Tim Sylvia and Ray Mercer will now meet in a heavyweight mixed martial arts bout at Adrenaline III this Saturday at the BJCC Arena in Birmingham, Ala.
The matchup of former UFC champion and former boxing champion will headline 14 additional MMA bouts in the cage. The event will no longer be regulated.
Originally scheduled as a six-round boxing bout, Adrenaline owner and promoter Monte Cox said he made the decision to re-categorize the match on Thursday.
“I got a call from the Pennsylvania commissioner saying that the boxing match is illegal because we weren’t getting regulated by a U.S. commission,” said Cox on Thursday.
With no regulatory body present in Alabama, the Canadian-based River Cree Combative Sports Commission had agreed to step in and oversee the event.
Cox said he believed he had completed all the necessary requirements asked of him, which included procuring a letter from Alabama’s governor welcoming the Canadian commission into the jurisdiction.
However, Association of Boxing Commissions President Tim Lueckenhoff told Sherdog.com that neither he nor the ABC organization had been approached directly to regulate the bout. Further, Lueckenhoff said he’d thought Sylvia-Mercer would be an MMA contest and not a boxing bout. Lueckenhoff said federal law currently has no jurisdiction over MMA bouts, but laws are in place over boxing under the Professional Boxing Safety Act.
In a press release issued by the ABC on Thursday, the organization denounced the “unwarranted and illegal” boxing match. The release also noted that the River Cree commission, as well as referee John McCarthy, had withdrawn their involvement from the bout and event.
“Canadian boxing commissions are not authorized to supervise boxing matches in the U.S.; and, patently, it is wholly inappropriate for one representative from a Canadian boxing commission, together with an MMA referee, to supervise a boxing match,” said Bruce C. Spizler, chairman of the ABC legal committee in the release.
“I told the promoter I would do it if it was a sanctioned event,” McCarthy told Sherdog.com Thursday. “As soon as it became apparent that that would not happen, I pulled out.”
In March, it had been reported that the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB) said it would not regulate the bout, prompting Cox to move the bout to another venue.
“Everyone thinks I came to Alabama because it’s unsanctioned here,” said Cox, “but why would I go to so much trouble to try and get this event regulated if that were the case?”
Cox also said the Mashantucket Pequot Athletic Commission, which oversees events at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, had agreed to regulate the event in March, but a financial agreement could not be reached with the casino.
The event was moved to Alabama for sponsorship opportunities, Cox said. Cox said he would not be able to procure new regulation for the event in time.
Sylvia (24-5) has not competed since he succumbed to a rear-naked choke from former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Fedor Emelianenko in just 36 seconds at Affliction “Banned” 11 months ago. The 33-year-old has dropped back-to-back bouts for the first time in his career but holds victories against former UFC heavyweight champions Andrei Arlovski (twice) and Ricco Rodriguez, among others. His only professional defeats have come to Emelianenko, Arlovski, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Randy Couture and Frank Mir, all of whom are ranked in the top 10.
The 48-year-old Mercer (0-0), a former heavyweight boxing champion, has made only one appearance in mixed martial arts, as he submitted to Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson in an exhibition match regulated by the NJSACB back in 2007. Mercer compiled a 36-7-1 mark in professional boxing and won a gold medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics.
Saturday, June 13
Tim Sylvia vs. Ray Mercer
Sasuke Zapata vs. Rich Clementi
Chris Davis vs. Jeremy Horn
Juan Zapata vs. Joe Jordan
Keith Johnson vs. Nick Rossborough
John Salter vs. Roberto Traven
Josh Martin vs. Tony Godbold
Josh Barnes vs. Brad Tidwell
Bryan Goldsby vs. Joey Maimberga
Tuan Pham vs. Sean Hall
Justin Trawick vs. Brandon Esch
Keith Cunagin vs. Robert Rodda
Daniel Ritchie vs. Adrian Miles
Ron Mitchell vs. Brandon Powell
Barry Clifford vs. Matt Smart
Brian Knapp contributed to this report.