The Nevada Athletic Commission decided Saturday that it needs more time to find an executive director.
The five-member commission spent almost four hours Saturday interviewing four finalists to replace Keith Kizer, who resigned Jan. 10.
But after listening to Bob Bennett, Michael Martino, Andy Foster and Jeffrey Mullen, the commissioners decided they weren’t ready to vote on a successor to the job, which pays an annual salary of $94,000 and initially had more than 350 applicants.
Instead, they will meet at 3 p.m. Friday to make their decision.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What are we trying to accomplish?’” chairman Francisco Aguilar said of the rationale behind waiting another week in what already has been a three-month process. “Are we making a decision for the sake of making a decision? Or do we want to do what’s best for the state?
“It’s not about today. It’s about the future. I’ve said several times that this will be the most important decision this commission will make, and we need to make sure we get it right. There’s a lot of information to digest, and by having a few more days to go over it, I believe we can all come to the right decision.”
The four candidates were diverse in their presentations, though they were in agreement that judging needs to improve, particularly in mixed martial arts, and that the state’s drug testing policies need to be expanded.
Bennett, who is from Las Vegas, and Martino, who is from Reno, have strong boxing backgrounds. Foster, who is from California and grew up in Georgia, and Mullen, who is from Tennessee, have stronger MMA backgrounds. Each candidate spent about 45 minutes interviewing with the commissioners.
Bennett, a former FBI agent and currently a boxing judge in Nevada, said: “I see myself as someone who is proactive rather than reactive. I would have active dialogue with the five commissioners and work together with them.”
Martino, who works for the NAC as an inspector, said: “I always believe in the code of leading by example. I believe in team building and having a strong work ethic.”
Foster, the executive officer of the California State Athletic Commission and former director of the Georgia Athletic Commission, said: “Experience in this job matters. I have hands-on experience. I have industry associations. I have experience in working with budgets and with the attorney general’s office.
“My style is what I would describe as adaptive. I would see how things are done here and adapt.”
Mullen, the executive director of the Tennessee Athletic Commission who worked as an MMA judge in Nevada from 1999 to 2009, said he wouldn’t make sweeping changes. But he did say he would try to educate officials who work fights in Nevada and hold prefight meetings with referees, judges, doctors and timekeepers to make sure everyone was on the same page.
“Combat sports is my life,” Mullen said. “I think I can do more good for combat sports in this job than anywhere else.”
Before the commissioners began deliberating, commissioner Bill Brady suggested waiting. Fellow commissioner Skip Avansino agreed.
“I was impressed with all the candidates,” Avansino said. “But I think it might be helpful to have a few days and think it through a little more. The process may prove to be beneficial. We’ve been at this process for quite awhile, and from a business perspective it may be the prudent thing to digest all this information.”
Aguilar said: “At this point, one more week won’t make a huge difference.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.