Abdel Aziz investigation may thwart WSOF NYC event

http://realfightstories.com/2016/10/20/reopened-nac-investigation-ali-abdel-aziz-thwart-wsof-nye-event/

 

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World Series of Fighting might want to pump the brakes a bit before getting too far ahead of itself planning its New Year’s eve event in New York City.

The promotion is tangled up in a hornets nest of an investigation currently being conducted by the Nevada State Athletic Commission involving, among other things, WSOF’s mass systematic cover-up of the incestuous dual-role of former vice president and matchmaker Ali Abdel Aziz, who concurrently acted as a manager of fighters he matched for WSOF. Depending on the findings of the NAC, the promotion could find its license suspended until the mess gets sorted out and Abdel Aziz could be banned from managing fighters in any state run by an Association of Boxing Commissions member commission.

As far Abdel Aziz’s his stable of 40+ fighters go, they too could face potential punishment if the NAC determines that any of them lied about who they were represented by on their license applications in an attempt to deceive the commission.

 

LICENSING ISSUES

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It’s been 10 months since Abdel Aziz  departed from his role as matchmaker and executive vice president of the promotion to focus on his management firm, yet as of this week he still has not been added to Dominance MMA LLC’s list of executive officers on the Nevada Secretary of State business entity database. The NVSOS website lists Narwan Ghiasi, Abdel Aziz ‘s wife, as the sole officer, in spite of the fact that according to matchmakers and sponsors who have dealt with Dominance MMA, she has never handled any of the company’s clients’ management duties. Abdel Aziz has admitted in multiple interviews that he handles negotiations for all of his clients.

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Ironically, instead of protecting Abdel Aziz from prosecution, the thinly veiled legal loophole of putting Dominance MMA, the company he started in 2008 while living in New York two years before he and his wife met under Ghiasi’s name actually hurt him more than it helped him.

Nevada is a community property state, meaning that both the courts and the state consider any property or businesses to be jointly owned by spouses.

Ghiasi’s registration as the sole officer of Dominance MMA LLC on March 20, 2015 was nothing more than a last-ditch attempt by Abdel Aziz to convince the WSOF board of directors not to let him go.

One week later, on September 27, 2015 the board, which was then made up of former CEO Sig Rogich Rogich, treasurer Vincent Hesser, and investors Bruce Deifik,  Bruce Bendell Michael Paesano, and Shawn Wright voted unanimously in favor of replacing Abdel Aziz with former Titan FC owner Joe Kelly.

According to former employees and executives I spoke with who agreed to speak under the condition of anonymity,WSOF founder Shawn Lampman initiated the vote, but was forced to resign his position with the company to maintain WSOF’s relationship with NBC Sports.

Lampman’s removal I’m told was a result of a backhanded power play by Deifik, who was angling to purchase WSOF at the time. To initiate Lampman’s departure, Deifik is said to have flown to NBC headquarters to meet with executives to inform them that his fellow partner and Las Vegas-based real estate and development vet would be going to prison for nine months for misdemeanor tax evasion stemming from his failure to file tax returns for 2007 and 2008. Deifik returned to Las Vegas with a letter from NBC executives addressed to the same board of directors, informing the voting members that if they did not cut ties with Lampman, it would no longer broadcast WSOF events.

By the time Lampman reported to prison on April 9, 2015, Deifik had already let the promotion’s brass know that Abdel Aziz wasn’t going anywhere. The decision baffled everyone considering the tangible proof they had amassed over his three years with the company, all of which clearly proved Abdel Aziz was breaking NAC rules and putting the promotion and its licenses at risk.

Sources close to Lampman indicate that he too could be filing a lawsuit against both Deifik and NBC in the coming days or weeks. Multiple attempts to reach Lampman for comment and to confirm went unreturned.

 

CONFLICTED FROM THE START

One of the earliest conflict of interest complaints against Abdel Aziz involved former Bellator fighter Rick Hawn who Abdel Aziz managed in 2012.

