Jones, Cormier fines: Did NSAC get it right?

LAS VEGAS -- The Nevada State Athletic Commission fined Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier a combined $59,000 on Sept. 23 for their participation in a now infamous brawl Aug. 4 at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino.

The question that should be on the minds of each member of the NSAC following the ruling is pretty simple: Did we send a strong enough message that fist-fighting in the lobby of a Las Vegas hotel is not a behavior this commission will tolerate?

Everyone else can question whatever they want: Such as, how many UFC pay-per-view buys the fight will eventually generate, or is Cormier really capable of putting Jones on his back? The NSAC though, as they themselves said numerous times during the hearing, should primarily be concerned with whether their ruling will stop other athletes from straying into a form of public fisticuffs that would get mere commoners like the rest of us thrown in jail.

The commission's task was not an easy one. Clearly, it had an obligation to respond to the brawl, even though it occurred during a media function in which the commission had no one present and zero involvement with.

Whatever punishment it enforced needed to have "economic teeth," as commissioner Anthony A. Marnell put it -- but at the same time, dipping one's hands into the pockets of athletes who, (A) Claimed they had already lost "over six figures" in endorsement deals (in Jones' case, at least) and (B) Are ultimately selling a fight that brings income to your state can be a tricky thing.

In lieu of a suspension, which no one expected from the NSAC (although commissioner Skip Avansino did float the idea), both Jones and Cormier were fined 10 percent of their individual purses when they meet Jan. 3 ($50,000 for Jones, $9,000 for Cormier) and ordered to perform community service.

During its deliberations, nearly every member of the commission credited Jones and Cormier for their apologetic nature -- particularly commissioner Bill Brady, who fawned over Jones, saying the light heavyweight champion "softened" his heart and suggested the greatest example the NSAC could set would be to show Jones mercy because of how incredibly sorry he appeared.

While Brady's take is questionable, the two fighters did appear genuine throughout the hearing. Jones said he had never had an opponent grab his throat during a staredown and, as a champion (in a game of inches), he couldn't let that kind of mental warfare slide. He revealed the loss of a Nike sponsorship, which Nike confirmed to ESPN.com on Wednesday (although there is speculation this was not completely due to the brawl).

Cormier, for his part, admitted to being bullied as a youth and explained how that might have shaped his reaction to Jones' aggressiveness toward him.

All of this is well and good and duly noted -- but none of this "contrived" behavior should have been surprising to the commission. It came from two athletes armed with lawyers, who were facing the threat of suspensions and/or heavy fines.

And anyone who has followed this story knows the two have not been particularly distraught by what occurred between them.

It appeared the NSAC felt confident in its decision to enforce community service as a legitimate punishment, and with pretty good reason. For championship athletes, time is literally money. Having to perform community service (40 hours for Jones, 20 for Cormier) during a training camp, while juggling sponsorship and media obligations, is a potentially heavy burden.

Does it, in addition to the fine, have "teeth," though? Can the NSAC say with any certainty it lowered the chances of this kind of brawl happening again with its ruling Tuesday?

Ultimately, the brawl Aug. 4 will likely go down as a lucrative incident for both Jones and Cormier. Cormier (who, by the way, is 2-for-2 now on news conference "shoves" in his past two fights) was forced to admit as much to the NSAC, when he admitted to a quote he gave Aug. 6, in which he said the brawl was "good for my paycheck."

That, unfortunately, is the loudest message fighters will get out of the hearing -- fighters such as UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, who has complained about his pay and just so happened to shove challenger Chad Mendes during a photo opportunity three weeks after the Jones-Cormier incident.

Very few would take pleasure in fining Jones and Cormier a ton of money over what essentially came down to business actions by both of them -- but the members of the NSAC needed to set that discomfort aside if it wanted to send a message.

The message that eventually was sent was more along the lines of: Go ahead and throw down, but make sure you feel really bad about it afterward.