New NYSAC Director Admits ‘Towelgate’ Criticism Wasn’t Wrong

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Before Daniel Cormier’s debacle of a rematch with Jon Jones at July’s UFC 214, the controversy spotlight was squarely on “DC” himself when he weighed in prior to his second fight with“Rumble” Johnson at UFC 210.

Cormier held on to a towel as he weighed in a second time after he missed weight the first time. The light heavyweight champion was clearly using the towel, which was being held by his teammates, to redistribute his weight in order to make the 205-pound limit, and shockingly dropped 1.2 pounds in mere minutes to make weight for the title fight.

It was one of several such strange occurrences during the State of New York’s foray into MMA, which culminated in the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) being wholly blasted for appearing incompetent. Newly-appointed NYSAC executive director Kim Sumbler expressed her thoughts on the ‘Towelgate’ fiasco in an interview with MMA Fighting, and admitted critics had every right to criticize the commission.

“There were mistakes all around there. We learned from it. We changed our policy. We’re making sure that not only does the fighter not touch the towel, but that nobody else touches the towel except commission staff. As you noticed, it was not commission staff who held the towel at the Dan Cormier fight.”

“It was a trial by fire. We got thrown into the pit of snakes. We had the spotlight on us. We had every eyeball in this whole community on us. We were the last state to regulate [MMA]. Every eyeball was on us, waiting for us to slip up. Yeah, that was really hard to take. But again, I have to go back and say, they weren’t wrong. A lot of these criticisms — the people who criticized us — weren’t wrong. So there’s nothing wrong with speaking your mind.

“I’m willing to take the criticism. I’ve got some pretty heavy shoulders and I’m willing to take it. I’m willing to listen. I want people to realize this athletic commission now and this staff right now is really a good staff. We’re a staff that looks at what’s going on, we look at it realistically. We’re not an authoritative powerhouse. That’s not our philosophy any longer. We look at things realistically, we look at what the community wants and needs, we look at what’s right for the fighter and we make our decisions based on that — criticisms or not.”

The NYSAC ended up implementing a new rule six months after UFC 210, making it against the rules for anyone but commission personnel to hold towels while fighters weigh in.

New York has only recently allowed MMA into the Empire State and has had several hiccups since then. Announcing the wrong winner between Tyron Woodley and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson at UFC 205, a bizarre end to Chris Weidman’s fight with Gegard Mousasi, in addition to the aforementioned ‘Towelgate.’

The spotlight on the NYSAC will shine once more this weekend, as the UFC returns to Madison Square Garden on Saturday for UFC 217. Let’s hope they’ve hammered out the kinks going into their second year of hosting MMA as the last state in America to do so.

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