But the rep also plans to contest a nine-month suspension issued today by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, arguing the punishment for unlawful use of an IV is “extremely excessive” considering the circumstances of his case.
“We will accept a no contest on the grounds of breaking a rule,” Bryan Hamper, managing partner with SuckerPunch Entertainment, today told MMAjunkie. “Unfortunately, it was an education error. It was not something where he had any malicious intent to break a rule in Nevada.”
A request for comment to UFC officials, including UFC VP of Athlete Regulations Jeff Novitzky, wasn’t immediately returned, so MMAjunkie was unable to verify Holobaugh’s contract status.
Hamper said Holobaugh (17-4) didn’t get a fair shot at explaining what happened when he went to fill out the commission’s medical paperwork to certify the fight on July 11 in Las Vegas. He said Holobaugh did disclose his intended use of an IV, contrary to the commission’s claims. But without explanation, a commission rep told him not to note it on his paperwork.
“He wasn’t told, ‘Hey, you can’t take an IV because of state regulations, and if you take an IV, your fight could be in jeopardy and you could be suspended,’” Hamper said. “He was just simply told, ‘You can’t check that box – you have to check the other one.’”
When filling out “pre-screen” paperwork with the UFC’a anti-doping partner, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Hamper said Holobaugh realized he’d broken the NSAC’s rules and disclosed it to USADA, which then relayed the information to the NSAC.
“Cutting weight, you’re not exactly at a point of perfect mental clarity,” Hamper said. “Once he realized he broke a rule, he disclosed it. And now, he’s getting a nine-month suspension and his win overturned on a fight on something that, every step of the way, he filled out openly and honestly.”
During a hearing today in Las Vegas, the commission’s attorney noted Holobaugh didn’t disclose his use of an IV and indicated on his paperwork that he was aware he needed to immediately notify the commission if he intended to use one.
Given Holobaugh had no previous anti-doping violations with the NSAC, the attorney recommended the fighter’s punishment be on the lowest end of the scale for suspensions, which range from nine months to 24 months for first-time offenders.
Hamper said Holobaugh, who usually fights at lightweight, had a tough weight cut to make the featherweight limit for the UFC Fight Pass-streamed show, which offers winners a UFC contract. He indicated the fighter’s team thought USADA’s rules were not in effect, despite the fact that after revamping its anti-doping program in September 2016, the NSAC largely follows the same standards set by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
After weighing in, Holobaugh used a 2,000-milliliter IV injection, well over the 50-milliliter limit currently allowed by the NSAC over a six-hour period.
“We can’t help but feel like we didn’t have a chance to advocate on his behalf based on the circumstances of the call today,” Hamper said. “We feel like we never got a chance to tell our side of the story and get due process.”
Calling in from his home state of Louisiana, Holobaugh appeared via telephone at the NSAC hearing. But the connection on the commission’s phone was so badly garbled, NSAC chairman Anthony Marnell interrupted to summarize many of Holobaugh’s points to the rest of the commission.
“He didn’t have a chance to fully explain the process, so the commissioner recapped and put words in his mouth,” Hamper said.
Hamper didn’t detail his team’s plan for overturning the NSAC’s decision, which effectively bars him from fighting in the U.S. during the period of his suspension. Previously, fighters disputing suspensions have appealed to Nevada district court, one level above the commission’s authority with the state.
As far as Holobaugh’s UFC career, Hamper said the promotion is sympathetic to the fighter’s situation. Asked whether the contract offer still stands, he said, “That’s how it’s been articulated to us right now. It sounds like we have the UFC’s full support.”
Hamper hopes to get Holobaugh back to work soon. Right now, he is suspended nine months from the date of the July 11 fight. His win over Bessette (22-7) is also overturned, and he must pay a $750 fine and provide a clean drug test prior to getting another license in Nevada.
“A nine-month suspension is extremely excessive,” he said. “He’s a single father. He has full custody of three kids. This genuinely impacts his ability to provide for his family.”