Death and Corruption under the SC State Athletic Commission

Death and Corruption under the SC State Athletic Commission

Its no secret in the fight community that the state of South Carolina is one of the most heavily biased places to compete in Professional MMA. What if I told you that SC is also now statistically the most dangerous place anywhere in the world to compete in regulated combative sports, with its 3rd death in eight years attributed a state-regulated combative sport. SC is also home to a former professional boxing promoter who was the face of one of the largest sporting scandals to ever take place in US History. That case alone encompassed a federal investigation spanning multiple states that resulted in an indictment and guilty charges with prison time and massive fines. With those two facts alone, you would think that the SC State Athletic Commission owes a bit more transparency and general effort in cleaning up the perceptions with the public. However upon doing some investigations of our own have come to realize the problems still lie heavily rooted within the leadership of the Athletic Commission, the ABC and the State LLR office who handles investigations for the commission board.

On May, 2nd 2018 the SC Athletic Commission voted unanimously to close pending investigations on multiple officials within the state with no more than a cautionary letter sent out to the offending officials who were allegedly attempting to fix professional fights. The evidence is overwhelming in the cases with a blatant disregard for fighter safety and fairness of sport within the state of SC. The gross negligence of the SC Athletic Commission in its oversite of combative sports is an embarrassment to the state government and many times has insurmountable consequences for athletes choosing to compete there.  Just ask Michigan native and Professional fighter Keith Lee who recently lost a split decision to hometown favorite John Sweeny in a seemingly very 1 sided bout which actually left the hometown crowd booing as the decision was read.

The 2 names that have continued to surface in the investigation is ABC certified trainer Blake Grice (Head Referee in SC) and his close friend Bradley Wade ABC certified Judge. The bulk of the evidence supports an easy case for general misconduct on multiple counts however the more serious of which could be viewed as Professional fight fixing. Would you ever be ok as a fighter going to the state of SC and later learning your opponent’s Head coach was the Referee in your Professional MMA bout?  Worse than that, what if you learned that he had the direct personal authority to assign himself as the Referee of his own fighter’s professional bouts while other Referees on site without conflict were also working the event- meaning the assignments were avoidable and with direct intent? Keep in mind that Blake Grice is a Veteran Referee of 15+ years and is an ABC certified trainer, therefore the actions show strong purposeful intent. Let us take this one step further by now telling you that his very close friend (Bradley Wade) who directly and publicly sponsors those same fighters is now also assigned as the Judge over those Professional bouts. Should a professional ABC certified judge with a direct vested interest in fighters, ever accept assignment of fighters he personally sponsors through his own business? It is also with heavy disdain that we share the fact within a few of the bouts involving Bradley’s own fighters, a split decision was rendered with the same judge being the only judge to select his own fighters with direct vested interest.

All of this evidence was shared with the SC LLR office (who handles state investigations for the SC Athletic Commission) and the Association of Boxing Commission to investigate. Almost a year later, both officials are still working today and investigations have ceased in the state of SC with no disciplinary action taken other than a simple letter of caution. It saddens me on behalf of all athletes, coaches and fans who require fairness and safety in sport that The SC Athletic commission has set a standard that multiple cases of improprieties that give the appearance of fight fixing on the professional level (no matter how blatant), warrant no more than a cautionary letter at most.

One idea tossed around is that maybe personal relationships within the SC Athletic Commission and SC LLR office have resulted in an unfair investigation into these 2 officials. Here is an image of the current Deputy Director of the SC LLR office Dean Grigg (who is over investigations) out at a casino on personal time with Blake Grice during the time of an open and ongoing investigation:

(Grice left- Dean Grigg white T-shirt)

