MMA Analysis: Does UFC Encourage Bad Behavior?

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A few months ago NBA superstar Kobe Bryant was caught on court, issuing a rather controversial insult at a referee.  I don’t personally like the word “faggot” but I also recognize that often times when used, this word is not being used as a direct insult to the sexual leanings of the target, more as the childish equivalent of “butthead” or “idiot”. I believe Kobe meant no REAL prejudicial harm with his statement, and merely slipped in his frustration.

However, no exceptions are made for the superstar with five championship rings as he is expected to behave as well as you play. Kobe was fined $100,000, issued several public apologies, and the Lakers shortly after the incident made a “sensitivity” video regarding acceptance.  But the most notable repercussion was from the commissioner of the NBA, David Stern, who came forward and said Kobe’s words were “inexcusable and offensive.”

This simple act served to further establish a precedent that has been active within the general fabric of most professional sports.  If you act poorly, you will be called to the carpet for your misgivings.  More specifically, act like a grown up.

The incredible stunts pulled by combat sports athletes are legendary.  In sports where the general public already sort of expects the athletes to behave poorly, one would think it would not only serve to pull viewership, but to increase the interest of hesitant sponsors and convince nervous potential fans everywhere, if these athletes were reigned in and if not encouraged, then pressured to behave at a higher standard. Some will argue “it increases interest when someone creates beef” and others will scream “RATINGS”, but my argument is this….

Those that tune in to see a blood bath or a personal vendetta acted out in the cage will only be disappointed half of the time anyways.  These athletes are above all PROFESSIONALS. Not everyone can do what they do, in fact, very few can.  The focus should be on showcasing all the skill they train for, and to therefore be victorious, but without emotional attachment. Those that tune in to see real skill will support the fighters MORE if they can just act like gentlemen and women when outside of the ring, or cage.

I move on now to the overly discussed, ridiculously commented on Rampage Jackson incident involving MMAHeat reporter Karyn Bryant.  During an interview Rampage, who is a friend of Bryant’s (her words) decided to attempt to “motorboat” Bryant, and made a relatively lewd reference to his anatomy. Bryant responded to the outcries of “sexual harassment” by saying “we were clowning around, I thought it was funny”.

It should have ended there with the public, as this is the point where Daddy Dana should have entered, and shut the whole thing down.  This is, I believe, part of the job of the president of the largest MMA organization in the world.  You put out fires, and you pull the pants back up on the occasional athlete who decides to “show their ass”.

I come from a background of volunteering in programs to help sexual abuse victims.  If a woman says she doesn’t feel abused, and that the behavior was well within the “rules” of their friendship, then who the hell are we to say otherwise.  Crying out for her to accept her role as a victim is utterly ridiculous, and frankly, disrespectful.  We do not as audience members set the standards for how she expects to be treated, only she can do that, and it is wrong for us to project our standards on to her.  At the end of the day, if we find Rampage’s behavior unacceptable, we can choose to tune out, or ignore.  At the end of the day, clowns don’t tend to make history the same way well-behaved legends do, and that kind of act only will hurt his legitimacy in the long run.

Now, with that said, several female journalists came out of the woodwork to offer their opinions.  Maggie Hendricks, being one.  Whether I agree with Ms. Hendricks or not is not the issue, nor should it have been for Joe Rogan.  You don’t have to like what the critics say about you, and in fact, it serves you better just to keep on walking if they aren’t selling what you want to buy.  Rogan instead took the time to respond, and in the most pathetic and juvenile way possible.  He called Maggie Hendricks “cunty”.

Now, my issue is, when you work for an organization at such a level, I would think that manners would be something that we could hope to expect.  Furthermore, when called upon to account for his nasty comments, Rogan issued a seriously half-assed apology.  This is all because the UFC is fronted by Dana White, a man who has shown himself to be a fan of the word, and many other four letter words, himself, and has slung it around plenty in the past. Were this the NBA, the NFL, the NHL or the MLB, Rogan, being that he isn’t a fighter, would have been fired, or severely reprimanded.  However, he was issued little more than a slap on the wrist, sending the message to those that might still be on the fence regarding combat sports and its legitimacy to think, “hey, we’re all a bunch of four letter word shouting thugs with minimal IQ’s, nothing to see here.”

I’m not calling for etiquette training here, but something has to be done.  Most of the fighters, coaches, and managers I know are savvy and know better than to behave like this, but there are a few who continue to offend, misbehave, run amok, and those few that act out this way TAKE MONEY out of the pockets of those who continue to dutifully and respectfully act like gentlemen and women.  Cross branding becomes less and less feasible.  Opportunity shuts down rapidly.  There is a myriad of potential for fighters who offer to the world the image of a tenacious beast in the cage or ring, and a respectable human being you’d want your kids to look up to outside of it.

I don’t expect folks to act unlike themselves, but I would hope that we can ask for more from our “higher ups”.  With men like Rogan, and White free to name call and not be called to the carpet for it, it’s a case of the inmates running the asylum, and the policing has to come from within.

Tiger Woods had affairs and lost millions of dollars worth of sponsorships, an aggressive punishment I wasn’t entirely sure I agreed with.  However, I am comforted knowing that those who issue his checks have a vested interest in him as a complete brand.  While I don’t necessarily believe Rampage’s “motorboating” to be completely offensive, I do think it was kind of stupid, and I would have expected Daddy Dana to come down and say something like “no Quinton, we don’t do that, bad.”  Instead, it was left to us, the public, to police, comment on, and work out.

I love this sport, and I want to see it grow, but without some rules and behavioral standards in arguably the largest MMA organization stateside, many will continue to think of it as little more than a bloody slugfest, fraught with thugs and idiots.  Let’s be better than that.  Let’s set the example.

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