One of the most exciting fights on paper in Titan FC history did not go down as expected.
In fact, it didn’t go down at all.
Friday night, Titan FC 53: Bad Blood was to aptly feature a grudge match between reunited enemies Juan Puerta and Gustavo Balart.
Just moments before the fighters were scheduled to make the walk, Titan FC COO Lex McMahon took to the mic to make an unexpected announcement.
“I’ve been in this sport for eleven years, and I’ve never had to do something like I’m about to do,” McMahon told the crowd. “Unfortunately, our main event has been disqualified. Juan Puerta has been disqualified by the Florida boxing commission, so I’m sorry.”
Moments after the event concluded, McMahon spoke with BJPenn.com about the mysterious cancellation.
“In the third or fourth round, the Florida commissioner came to me and notified me that Juan Puerta had tested positive for marijuana and that they would not allow him to fight,” McMahon said. “As I’m trying to digest that, I’m trying to make sense of why they wouldn’t adjunicate it after the fight, we’re minutes away from a walkout.
“[Puerta] has obviously got a lot of responsibility in this. I would’ve liked to have seen the Florida commission — who generally does a very good job and who I’m very supportive of (I think they do a very good job)… I don’t think they handled the issue the right way. I think the fighters should have been allowed to fight and this should have been adjudicated after the fight.”
Radiating genuine disappointment, McMahon views the conundrum as a losing situation for all parties involved.
“I understand the promotion lost, the fighters lost, the fans lost, everybody lost,” McMahon said “It’s a very difficult situation. The Florida commission took Puerta’s check, so I wasn’t able to pay him.”
While still a bit unclear, McMahon says he believes the withdrawal came as a result of a sample Puerta had given just hours before.
“I believe [the test] was taken today when they arrived at the venue,” McMahon said. “The fighters from this card have only had two interactions with the Florida commission. One was yesterday during weigh ins, and I’m almost certain no one was tested then.
“The [the second was] today, when they arrived for the fight. I’m pretty sure the fighters were tested when they arrived. It seems very fast to get the results back for that kind of test. But I don’t have enough expertise to speak intelligently on that. I believe they were tested as soon as they arrived, and three hours later this kid couldn’t fight.”
Anther looming question still remains. Does a “disqualification”, in this instance, mean a loss on Puerta’s record? McMahon says he isn’t quite sure.
“I was trying to sort through [things], and I don’t know if my language was the appropriate language [on the mic],” McMahon said. “At the end of the day, let the kid fight. In my mind, they disqualified him. I don’t know if it’s a loss or if they disqualified him. The commission didn’t give me that information.”
Unsurprisingly, Puerta is facing repercussions from the boxing commission in the form of not only a check withhold, but also an indefinite suspension. From Titan FC’s end, repercussions have not been issued at this time.
“The commission has suspended [Puerta] indefinitely,” McMahon said. “They took his check. And he’ll have to go in front of the commision.”
Contrary to rumblings on social media, McMahon made it clear that Puerta is not stripped of his Titan FC Flyweight Championship at this time. The promotion’s COO says he needs to wait and see how things transpire.
“I happen to think the world of Juan Puerta,” McMahon said. “I’m obviously very upset at the current situation. I want it to play out. Let’s see how things play out over the next few days. Obviously there will be repercussions from the promotion, but I don’t know just yet.
“As of now, I have not stripped Puerta of the title. We’re going to gather information, but I am supportive of him. We’ll see what happens, after we catch our breath over the next couple of days. The fight did not occur, so I couldn’t award the belt to Balart even though he did everything right. There was no fight. How do you give a guy a belt when he didn’t fight? All around it was a difficult situation.”
As for Puerta’s opponent, fan-favorite Gustavo Balart, McMahon says he has been paid, and Titan is doing everything they can to get him an in-cage opportunity as soon as possible. He credits Balart for handling the situation like a professional.
“[Balart] had that Cuban flag draped over his shoulders and he was making his final preparations,” McMahon said. “He has limited English, so I had to bring some translators over. But people that he and I both know mutually — we were very honest with him. He looked at me and said, ‘It’s okay man.’
“I told him I was going to pay him and try to find something for him immediately. Gustavo has had almost all of his fights with us. He’s an amazing and entertaining fighter. I want to help him get back up. He’s invested time, energy, and resources into his camp. He wants to compete, and we’re definitely going to help him get on to the next step.”
Titan FC will hold its next event on April 26 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida — just one day prior to the UFC’s event in Sunrise.