According to a series of emails that was provided to realfightstories.com spanning between October 7 and November 14, 2012, Bellator threatened to sue Abdel Aziz and WSOF for tampering with Hawn’s active agreement prior to WSOF 1. Emails sent to WSOF by then-Bellator attorney Pat English indicate that Abdel Aziz informed then-matchmaker Sam Caplan one month prior to the former Olympian’s lightweight title fight with Michael Chandler, that unless he increased Hawn’s purse for the bout, he would sign him to a WSOF contract.

At the time English, who is a longtime boxing attorney and proponent of the ethical treatment of fighters in his own right, summarized Abdel Aziz’s obvious conflict of interest as succinctly as anyone in a November 14, 2012 email sent to Ali’s Florida-based attorney, Frank Smith in response to an email Smith sent to Bellator claiming Abdel Aziz didn’t manage Hawn.

“Your client must understand the position he is in. He purports to be a vice president and matchmaker for World Series of Fighting (WSOF). He has contacted Bellator fighters in the past on behalf of WSOF — a matter which was discussed with prior  council for WSOF. He cannot divorce himself from WSOF simply by saying he is not acting on behalf of them. The fact of the matter is that he is a representative of a competing MMA promotion and that he suggested to Mr. Caplan that Mr. Hawn somehow had the right to renegotiate his contract with Bellator. That is in our view interference. In point of fact, it matters not whether Mr. Abdel Aziz styles himself as a manager or advisor,” wrote English. “We were in fact informed that Mr. Abdel Aziz was assuming a manager role with Mr. Hawn. However styled, it is inappropriate interference by someone affiliated with a rival promotion. That interference is not the non-issue you alleged. It was in fact Rick Hawn, who sent a text to Sam Caplan which in part stated, ‘I just want to let you know that Ali is my new manager.'”

As a result of Bellator’s claims against Abdel Aziz, which he continued to deny in spite of tangible evidence supplied by the promotion, Rogich, who is a former NAC chair, demanded  written assurance from Smith guaranteeing his client wasn’t involved in any COIs and that he wasn’t managing fighters.

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Email from Rogich to Smith, dated Nov. 27, 2012:

Frank,

Called you a couple of times. I have talked to Ali as well in regards to protecting the company and our investors and partners. It is imperative  I get written assurance from you as Ali’s lawyer that Ali is not managing fighters. It clearly represents a conflict. It must be cured to be in full compliance with the Nevada Athletic Commission. As much as we value Ali at WSOF, and we do, he cannot be a manager and vice president of WSOF. It’s one or the other.

Sig

After much protestation by Ali’s Florida-based Lawyer Frank Smith, the request was fulfilled, but was soon proven to be as worthless as the paper it was written on.

———-

Email from Smith to Sig and his wife Lori Rogich (WSOF’s attorney at the time), dated Nov. 30, 2012:

To Sig and Lori Rogich,

In response to your inquiry I have reviewed the relevant definition of a manager, which is set forth below:
NRS467 Sec01037

“Manager” defined.

1.  “Manager” means a person who:

(a)Undertakes to represent the interests of another person, by contract, agreement or other arrangement, in procuring, arranging or conducting a professional contest or exhibition in which that person will participate as a contestant;

(b)Directs or controls the activities of an unarmed combatant relating to the participation of the unarmed combatant in professional contests or exhibitions;

(c)Receives or is entitled to receive at least 10 percent of the gross purse or gross income of any professional unarmed combatant for services relating to the participation of the unarmed combatant in a professional contest or exhibition; or

(d)Receives compensation for services as an agent or representative of an unarmed combatant.

2.  The term does not include an attorney who is licensed to practice law in this state if the attorney’s participation in any of the activities described in subsection 1 is limited solely to the legal representation of a client who is an unarmed combatant.

After discussing the above with Ali it does not appear that he is engaging in the conduct described in either statute rule as set forth above. As in such conflict,he is not a manager. I trust this will satisfy your inquiry.

