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Weekly Q&A

The Weekly Q&A with Bill Brady, Nevada State Athletic Commission chairman

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Bill Brady of The Nevada State Athletic Commission makes a few remarks during the hearing of UFC fighter Alistar Overeem who appears before the commission due to testing positive for high testosterone levels, Tuesday April 24, 2012.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

Bill Brady, 67, is chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, an organization that absorbed some blows recently after one of its judges, C.J. Ross, controversially scored last month’s Mayweather/Alvarez fight a draw. But Brady is used to taking flak—he’s been the chairman three different times in his seven years on the commission, which oversees boxing and MMA. With his latest year-long term as chair expiring October 31, he sat down with the Weekly to discuss performance-enhancing drugs, the future of fighting and the man he wouldn’t want to meet in the ring.

The chairman of the commission is a year-long role and a new chairman is appointed from among the five commissioners every November 1. Why is that?

Call it traditional. It didn’t used to be that way—some of them were in forever. I think all us in there now like sharing the responsibility. Letting each person have a chance to be a chairman and find out what that entails, I guess keep us all humble.

And what exactly does being commissioner entail?

We have meetings about every three weeks. So you help format the meeting with [executive director] Keith Kizer, and there’s a lot of decisions that are made—like when you actually want to have a hearing on different issues. The commission will pretty much follow whatever you want to do. You have to be very up on what’s going on in boxing and what the needs are. And get it on the agenda so the whole commission can discuss it. Because you’re only one vote.

Your primary role is to oversee boxing?

Professional boxing and martial arts, which is UFC.

Do you feel like you learn something new every time you’re chairman?

I just feel we keep taking it to another level of safety for the fighters every year. Trying to keep these young people safe in their fighting, making sure the fights are stopped before too much damage is done. We’ve really taken the drug situation, the illegal steroids, testosterone, all those sorts of things, and taken it to another level. And that’s how it comes, in levels. You think you’re doing the best job it’s possible to do, and you discover over time, you keep finding ways to take it to another level.

The commission recently increased the threshold for failing a marijuana test from 50 ng/mL to 150—a 300 percent increase. How did that change in thinking come about?

It was a decision we made to follow the World Anti-Doping Association, the Olympic committee. Their testing labs made a decision to raise it 300 percent, so we had hearings on it, and brought doctors in, talked with WADA and made a decision to follow their rules. We didn’t have to, but we do because we like to stay right in line with WADA.

How do you see that changing the sport?

It won’t. That’s based on all the hearings we had. Doesn’t help them, doesn’t hurt them. If they go over that level, now you get into an impairment situation, and there will be discipline about that.

How did you come to be appointed as a commissioner?

I was an athlete in high school. At Las Vegas High School, I held the record in discus throwing for many years, but as far as boxing goes, I learned at the feet of my father. Before we had a TV set, we listened to the fights on the radio. My father was a big fighting fan, so we’d all gather around and listen. I remember when Rocky Marciano was fighting. Floyd Patterson … Then we made the switch to TV. And then Caesars Palace started staging fights there, and my father would take me as a young man and teenager to all those fights. I was at almost every single one of them. I knew a lot of the fighters, met a lot of the fighters, and so it was in my blood from a very young age.

In 2007, [then-Governor Jim] Gibbons was looking for someone who knew something about the game and very enthused about the boxing game and would take an interest in it. I’d been in the legislature from 1978 to 1984. He knew I was really interested in it, and asked me if I would fill a seat. I’ve felt honored ever since.

How about your family? Any of them show an interest in boxing?

I have six sons and one daughter. I would have them box as youngsters, but they always thought they had won, and it caused some contention in the family, so we stopped doing that (laughs). Many of them are now helping to run our family businesses, Brady Industries and Brady Linen. Brady Industries was started by my father in 1947, and I bought it from him and have run it ever since. Brady Industries sells maintenance supplies to the hotels. Brady Linen does the linens for almost every hotel on the Strip—a million pounds a day. I’m now retired, but having my family help with the business really allows me to pay attention to the fight game.

As chairman, what would you say is the most challenging part of the job for you?

Trying to decide exactly what we should do in the disciplining of these fighters when they do [performance-enhancing] drugs of any form. Because it’s different situations. That and also trying to find out what judges and referees would be best suited for certain fights. We look around the world. And then you worry about if everything’s going to go well, because they’re all good people, doing their very best. They can have an off-night. It’s called being human. But just trying to make sure that all fights will be held to the highest standard.

A lot of people are saying that boxing is on the decline, that it’s lost its excitement and is not as great as it once was. How do you respond to that?

