From The Streets To Sports Suites: Combat Sports’ Red Light District Exposed

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When UFC fighter Mounir Lazzez won his UFC on ESPN 34 bout against Ange Loosa via unanimous decision this weekend, he took some time to thank his supporters.

Namely, one Daniel Kinahan, the reported owner of MTK Global, a combat sports organization with its hands on the reins of some of the most prominent careers in professional fisticuffs.

It wasn’t the first time Kinahan’s name was mentioned within the hallowed ground of a professional fighting surface. However, it was the first since the U.S. government had issued a $5 million reward for his capture and sanctions on any U.S. company doing business with him.

If The Feds Watching…

According to the U.S. State Department, Kinahan is the head of The Kinahan Transnational Criminal Organization (KTCO), which was established in Dublin, Ireland, by Christopher Vincent Kinahan in the 1990s.

Through time, Christopher Vincent incorporated his two sons, Daniel Joseph and Christopher Jr., into his reputed criminal organization.

The U.S. State Department alleges that after becoming Ireland’s most powerful organized crime group, the KTCO began to distribute South American cocaine and heroin in Ireland and later to the United Kingdom and throughout mainland Europe.

From The Streets To Sports Suites

Additionally, the organization is alleged to have been involved in narcotics trafficking, money laundering, firearms trafficking, and murder.

Kinahan came to many in the combat sports world’s attention after he dodged an attempted murder at a Dublin hotel during a weigh-in for an MTK Global boxing match in 2016.

The result of a feud with a rival Dublin criminal organization known as the Hutch gang, the subsequent vendetta has resulted in 18 homicides, according to the U.S. government.

From MGM To MTK

According to reports, Kinahan is a co-founder of Macklin’s Gym Marbella (MGM), now renamed MTK Global, a powerhouse promotional machine and management firm in boxing and mixed martial arts.

MTK Global has an A-side current and former boxing client list that includes but is not limited to Tyson Fury, Terence Crawford, Billy Joe Saunders, Carl Frampton, and top UFC athletes like Darren Till and more.

MTK Global is a significant player in the fight game. It harkens back to the Wild West energy that once ruined boxing and has been an undercurrent of mixed martial arts on the local show level. Backroom deals, shady promoters, and the vice-laden world that greases the underbelly of power in the entertainment industry.

MTK Speaks

“MTK Global will comply fully with the sanctions made by the U.S. government against Daniel Kinahan,” the organization said via statement.

“MTK parted ways with Mr. Kinahan in February 2017. He has had no interest in the business since then and will have no future involvement with us.

“MTK operates ethically, transparently, and lawfully. We will cooperate fully with all authorities and assist with any ongoing investigations.

“MTK Global will take every measure to ensure the company, and those who deal with it are fully compliant with the U.S. sanctions announced this week and take this matter extremely seriously,” added Bob Yalen, CEO of MTK Global.

The Red Light District

For years, combat sports have always been a natural partner for places considered the red light district like casinos, in a sports sphere where the audacious is a ticket sales driver.

Additionally, the barriers to entry into the fight business are lower than in other organized team sports organizations like the NFL, MLB, and NBA.

Being a fighter is akin to being in horse racing, a blood sport that is more like its Roman Colosseum roots than its corporate leanings and Wall Street partnerships. However, when the seams begin to show, corporate America pulls back accordingly.

Ties Being Severed

“I’m a U.S. citizen, and the Treasury Department does not take these steps lightly,” Top Rank Chairman Bob Arum told U.K. media outlet The Daily Mail. “We will respect them (sanctions preventing Kinahan doing business in the US).

“We are not going to deal with Kinahan and his people. We will deal directly (with Fury) or his lawyer Robert Davis.”

According to reports, ESPN’s streaming service, ESPN+, which showcases many of its boxing cards, dropped a planned MTK Global event from the U.K. that was supposed to broadcast last Friday. However, with business relationships with American sports brands like Everlast, Top Rank, and the UFC, it is unclear how far the fallout will go.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.