahn says:

    After the ref meeting Cam referred to I went up to the commission officials and asked to not have him ref me because I had seen him fuck up on at least a dozen fights in Edmonton over the last few years. I explained to those officials that I had seen him mess up calls on fights, including allowing an unconscious fighter to take many unnecessary blows to the head.= as well as fail HORRIBLY on his first attempt of the COMMAND course taught by Big John. I was basically told tough luck and that was the end of it.

    At no point before my fight did Tony Williamson come back o the dressing room to go over rules and questions. It wasn’t until I was actually in the cage that he came up to me and asked me if I had any concerns or questions, obviously at that point my focus was on fighting and not asking him if I can throw 12-6 elbows from my guard. I also found it confusing he stopped the fight literally right after Brad and I exchanged punches and brought the doctor in to treat a bulging rib on Brad’s left side.

    After my fight when I went to go get my paycheque the same 2 commission officials I spoke with earlier told me to “Have a talk with my corner guys.” Because they had apparently protested to the ref about the fight being stopped to check on Brad’s injury. According to one of them I was one more warning away from my corner being ejected and getting myself DQ’ed. I responded by again pointing out that my ref didn’t have a basic understanding of the names of things like side control and that he had messed up 2 fights with bad calls and was again basically ignored.

    There was also the fact that the commission assigned volunteers as officials in the dressing rooms. MOst of the time they left to go watch fights or didn’t supervise people getting their hands wrapped.

    And don’t even get me started on the paperwork, criminal record checks and medicals I needed to fill out.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  24. Fighter says:

    Who was the ref?

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  25. Cody Krahn says:

    Tony Williamson.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  26. Fighter says:

    Cody, you do you think is some of the best ref’s in the west?
    Kyle Cardinal
    Andy Social
    John Brakk
    Lenny(I don,t think he does MMA anymore)
    Tom Collins
    Vern Gorman
    These are the guys i know of, they seem to be all good refs, some not the best judges though.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  27. Paul Lazenby says:

    Kevin Dornan and Jason Darrah should definitely be added to any list of the best refs.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

  28. Jerin Valel and Adam Cheadle are solid refs out of Manitoba.

    There are enough good officials in Canada that there should be no need to import any from the US for Canadian UFCs.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  29. Cody Krahn says:

    @Fighter

    Kyle Cardinal, although he can’t ref my fights because he used to be my coach. Social, Braak, Gorman, and Jerin are also all very good refs.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 7

  30. Donald Duck says:

    Any list with Brakk and Gorman entitled ‘best ref’ is an instant failure.

    Being consistently out of position shouldn’t win you anything.

    You might as well add the guy that f’d up the Kim Couture fight and round out the list.

    Donnie

    Well-loved! Thumb up 15 Thumb down 8

  31. Fighter says:

    Alright Donnie, who do you think are the best refs? and do you think the command course should be a deciding factor if a ref is good or not.
    I believe Brakk, Gorman and “The Guy That f’d Up” passed this course.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  32. MAX says:

    I see BC used the pat reid model. Put a clueless fuck in the chair and cover his ass while he screws up left right and center

    Well-loved! Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  33. curious george says:

    would you rather a judge that judges consistently, or a guy who judges once a year? And Franco isn’t being stopped from judging, he chooses not to, he only wants to judge the UFC.

    aside from that, none of the locals will be judging in this UFC, so it’s not just Franco

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  34. Paul Lazenby says:

    As stated in the article, Franco is busy cornering fighters on the shows he’s being asked to judge on, but that doesn’t mean he’s not keeping his judging tools sharp. Anyone with an adequate knowledge of the sport knows that a competent cornerman judges every round of his fighters’ bouts to let them know where they stand during the fight.

    If frequency equalled quality, there would be not incompetence controversy among judges in places like Nevada, which has more than its share of awful judges who work all the time.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  35. Curious George says:

    True frequency doesn’t equal quality. But a dull sword isn’t your best choice either. Ring rust isn’t just for fighters. And as someone who has judged, you should know that cornering your own fighter does not make the most accurate judge.

    You’re right too in that he’s too busy to judge, so why should he get the primo appt that everyone wants when other guys are putting in the time.

    And again, it’s moot because NOBODY local is getting an appt for this UFC

    Well-loved! Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  36. RNC says:

    As usual with any of these so called comissions there are a lot of politics involved which is unfortunate. I can see from Franco side where he is probably better qualified than most of the judges around currently working. I also see if from the other side where judges who work on a more regular basis should be rewarded for putting in that time and getting to work an event like the UFC. As for Mahood I don’t know anything about where he lives or if he’s judging but he’s been involved in the commission previously so possibly that’s why he gets an in. Good luck to everyone involved I’m sure some people will be upset no matter what the outcome.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  37. Paul Lazenby says:

    Curious George: My point was that Chris’ sword is not dull, by virtue of his constant use of his analytical eye as a trainer and coach. And his experience, qualifications and abilities allow him to judge infrequently and still be as good or better than any judge out there.

    Chris hadn’t judged for years before his UFC 115 appointment, and he didn’t judge again until UFC 131. He received glowing performance reviews for both.

    RNC: I have to respectfully disagree that judges should be rewarded for frequency of performance. I’d prefer them to be appointed according to proven quality of performance.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  38. Tim Bradshaw says:

    Mr. Lazenby, you need to stop swaying on Francos nut sac!!

    Well-loved! Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  39. curious george says:

    for those that don’t know, Lazenby is a good friend and student of Franco

    There are plenty of qualified judges now that have a ton of experience on both sides of the cage…and deserve to get the prime appointments by virtue of quality and putting in the work.

    So your complaining is for naught, he is allowed to judge if he wants, he just doesn’t get to go to the head of the line on past qualifications….and it’s doubly moot because NOBODY local is getting appointed. You’re just complaining to complain

    Well-loved! Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  40. Boxer says:

    Patti Cakes……That’s a good one. That’s fits Pat Reid perfect…To a tee

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  41. Cody Krahn says:

    For what it’s worth, Edmonton is the least painful commission in Canada to deal with, in my experiences anyways.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  42. Fighter says:

    It has nothing to do with Patti Cakes.
    It has to do with people around him from the commission before he arrived.
    The dressing room inspectors are great, these policies were put place way before Patti.Jack, Tony and Tamara hold that ship together Fuck, Pat let’s fighters take thier gloves home the night before a fight so they can work them in.
    Ring side- It’s all April.
    Pat gets no credit-Nothing

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

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