Frank

———-

Other emails obtained by realfightstories.com, which were sent by Abdel Aziz from his personal email account around the same time as the Bellator complaint and after he submitted his signed declaration to Rogich, show that he also set up a shady deal for Hawn with Michael Mucha, who managed Michal Materla and Jan Blachowicz at the time. Materla was also the Polish rep for Manto fight wear. The deal would see his fighters receive inflated WSOF deals in return for a $2500 kick back from their purses to be paid in sponsorship to Hawn from Manto. In one email, Mucha explains that unless his fighters received a higher purse, he would not be able to afford the sponsorship because the deal hinged on him flipping his management fee back to Hawn, who would then pay Abdel Aziz his 20 percent.

For various reasons the sponsorship didn’t materialize. To help remedy the situation I actually got Rick a sponsor as a favor to him at the the time, having met him through my work with Fundafighter.

Hawn responded last week to my a request for comment on Abdel Aziz’s Bellator and sponsor dealings on his behalf with the following statement on the matter:

“During that time [Ali] was trying to find me a good payday with my fighting career,” Hawn wrote in an email. “Some of the deals he set up worked and some didn’t, that’s how it goes in the fight/sponsor business. No big deal to me.”

One fighter who it was a big deal for was Blachowicz, who was punished by Abdel Aziz who felt slighted by Mucha, whose failure to ship out Hawn’s shorts on time cost Ali a $500 payday.

LATEST NAC INVESTIGATION

NAC Commissioner Pat Lundvall confirms that the investigation of Abdel Aziz and WSOF is underway, but due to personnel constraints it may take some time.

“We are investigating [WSOF and Abdel Aziz]. Recognize that we do not have the resources to do this overnight but are proceeding with due haste.”

Lundvall’s commission made an example out of boxer Zab Judah and his manager who allegedly forged his client’s fighter license application to hide the fact that he was behind on support payments. Judah was also caught falsifying his Social Security Number on his application from 2014 to 2015 in an apparent attempt to hide that he was in arrears for support and that he had a 1998 felony robbery conviction.

Because Abdel Aziz  isn’t currently licensed and likely won’t be for at least the foreseeable future, the NAC has limited powers to enforce sanctions on him, however they can and will likely pass the case along to the Nevada State Attorney’s (NSA) office to conduct a thorough  investigation. If the state decides to lay charges against him, it could affect his immigration deal.

One of the allegations against Abdel Aziz that the NSA will have to dig into is that he may have bet on matches that he made. Sources indicate that Abdel Aziz often bets on fighters he manages and that his sports book of choice is Las Vegas Race & Sports Book located in the Aria Resort & Casino. If the veracity of this accusation is proven, then an investigation into fight fixing will likely follow.

At any rate there are two rather glaring reasons why Abdel Aziz still hasn’t bothered to fill out the NAC manager’s application.

 

CRIMINAL RECORD

Firstly, he is a convicted felon, and would have to state as much on the application form. As first reported last year by realfightstories.com, Abdel Aziz was incarcerated for 16 months for check and passport fraud in Colorado from 2001 until 2003 when he was released into FBI-NYPD Intelligence Division custody to become a paid confidential informant against a violent Muslim sect he was a member of prior to his arrest.

Abdel Aziz ‘s criminal record is protected by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who is sponsoring his stay in the United States so records of his criminal past are difficult for even law enforcement to access. However, realfightstories.com has uncovered this completed DHS APPLICATION FOR SIGNIFICANT PUBLIC BENEFIT PAROLE form that was submitted to and approved  by the DHS on behalf of Abdel Aziz  by the NYPD ahead of a trip to Trinidad and Tobago he took to meet with convicted terrorist Tyrone Cole. Cole, AKA Barry Adams, is an important leader of Jamaat ul Fuqra, a violent extremist group operating under the auspices of Muslims of the Americas, an American-based Islamic-based non-profit organization.

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Portions of the document have been intentionally left out at the request of a former NYPD intelligence department senior officer to protect the secrecy of the NYPD and FBI’s intelligence gathering methods and CI protocols.

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According to LE sources the NYPD oversaw Abdel Aziz ‘s parole from 2003 until he was cut loose from the CI program in 2010 after the department lost trust in him due to what one former detective termed,  “his constant lies and deception of what he was doing.” According to David Calla, one of his former handlers I spoke with in December, Abdel Aziz the department a lot of problems. Although he declined to elaborate, Calla did warn me about trusting Abdel Aziz  on his word.

