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Monday, Dec 02, 2002

A Fine Mess:

By Loretta Hunt

A Fine Mess:
WFA Promoters Lewis and Huntington Speak Out Regarding Recent Media Woes

      It’s usually a good thing when fans and press are still talking about a mixed martial arts show a week later, but in case of the World Fighting Alliance: Level 3 event held last week in Las Vegas, the less gab the better. With rumors still running rampant regarding a media mishap that took place just prior to the second to last fight of the night, promoters John Lewis and John Huntington are hoping to set the record straight as to just what went down.

John Lewis
John Lewis in
happier times

      Sadly, the truth remains that key photographers for the sport were asked to leave their designated spots alongside the cage by the Aladdin’s Theatre of the Performing Art’s in-house security team, seemingly at the time, under the direction of WFA promoter John Huntington. Despite providing the appropriate cage-side credentials and with fellow promoter John Lewis nowhere to be found, the journalists had no choice but to oblige the orders and cease their work. Not surprisingly, the results of this have caused a media backlash of sorts for the fledgling promotion. For starters, virtually no pictures from the last two championship fights for that night made it out in coverage. Some media outlets opted to not release ANY coverage of the show at all — be it pictorial, written or otherwise. Above all, prestigious figures of the MMA media — who have supported the sport since its inception — walked away with a bad taste in their mouths and more poignantly, have had the opportunity to voice their sour opinions to the public.
      Among those asked to leave the stage was the photographer for Full Contact Fighter, the oldest running MMA publication out there. Alongside "the Mouth of NHB", representatives from numerous media outlets were also affected, including MMAWeekly.com, Sherdog.com, Maxfighting.com, and FightSport magazine. World-renowned Japanese photographer Susumu Nagao also received the cold shoulder from the venue’s security team; while Josh Gross, there to supervise the coverage of the event for Maxfighting.com and FightSport magazine, spent the rest of his evening retrieving his photographer Peter Lockley, who’d been removed from the building all together.
      With someone having to take the blame for this media mess, all fingers pointed to Huntington, the "non-MMA" half of the WFA promotion team and the one who supposedly gave the orders in question. Huntington is the owner of "Club Rubber," a string of successful touring club events that have spanned the country. Teaming up with UFC and Extreme Fighting veteran Lewis, Huntington brings all the "night club" aspects to the mix. Just where was Huntington during all the commotion?
      For the entire run of the show, Huntington says he was in a control booth located at the back of the house, a substantial distance from the stage. Running the lighting, video track and clips, DJ and fighters’ entrance cues via headset, Huntington says he was first approached by the venue’s technical director Nick Cavazas regarding not the media, but the fighters’ entourages loitering onstage. Huntington recalls Cavazas expressing concern over safety issues regarding wiring and equipment in the area and asked Huntington to address the onstage overflow. At this point, between split-second cues, Huntington told Cavazas to find John Lewis to deal with the situation.
      But Lewis says he was fighting his own battle downstairs with the Aladdin box office that had shut down for the night and was turning customers away (including those trying to pick up will-call tickets). Lewis entered the box office only to be told by the female supervisor on-duty that standard Aladdin protocol had them close the box office thirty minutes after a show is in progress. "I was very upset and I got loud with her and told her she needed to open the box office back up. Needless, to say she was upset that I was in there in the first place and she asked me to leave the room. I walked out and they opened the box office again and everything was fine — fine except for the people that were turned away and left — but at least the matter was dealt with."
      If that were not the least of his problems, about thirty minutes following the box office altercation, Lewis says he was approached by five Aladdin security personnel and two uniformed police officers, who escorted the promoter up to his room to pack his belongings and then proceeded to kick him out of the casino… forever!
      Back up in the control booth, Huntington recalls being approached by Nick Cavazas again, urging him to clear any unauthorized persons off the stage. With Lewis gone, Huntington knew he would have to deal with the situation on some level. "I told him that anyone with the proper credentials could stay onstage and those without would have to leave." Huntington also says that Cavazas did not cite any names or publications, but took these orders and exited the control booth.

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posted by Full Contact Fighter @ 8:00 pm
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