UFC

Keith Kizer steps down as head of Nevada State Athletic Commission

Kizer has returned to law after almost eight years on the job.
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Mike Chiappetta

Mike Chiappetta has documented the fast-growing sport of mixed martial arts since 2006 for news organizations including SB Nation, NBCSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, AOL and ESPN. He appears regularly as an analyst on countless television shows and radio programs, including CBS Radio and MMA Beat. Follow him on Twitter.

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Keith Kizer, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commision will step down from his role effective on Jan. 27. Kizer, 47, submitted his resignation on Friday to the nation’s most influential athletic commission. He will stay in the state government as a deputy attorney general focused on administrative law.

Kizer has been in his current role for nearly eight years, and prior to that had served as counsel to the athletic commission.

“This is just a good time for me to move on,” Kizer told FOX Sports on Friday night. “It’s a new calendar year, there’s a new chairman, and we’re really slow. We have no fights this month, so it’s a good time for making a transition. Everything’s all set for the big fights in the spring, so if there’s a time to leave, this is the time.”

Kizer said that from the time he took the job in 2006, he planned to hold the position for only five years and move on. Last year, he explored the idea of leaving when he applied for the city attorney role in Henderson, Nevada. He was a finalist for the position but the role ultimately went to someone else.

Because of the many high-visibility MMA and boxing bouts that are drawn to Las Vegas, Kizer often became a lightning rod for controversy. In MMA, it was often because of the therapeutic use exemptions granted for testosterone replacement therapy. Among those who were approved for use in the state were UFC fighters Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir and Forrest Griffin. In boxing, it was judges, exemplified by the outrage spewed after judge C.J. Ross scored the September Floyd Mayweather-Saul “Canelo” Alvarez match a draw despite a near unanimous belief that Mayweather won handily.

Kizer said those kinds of controversies are bound to happen over the course of time, and that he had no regrets over his tenure, which saw him oversee the largest single boxing and MMA gates in state history. The Mayweather-Alvarez boxing event drew a $20 million gate to the MGM Grand, while the Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II UFC bout collected $6.9 million. Both fights happened within the last two years.

He also pointed to the commission’s safety record, adding instant replay and out-of-competition drug testing as memorable achievements.

“I was lucky enough to work with some very good commissioners, commission staff and officials,” he said. “I don’t have any negative feelings whatsoever. Even with the promoters, sometimes you have disagreements with them, but they’ve been very good, too, along with the fighters and managers I’ve dealt with. It was all good. I didn’t expect to be here eight years but I don’t regret sticking around longer than I planned.”

Among promoters, few were more publicly critical of Kizer than UFC president Dana White. In November, after White disagreed with the judges ruling in the Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks bout that was scored a split-decision for St-Pierre, White said that commission was “atrocious,” and that he was “f--king scared to come back here and do fights.”

Kizer said that latest public barrage had nothing to do with his decision, which was months in the making.

“Dana and I have a good relationship,” he said. “I know he says crazy stuff about everybody from time to time. Look at the stuff he said about Jon Jones. Actually, he and I have always had a good relationship behind the scenes. He has his own failings, as do I, as does everybody. It was never to the point that it negatively impacted on us as a commission whatsoever. Most of the biggest UFC’s in history have been in Nevada.”

Kizer said he would not have any role in choosing his successor. When Marc Ratner stepped down to join the UFC in 2006, Kizer was already being groomed for the spot, but Kizer said he expects an interim executive director to be appointed while a national search is launched to fill the position.

“It’s a cool job,” he said. “I can’t imagine this type of job won’t attract some qualified candidates and probably some unqualified candidates, as well. I’ve done my time as a sports guy, and now I get to go back to being a lawyer. They’ll be just fine without me.”

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