“He ruined a lot of reputations with his lies and deceit. I wish I could say more, but I can’t,” Calla told me back in December. “I will tell you this, though, if you ever interview him make sure you fact check everything he says because he is a habitual liar and will do whatever it takes to get himself out of trouble.”

The FBI stopped using Abdel Aziz  as an informant in 2008 after he failed back-to-back polygraph tests regarding his suspicious meetings and movements he made during a trip to Egypt he took that spring with revered MMA coach Greg Jackson.

Unbeknownst to Jackson, Abdel Aziz , who met numerous times with members of his target group while in Egypt was picked up and questioned by FBI and CIA agents who had been keeping tabs on him during him for the NYPD. Following his return to New York he was brought into the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force field office for a trip debriefing. The decision was made to strap Ali to the polygraph when his answers to even the most trivial questions simply didn’t add up. After failing the test and stumbling miserably through a subsequent 10+ hours of FBI questioning, members of the NYPD’s Priority Targeting Unit were instructed by intelligence division brass to storm the room and to get Abdel Aziz  out of there.  Ali was given one more opportunity by the bureau to prove he could be trusted. All he had to do was pass a follow-up test a few weeks later.

Again he failed to truthfully answer two of the polygraph examiner’s questions:

  1. Are you currently employed?
  1. Regarding the confidentiality of your relationship with United States law enforcement do you intend to be completely honest on this test?

Failing one lie detector test was bad enough. Failing two raised too many red flags for the FBI’s comfort. As such they chose to cut ties with Abdel Aziz .

Law enforcement sources I spoke to say that embattled former Pakistan Central Intelligence Agency station chief Jonathan Banks denied multiple NYPD and FBI requests for Abdel Aziz to travel to Lahore to study and train at MOA leader Mubarak Gilani’s fortified compound. The official reason Banks gave was that Ali may have interfered with ongoing investigations in Pakistan, however sources close to the situation say it was a lack of FBI trust in Abdel Aziz  that prompted the multiple travel request rejections by Banks.

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Abdel Aziz was granted asylum in January 2011 after claiming that he would be killed if he went back to Egypt since he helped MOA members travel to his homeland. Using his banker’s box of hoarded documents as proof he worked for the NYPD and his infant daughter he had with Ghiasi at the time (they now have four children) as leverage, he was able to convince the judge to let him stay in the U.S.

He was all but done with the NYPD at that point, a development that had been festering for over two years due in large part to the fact that Ali had been providing the NYPD with less and less useful intelligence. 

That was why Ali started Dominance MMA. He saw the NYPD money train nearing the end of the tracks and was setting himself up for life outside of his stint as a CI. During that trip to Trinidad, intel came back that Abdel Aziz , who once co-owned a car dealership with Barry Adams’ son Hussein — the North American MOA leader, Ali was trying to set up more personal business opportunities for himself in Port of Spain instead of gathering the requested intel he was paid, and paid well to gather.

His asylum came months after Ali was arrested for unlawful departure and reentry into the United States. Somehow Abdel Aziz  was able to use the fake enhanced green card INS supplied him with at the request of the FBI to obtain a legitimate passport, which he used to fly to Abu Dhabi for UFC 112 in April 2010.

Abdel Aziz was detained and removed from his return flight on arrival from the UAE on the tarmac of JFK Airport in New York by agents from the Department of Homeland Security after coming back from Abu Dhabi with his client Renzo Gracie and Gracie’s entourage.

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One of the stipulations of his residency in the united states is that he cannot leave American soil, which may be to his detriment since sources who are and formerly were involved with MOA say there is a credible “Fatwah” or unpaid bounty on his head which was “came down” from the leadership the group he was a member of before turning CI.

A SOMBER WARNING

In 2009 two senior NYPD ID officers flew to Las Vegas to try to persuade Zuffa executives not to use Abdel Aziz as one of Rashad Evans’ coaches on season 10 of the Ultimate Fighter. Due to the highly sensitive nature of the operation, which was still in full swing at the time, they could only tell UFC brass that the request was due to national security issues. I’m told by sources with knowledge of that meeting that the concern was that if Abdel Aziz’s cover were blown, Fuqra, which the FBI links to dozens of revenge murders and bombings in the United States, may try to seek revenge, and given that his only friends were fighters or members of the group, anyone associated with him could become a target.

