The New Mexico Athletic Commission has reversed a ruling it made in February, acknowledging its own rules did not give it the authority to change the outcome of a Jan. 17 fight on an LFA card at Route 66 Casino Hotel.
At a special July 28 meeting, the NMAC — which oversees professional combat sports in the state — reinstated California native Sean Cerveny as the winner of a Legacy Fighting Alliance fight against Edwin Cooper Jr., who trains in Albuquerque at Jackson-Wink MMA.
On the night of the fight, Cerveny had been declared the winner by first-round submission (arm bar). But Cooper angrily insisted he had not tapped out, as referee Joel Ojeda had ruled.
A video of the fight, available from streaming of the LFA event on UFC Fight Pass, was not definitive as to whether Cooper did or did not tap out.
At its February meeting, the commission, responding to a protest by Cooper, declared the fight no contest — stripping Cerveny of his victory.
Because no events were scheduled, the NMAC had not met since March. At the meeting on July 28, conducted on WebEx, the commission dealt with Cerveny’s protest against the reversal.
Cerveny contended he was not represented at the February meeting, nor even notified of Cooper’s protest, and that regardless, according to its own rules, the NMAC could not reverse the outcome.
On July 28, responding to a conclusion from the New Mexico Attorney General’s office, commission members acknowledged they had erred in declaring the fight no contest. In a motion approved unanimously, the NMAC reinstated Cerveny as the winner.
A scheduled hearing, giving Cerveny a chance to argue his case before the commission, was declared moot, given the Attorney General’s determination.
“The Attorney General (assistant AG Alexis Shannez Dudelczyk) sent us an opinion that actually we didn’t have the authority according to our rules to change that decision,” NMAC chairman Joe Chavez told the Journal in a phone interview. “… I read the rules and she’s right, it doesn’t give us that authority.
“Commissioner Art De La Cruz made a motion to vacate (the February ruling) … upholding the decision the referee made by saying (Cooper) tapped out. It goes back to the original decision.”
Chavez also acknowledged that Cerveny was not given due process before the decision was made to declare the fight no contest.
At the July 28 meeting, De La Cruz said he believed the NMAC should have the authority to “overturn a questionable result, and I do think (Cerveny-Cooper) was questionable.
“That’s my opinion. I was at the fight, and I’ve seen the video. I voted what I thought was appropriate.”
As pointed out by Cerveny’s Albuquerque attorney, Alberto Leon (himself a former NMAC member and chairman), commission rules allow it to overrule an outcome of a fight only if: collusion is found; there was a scoring error; drugs/foreign substances affected the outcome; or, the referee erred in enforcing the rules or a fighter was found to have violated the rules.
The New Mexico commission’s rules on such matters are virtually identical to those of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which oversees more MMA shows than any other. A referee’s decision, like that which Ojeda made on Jan. 17, is not subject to overrule.
As a result of the NMAC’s action, Cerveny, who hails from Stockton, California but trains in San Antonio, Texas, is 5-0. Cooper is 2-1.
DWTCS: In Las Vegas, Nevada, Santa Fe MMA fighter Jerome Rivera (9-2) weighed in at 125.5 pounds, a permissible half-pound over the flyweight limit, for his fight Tuesday against Luis Rodriguez (11-1) on Dana White’s Tuesday Contender Series. Winners in DWTCS fights often, though not always, are awarded UFC contracts.
Tuesday’s DWTCS card will be streamed on ESPN+, starting at 6 p.m.