From the outside looking in, it appears as though Deputy Director Dean Grigg has essentially put himself into a position of influential power over the SC Athletic Commission negating the proper checks and balances that should exist throughout a properly established commission. Dean was involved in the direct removal of the previous commission administrator then made a direct appointment of a close personal friend (Sym Singh) as the new administrator over the commission staff who oversees day-to-day operations of the commission. That state administrator position was never publicly opened for anyone else to apply through the state. Deputy Director Dean is also the head of investigations for the entire State LLR team. Dean also then works under the athletic commission at each event as an assigned inspector of the administrator whereby he is a full-part of the athletic commission team working events. That in itself should then fully excuse his authority of investigations and/or any opinions/assessments in any manner involving athletics due to his own personal bias being gained. That being said, even if he chooses to recuse himself from athletic investigations, he is still the direct boss of those parties who conduct the investigations whereby an easy influence can be made. Being in a direct position of having influential authority with the commission board is a strong asset for his control. As shown, Dean has his direct hand over every single part of Athletic Commission process that negates all checks and balances that were established. Including having one of his investigators involved in any reviews by an IRC (independent review committee) for the athletic commission board. Dean also travels to the annual Association of Boxing Commission Conference to represent the Commission for the state of SC. All of this coupled with his personal relationship of those being investigated in athletics have seemingly equaled out to a lack of proper and fair investigations and outcomes in the state of SC under his leadership.

We simply ask can ONE person become bigger than the sport when integrity is on the line? Is the integrity and safety of the sport not worth holding intentional misconduct accountable at the highest levels or how long will we allow the sport to be tarnished by those of power? It is noteworthy to mention Blake Grice is also the head ABC trainer for many state commissions and is licensed within many states (CA, SC, NY, GA, AL etc) having officiated for many UFC events, Bellator, Phoenix FC, LFA, GFC in Kuwait and many other pro-level shows internationally. The ABC is seemingly also yet to hold its own accountable according to their own written constitution published on their website that requires them to do so. Where is the ABC disciplinary committee that is supposed to exist to deter this exact thing or to even hold an investigation? Standards are being set that veteran officials cannot be punished under their own guidelines of improprieties therefore unfair standards of the sport will continue to exist.  Could you imagine the public and political outcry if this were any other Professional level sport such as the NFL or NBA, etc. It is unfair that combative sports are not held to the same standards of fairness in sport within the state of SC under the governor’s appointed state athletic commission.

See for yourself if you feel just a small piece of the undeniable evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of disciplinary action and should warrant an investigation into the SC State Athletic Commission and LLR staff itself:

Here is just 1 video Blake posted directly training fighter Jared Scoggins in his own personally owned HIT gym (many videos exist on multiple dates prior to reffing his fights):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgLr-u3hdDE

The video is clearly being taken by  Grice, posted publicly by  Grice and you can even hear Grice speaking coaching commands while recording.

Subsequently, Blake has reffed his own fighter numerous times since in Professional bouts to include (videos are easily found on youtube):

USFFC 29 on 11/5/16 Jared Scoggins vs Chachi Tabor

USFFC 27 on 6/3/16 Jared Scoggins vs Marcus Levester

*It is noteworthy to mention that upon speaking with Chachi Tabor he was fully unaware that the Referee was his opponent's coach and stated he would NOT have accepted the fight under those terms in SC in a professional bout. Keep in mind that Blake Grice is in a personal position to gain by the success of his own fight team as a gym owner.  It is also noteworthy to mention that the assignments were easily avoidable as other Refs were assigned to the same events and were available on site. We are told that Blake made his own assignments to his fighters bouts once he got on site as his authority as the head ref in SC allowed him to do so.

Many more undeniable examples exist of this exact same scenario with fighters training under Blake Grice and subsequent personal assignments to their bouts that were avoidable however for the sake of brevity we only show you a small sample. Now let's take a quick peek into some judging in the state of SC. Here you'll see Pro Licensed and ABC certified Judge Bradley Wade posting on social media about “his fight team” and personally sponsored fighters (Bradley Wade is the owner of Myrtle Beach Auctions) before events that he is assigned as the Judge on. That fact alone should render the judge un-licensable or at the least forced to recuse himself from the assignment, however, the state of SC has again allowed the athletes coming into SC to suffer:

 

(He accepted the assignment as a judge to this event with his own fighters and judged all their bouts after posting about it publicly)

(More fighters he is publicly showing support and admitting sponsorship for before judging the bouts at the assigned event)

Here Bradley publicly discusses and even tags several fighters belonging to “his fight team” sponsored by his own company MB Auctions. Since this post alone he has judged multiple bouts involving almost all of the fighters listed and many in professional bouts. Just a couple bouts the state doesn’t seem to care to acknowledge for example is the split decisions on Pro fights from his own “fight team” from Washington vs Adams Pro fight split decision on 2/15/14 and Scoggins vs Adams on 11/22/14. This could easily be seen as an attempt to fix fights as someone in a personal position to gain by the success of his own Fight team. Also, his friend Grice was the Referee on many of those bouts after publicly agreeing to come train those same fighters.