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Abdel Aziz’s repeated ignorance of an NYPD directive to not host any of his famous fighter friends at this NYPD-funded and monitored Putnam Street apartment in Brooklyn for the same reason led to one particularly heated discussion with his handlers the second week of April, 2008.

The two detectives had been parked kitty-corner to Abdel Aziz’s building when they saw then-former UFC welterweight champion George St-Pierre exit the apartment, load his bags into the trunk of a rental car and drive away. They confronted Abdel Aziz at the front door of his flat and threatened to remove him from the CI program. It wasn’t unusual for high-ranking MOA members to show up unannounced to crash at the apartment, which was sort of traveller center or Dawah for members of the group when they needed a place to stay close to LA Guardia when they had early flights to catch.

That particular incident happened just one week ahead of GSP’s April 19, 2008 rematch with Matt Serra. St-Pierre had been finishing his training camp up at The Wat and Renzo Gracie’s academy in New York City and had accepted Abdel Aziz’s offer for a place to crash for the night before catching his early-morning flight back to Montreal for fight week.If anything had happened to St-Pierre, the department would have been held responsible, and the media backlash would have likely spelled the end of the intelligence division’s CI program.

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Abdel Aziz’s former NYPD-funded apartment.

 

DEADBEAT DAD

The second, and less obvious reason Abdel Aziz has never applied for a manager’s license in Nevada is that he is in arrears with support payments for at least one of his two sons he is estranged from.

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According to the mother and stepfather of his 17-year-old son Noah [surname omitted to protect the identity and privacy of the minor], Abdel Aziz is more than $40K behind in court-ordered support payments, which he ceased paying over a decade ago. As they tell it, Abdel Aziz  cut his son off financially after he allegedly informed the boy’s mother in approximately 2005 that he was being deported and would not be able to visit or support him any more as a result.

As per his 1999 court-ordered support conditions, which were imposed after Abdel Aziz  attempted to shirk his parental responsibilities and was forced to take a paternity test, Ali was to pay $400 per-month based on his then-income. He was working at the time under the table as a bouncer at a handful of Colorado Springs nightclubs and was supplementing his income by selling bootleg DVDs and counterfeit clothing out of the back of a windowless van.

By his count, when he cut his son off, which was around the same time he had a second son with the sister of a high-ranking MOA member, he was making hundreds of thousands of dollars as a CI for the NYPD. The reason he decided to start fighting was to help hide the exorbitant amounts of money he was making.

 

MATCHMAKER DILEMMA

When the NAC closed out its first inquiry into Abdel Aziz’s illegalities last year, executive director Bob Bennett seemed satisfied with WSOF’s glib claim that president Ray Sefo was the promotion’s “matchmaker of record.” Abdel Aziz got a little too cocky with his admissions.

In a December 18 interview by John Morgan for MMAJunkie’s MMA Road Show confessed to everything including the fact that he managed over 40 fighters including all 6 WSOF champions and that he was indeed mired in conflicts of interest.

“A couple weeks ago I met with Bob Bennett . To me he’s an amazing guy. I sat down with him and we talked about my involvement with Dominance MMA, which of course is owned by my wife, but realistically, I can’t be… I never lied and said I’m not a manager,” Abdel Aziz explained to Morgan. “Of course I had a great team who was running the company, but I was involved. It’s a conflict [of interest]. I didn’t like it, but it’s real. Now I gotta move on and I gotta make sure I follow the rules and regulations of the Nevada Athletic Commission. The Nevada Athletic Commission did not give me an ultimatum. They said I could continue doing what I do, it’s just a very thin line. I have to be careful. I agree with them and I respect them very, very much. It was the best thing I ever did – went and sat down and talked to them.”

“The [Nevada] Athletic Commission did not give me an ultimatum. They said listen, technically your wife can own the company and you can still do what you do, but I have to be real with myself and honest with the people I’m around and I have to make sure I’m doing the right thing here,” Abdel Aziz confessed to Morgan. “I just sit down with everybody at World Series of Fighting and we talked about it and we both thought it was best for me to move on.”

