Death of College Student Nathan Valencia at Charity Fight Prompts New 'Nathan's Law'

The Nevada Athletic Commission voted unanimously in favor of a rule giving itself authority over unarmed fights for charity following last month's death of 20-year-old Nathan Valencia at a University of Nevada Las Vegas fraternity fundraiser.

Valencia died from head injuries after a November 19 "Fight Night" event sponsored by UNLV fraternity Kappa Sigma, which had been hosting similar events for at least the past 10 years under no commission oversight.

Stephen J. Cloobeck, the commission's chairman, dubbed the rule "Nathan's Law." He said the rule is "warranted and necessary."

The rule would require medical personnel at any fights of this nature, as well as give the commission authority over aspects such as referee requirements, insurance, promotion, permits and weigh-ins.

"We are the leader. We're setting the standard," Cloobeck said. "Hopefully everyone will follow."

The original commission ruling against unarmed combat did not cover events involving students from schools, universities, colleges and organizations associated with them. Now, the rule would require written permission for a charity fight.

Commissioner Anthony Marnell said this rule is important to "push this message ... out there."

"It's disturbing and heartbreaking that different entities find unarmed combat to be something of fun and ... entertainment," Marnell said. "I don't think people realize what this is, how dangerous this is, and it's not appropriate in any way without major oversight, regulation and approval from people who know what they are doing."

unarmed combat, fist fight
The Nevada Athletic Commission voted to expand its oversight of unarmed combat to charity fights following the death of college student Nathan Valencia. Above, an image of an individual in a fight pose. Stock Image/Getty Images

Edward Magaw, senior deputy state attorney general, said in answer to a question from Marnell that the Athletic Commission rule can be enforced by state and district attorneys, including through the filing of criminal charges.

Cloobeck aired audio of a 911 call summoning paramedics to the Sahara Event Center off-campus venue where Valencia collapsed, and a video showing hospital staff honoring Valencia for organ donation following his November 23 death.

Kappa Sigma, the oldest fraternity at UNLV, has been suspended by UNLV and its national organization pending investigations.

Valencia's family, through their attorneys, called the commission move a positive step and said they want state lawmakers to "pass similar legislation to permanently close the loophole exempting universities from the Athletic Commission's oversight."

"Simply because the Athletic Commission did not have regulatory authority over Kappa Sigma Fight Night does not mean that UNLV, the Kappa Sigma fraternity, or the Sahara Event Center are absolved from responsibility ... for their complete lack of care in the management and organization of this event," attorneys Nicholas Lasso and Ryan Zimmer said.

Las Vegas police have said no criminal charges will be filed, but Cloobeck said the department and Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson have ongoing investigations.

"Whether any other entity had oversight remains part of the investigation," the commission chairman said.

Wolfson did not immediately respond to messages. Las Vegas police Officer Larry Hadfield, a department spokesman, pointed again to the department statement.

"Although Mr. Valencia's death is tragic, the circumstances surrounding his death are not criminal and no charges will be filed," the statement said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nathan Tyler Valencia, Homicide, Charity Boxing Match
After Nathan Valencia's death from a charity fight, the state boxing regulators closed a loophole in the law, dubbing it "Nathan's Law." Above, University of Nevada Las Vegas student walks on campus on September 9, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller/Getty Images