It’s changed. It’s changed because a lot of the fights used to be in the heavyweight class, and that was really interesting for the personalities it brought forth. Mike Tyson brought a whole level of excitement to the sport that was unbelievable. Everyone was scared to death of him. And Muhammad Ali brought so much of that. George Foreman brought a playful heart. They all brought personalities into the ring. That’s why they say that boxing has lost something, because now all of our bigger fights now are in the welterweights. The heavyweights now are mainly out of Europe and they don’t even fight over here, although we have some very good heavyweights from the United States.

So we don’t see those heavyweight fights that people like to see. But has boxing suffered? I don’t think it has, because the biggest gate we’ve ever had was the Mayweather/Alvarez fight. So the numbers don’t back what people say. If you go by the gates and pay per views, boxing is in its heyday right now. Of course Mayweather brings a lot of that to it. Pacquaio brought a lot of that. Alvarez brings it. Other names really pack the house. So I don’t think it’s true.

What do you see as the future of boxing and MMA in Nevada?

I think it’s big and it’s going to get bigger. The UFC in particular is expanding all over the world. It’s huge and popular and is going to get only bigger and better. I know people say boxing is dying or dead, but that to me is being said by maybe people who are older, who feel the best is behind them. I’ve never been more excited about boxing than right now. Over history, we’re going to find that some of the boxers we’re watching right now are going to go down as some of the all-time greats.

Any fight that you wish would have happened that never did?

Everybody talks about the Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight. Everyone wanted that one. I don’t think it’s going to happen. There might be one more shot at it next year, but I don’t know if it will ever happen.

Any disciplinary decisions you have made that you struggled with and maybe still struggle with?

I struggle with every decision. I put a lot into this, a lot of emotion, because I know a lot of these fighters and trainers and promoters, and really want to do what’s right. It plays heavy on my mind. Some fighters did steroids when they were younger, and so now do we say we believe in redemption, or do we not allow them to get a license because we have to be very strict on the rules for the young fighters? It’s hard, because it’s a very personal issue for me.

We encourage younger fighters, “You’ve got to stay clean if you want to fight in Nevada.” And this is where they all want to fight.

Thank goodness for that, huh?

Yes! They can be on an undercard, and a dream has come true for them. All these fighters have been fighting a long time before they get here. And they have been through a lot of suffering and hard work. When they fight Las Vegas, they’ve arrived. I’ve talked to so many of them, and they say it’s a dream come true. There are thousands of hours of running, situps and sparring, and dreaming comes true when they hit Nevada.

I go back to locker rooms before every fight. I go to the weigh-ins when they’re being tested by the doctors. I like to be in with the doctors. I like to talk with the young people about these types of things, how they feel about fighting in Las Vegas. I like getting into their lives. Consequently I’ve become associated with a number of them. And so I as a commissioner owe it to those who have lived the rules from the time they were 14 years old and 16 years old. ... We owe it to those who have sacrificed and stayed clean their whole lives to keep a hard line in allowing some of these fighters to fight in Las Vegas. They haven’t fought until they’ve fought in Las Vegas.

They merged Strikeforce with the UFC, and I went to a fight with all the fighters and talked to a lot of the Strikeforce fighters. One said, “I love it, I’m so happy.” I said, “Why is that?” He said, “Because I know it will be clean.” UFC tests all their fighters before they sign a contract to make sure they’re clean. That’s because we test almost everybody. And he was clean, so he wants the other guy to be clean, and they’re going to get that when they fight here.

This sounds very personal for you.

It is. It’s personal. Young people have put their whole lives into a dream that they have, and I feel very passionate that they’ve put so much into it, that we owe it to them as a commission. I can’t determine what they do anywhere else, but when they arrive in Las Vegas, I want young people who have dedicated their lives to this who are clean. And we dedicate everything we have as a commission to that. I don’t think there’s anyone who tries harder than we do. There will be criticism still, but that goes with everything.

You’ve seen most of the great fighters. Who’s your favorite?

Wow. That’s really tough. I can tell you who I wouldn’t want to get in the ring against—Mike Tyson. He was frightening. He was so powerful. I saw fighters when they would come in and they felt his punches, the sting of that. He was a ferocious fighter, so on that level, he’s the one I remember as probably the most powerful and frightening.

When you get into skill level, there’s Sugar Ray Leonard, there’s Muhammad Ali, there’s Manny Pacquiao, and of course you have to put Floyd Mayweather in there. He’s just so smart, he’s got the skill and the speed to be one of the all-time greats.

One I’m looking forward to the future of is Alvarez. He wasn’t quite ready for Mayweather, but I think he’s the next generation.

Anything during your tenure as chairman that you’re proud of?

All fighters deserve a commission that will make sure they don’t get hurt too badly, and if they do, that there’s a quick response. We send all our fighters to the trauma unit. The contract was developed during one of my times as chairman that all fighters go the trauma unit. So they get in very quickly, get tended to and get out. I really care about these young people, I really do. I have six sons, so I care about these young people.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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