Regardless if he has moved on or not, Abdel Aziz should have to answer for his crimes. Hopefully the NAC takes this investigation more seriously and we see a full investigation this time around.

It’s not like there isn’t a lot of evidence prior to November 2015 when Bloody Elbow.com’s investigative journalists Paul Gift and John Nash’s coverage of Abdel Aziz’s COIs first prompted the NAC to look more closely at what was really going on.

Like this interview with MMAJunkie Radio regarding potential matchups he was offering to match in an offer he made to Bellator to co-promote in January, 2014:

“I’m gonna tell you something, my brother,” Abdel bragged to Goze and Gorgeous George. “I match all day number one guys. I didn’t even put Steve Carl [on the list of potential match-ups] and he’s our champion.”

Or like this tweet from Ray Sefo:

 

 Follow

Ray Sefo @SugarRaySefo

I just wanna put a stop to the rumors about @AliAbdelaziz00 not being the match maker for WSOF which is completely false!!!

5:43 AM - 18 Sep 2014

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 2828 Retweets

 

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 2222 likes

A smoking gun if ever there was one.

 

THE DEIFIK CONNECTION

According to WSOF lore, Deifek’s involvement with the promotion began with a slap to the face instead of a handshake.

As the story goes Deifik bought a car off of WSOF founder and Shawn Lampman, but failed to pay the agreed upon $125K asking price months after taking possession of the vehicle. They met at a Las Vegas whole foods, where upon Lampman open hand slapped Deifik and demanded he pay the money owing to him. Deifik reportedly handed over a Crown Royal bag filled with cash, but came up close to half short.

As Lampman tells it, according to those who have heard the story, Deifik told him, “You can beat the sh*t out of me if you want to, or maybe I can help you with that fight promotion you’re working on. I want to invest in it.”

It’s estimated that Deifik has approximately $15-million of his own money into the promotion, however, in private conversations he has pegged the number at about half as much.

A current lawsuit between Lampman’s ex-girlfriend, Aymet Roman-Perez and Deifik is before the courts.

As Paul Gift explains in his story on WSOF’s latest legal woes, Roman-Perez claims in her lawsuit that Deifik requested and received a $10k “charitable donation” (see kickback) from the money he paid her for Lampman’s majority stake in WSOF. As explained earlier in this story, Deifik actually forced the deal by pushing Lampman out of his role — a fact neither Lampman nor Roman-Perez knew at the time.

Included in the lawsuit’s evidence are screen shots of text messages between Deifik and Roman-Perez. In them, the pair discuss the purchase price and Deifik demands that he receive the charitable donation in Nordstrom’s and Best Buy gift cards, which he then used to purchase items like Ipads and clothing.

If the facts of the case are proven, Deifik could potentially be charged criminally with money laundering and wire fraud among other offenses, bordering on racketeering when you factor in the offenses he knowingly allowed Abdel Aziz to commit. As the majority shareholder of MMAWC, LLC,  Deifik’s involvement with WSOF may cost the promotion its relationship with NBC and its promoters’ license.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out between now and December 31.

 

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What a fucking mess

Seriously the fact that no other mma media seem to boost this is insane. Phone Post 3.0

Or that No one here seems t9 care. Phone Post 3.0

I mentioned this years ago and no one cared. He ran the promotion,an aged fighters and even got WSOF sponsors. Phone Post 3.0

He's a scumbag.

He's the conman Edmund wishes he could be Phone Post 3.0

I didn't even know WSOF was still holding events until I saw the new years announcement.

Ammunition for the Ali Act to cover MMA as well. Phone Post 3.0

I think Lampmann is a good dude. Sucks all those guys pushed him out when he's the one who started WSOF Phone Post 3.0

Goddamn Phone Post 3.0

Gullivers Travels -

I didn't even know WSOF was still holding events until I saw the new years announcement.

WSOF has held seven events this year alone only ten months into the year. If you don't know about that it says a hell of a lot more about your fandom of MMA than it does about WSOF.