The evidence spans many years of the commission unwilling to address the problems in the state of SC. We simply bring these problems to the public attention as you consider where and who you want to compete against. We do not feel the fighters involved in these actions are participants in any way to the misconduct however the officials are clearly in a position to know better in their actions and made a conscious effort to render the sport unfair in SC- all allowed under the watchful eye of the Governor’s appointed SC State Athletic Commission.

** Some more info we think you might find interesting to this story.

Kevin James assigned to Referee to Jan 21st 2017 event in Myrtle Beach (he did not receive his license until the end of February)

*There was a death associated with this event in Myrtle Beach which used an unlicensed Referee that night.  

Keith Rap assigned to Referee Oct 1st 2016 event in Florence SC.

**An email was shared by a collective group of individuals conducting independent investigations that was originally sent to the state**

We still also have an issue of officials not being licensed for the capacities in which they are being assigned by Commission staff to work. A Timekeeper license does now allow the authority to then Referee or Judge fights and vice versa. We are using unlicensed officials before using our in-state licensed officials for events. This should be recognized as a large liability to the state. As an example: if a professional fighter is aggrieved by a judges decision of a bout and thereby loses his/her purse (money), they can then contest the decision to the commission. Upon easy public finding (on the LLR website) when our state assigned judges are not licensed (as required by multiple state regulations and statutes 40-81-220 (9-11), 40-81-380, 40-81-390, 40-81-400, 40-81-240, 40-81-30, regulation 20-27.17, 20-27.43, etc)., the state could be held liable for financial loss and future loss from a decision rendered that affected their professional record. The same thing with an unlicensed timekeeper- if a slight timing error caused a bout to go a few seconds long and a fighter is then subsequently injured or worse, then the state could be held liable by assigning an unlicensed timekeeper.

The training for these specific jobs is quite different as is the shadow program we have established. The ABC certification for each is different, the license and paperwork required by LLR are different for each and the jobs are quite different. We have an issue with unlicensed officials working several of the last few events including this last event on May 6th, 2017. There were 4 unlicensed officials on the LFA show in Greenville March 15th, 2017, At least 3 unlicensed officials on the May 6th show 2017 that I have seen thus far but still researching my findings.

LFA show unlicensed officials March 15th, 2017:

Nate Man (No License listed on the State public LLR site)- Worked as  a Referee, Judge, and Timekeeper

Jeff Kemp (Ref license only)- Worked as Judge and Timekeeper

Kevin James (Ref License only)- Worked as a Judge

Blake Grice (No license listed on the State public LLR site)- Worked as a Referee & Timekeeper

Warfare show unlicensed officials May 6th, 2017:

Nate Mann (No License listed on the State public LLR site)- Worked as a Referee, Judge, and Timekeeper

Shaun Woods (Licensed Timekeeper)- Worked as a Referee *Was a shadow referee but still was unlicensed to step in the cage as a Referee as required by statute/regulation- no written policy allows this as an unlicensed position

Blake Grice (No license listed on the State public LLR site)- Worked as a Referee

As a matter of note, the commission staff also allowed an unsanctioned Amateur KB bout to take place in the middle of a state-sanctioned professional card on the LFA event mentioned above in violation of regulation 20-22-14 “No amateur kickboxing contests shall be conducted in connection with any professional event, and no amateur kickboxer shall appear on a professional card”

SC State Athletic Commission has ZERO standards or requirements in place to become a Referee for the toughman rules (called off-the-street-boxing as a legal sport in SC) outside of getting a license. Meaning that there are very strict guidelines and training/certification requirements in place for the sports defined as Boxing and MMA (Pro and Amateur) however no classes or certifications to become a Referee (or judge) for the Off-the-Street Boxing (OTSB) rule set as a sport exist in SC- yet they legally require the sport to be sanctioned and regulated solely through the state athletic commission. It is an entirely different sport even as defined and regulated by the state. They just allow any Referee who is certified in other combative sports to Ref for the OTSB events without any additional training or certifications to do so.