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A Farewell to Keith Kizer: Three Brief Legacies From the NSAC Boss’s Controversial Reign


(Kizer consults with referee Mario Yamasaki following Maximo Blanco’s disqualification at the TUF 18 Finale. / Photo via Getty)

By Jon Mariani

Keith Kizer, the longtime Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, resigned from his position yesterday to return to the Nevada Attorney General’s office. Whether his exit was spurred by political pressure or if it was “just a good time for [him] to move on,” Kizer’s decision has already been met with a very positive reaction from many MMA fans and industry figures. At this point I am withholding judgement until we hear who Kizer’s replacement is; better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.

At the risk of lapsing into conspiracy-mode, the timing of resignation is undeniably suspicious. The UFC just announced that Vitor Belfort vs. Chris Weidman was going to take place in Las Vegas, and Kizer was previously on record saying “I don’t see Vitor Belfort getting a TRT exemption from us.” However, that stance had recently changed. It’s hard to accept that this was Kizer’s decision alone.

In honor of his resignation, I thought it would be a good time to look back a few moments from Keith Kizer’s career that will define his legacy…

In the defense of CJ Ross

After Nevada boxing judge CJ Ross scored Mayweather vs. Canelo as 114-114 draw in June 2012, Kizer had this to say about the situation:

“Just because a judge’s scorecard ends up even, doesn’t mean the judge necessarily thought the fight as a whole was even,” Kizer said. “It could be that a judge has six rounds for each fighter, but the six rounds she gave fighter A, she gave them to him easily and the six rounds she gave fighter B, they were really close rounds. That’s pretty much how it was last night.”

While the points about the problem with the scoring system as generally valid, in that fight that wasn’t the case. Mayweather clearly won at least 10 rounds by a decent margin. This comment combined with his relentless defense of his employees (See: Mazzagatti, Steve) shows you the best and worst of Keith Kizer. On one hand he had a problem admitting when there was a problem. On the other hand he was loyal to his employees, and publicly protected them.

I would love to work for Kizer. No matter how many times I screwed up and was blasted by UFC commentator Joe Rogan, my hypothetical job would be safe.

For further reading — Exclusive: NSAC Head Keith Kizer Discusses Controversial Pacquiao vs. Bradley Decision

Admitting that NSAC drug testing is substandard

After Lamont Peterson failed his VADA drug test for exogenous testosterone in May 2012, Kizer had this to say:

BoxingScene.com: If VADA was not involved, a lot of people have asked if this was something that the Nevada Commission would have caught in Peterson’s system?

Keith Kizer: Probably not from the facts that I know. His [testosterone] level, by his doctor, was kept under 4 to 1, which is the lowest level used… some use 4 to 1 and some use 6 to 1. Even VADA uses 4 to 1, but they also use this CIR [carbon isotope ratio] test to detect synthetic testosterone regardless of your level and that’s what happened here.

My understanding is that his level was 3.77 to 1… and I don’t know if that was a purposeful attempt to conceal [his use] by keeping it under 4 to 1 or not. That’s a question for someone else and not for me. But regardless, the CIR was able to catch it without the level being high.

Here Kizer is essentially admitting that the testing that Nevada does is insufficient, though not directly. He is saying that it is possible Peterson was manipulating his testosterone levels, and that Nevada wouldn’t have caught him. Had it not been for VADA, Peterson’s use of testosterone would have gone undetected.

The introduction of commission-led supplemental testing

The October 2013 fight between Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez was once in jeopardy due to a disagreement over which supplemental drug testing agency was going to be chosen to perform the drug testing for that fight. That issue was resolved when Top Rank CEO Bob Arum contacted Kizer to run random drug testing through NSAC.

In MMA this testing was proposed as an alternative solution for the GSP vs. Hendricks fight, although ultimately it was rejected. It was also used as a punitive measure against Josh Barnett, as a condition for him to get a license to fight, due to his past drug test failures.

To me, this testing was Kizer’s crowning achievement. Drug testing in combat sports is woefully inadequate. Subjecting fighters to more enhanced and random testing is a good thing. It may end up being the only truly worthwhile thing Kizer ever did in his position as executive director.

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