Social media can be a great tool for an athlete to promote themselves off the field (or in this case, outside of the cage), being able to directly interact with fans without having to through a source. But in this age of social media–where all it takes is one click of a button to throw your entire world upside down–athletes have to be very careful of what they decide to post and share with the world, because once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.
Of course I’m talking about TUF Nations contestant, Team Australia’s Tyler Manawaroa (10-0), who recently was told by the UFC that he would not be competing in the promotion and would be released from his contract—despite the taped season still currently being aired. Manawaroa had posted a picture (meme) of a black child sitting in a shopping cart on instagram 18 months prior, and had added a racial slur in his post. This was first discovered by fellow TUF Nations cast mate, Kajan Johnson who brought it to the attention of his coach, Patrick Cote on twitter. And this later made the rounds and caught the attention of the UFC, who then released a statement regarding the issue:
The UFC organization had hired an investigation company in Australia to conduct thorough background investigations on potential contestants for ‘The Ultimate Fighter Nations’ television series. Unfortunately, the background checks did not uncover all of the social media history by contestant Tyler Manawaroa. The UFC is committed to having an environment that is free from discrimination. Consequently, UFC has notified Manawaroa that regardless of how far he advances in the completed television series, the organization will not be offering him a contract to compete in the UFC.
The 19 year old, Manawaora has since apologized for a post he made when he was 17 years old, posting on his Facebook:
I posted a pic on instagram that has offended people..im very sorry !! As you can imagine that was never the intention. .as a dark skinned person myself who has delt with racism all my life ,I was making fun of the stereotype that all dark people go to jail..which is obviously not true….hence the irony…but I will remove it and I apologize for offending you
Just a question. . Every one in their life has made a bad decision that has offended someone ..if you have apologized and have no intention of ever repeating that bad decision ..and your apology has been rejected. ..what do you do??
The UFC had previously promoted ‘Twitter bonuses’ for their athletes to encourage them to use twitter more often to build their brand; giving out $5,000 to fighters who gained the most followers, had the biggest percentage growth, and were ‘most creative’. Most creative, here’s where the issue lies, creative can be interpreted in so many ways as UFC fighters Miguel Torres and Forrest Griffin found out. Both fighters tweeted jokes about rape in 2011, while Torres’ was met with a release from the UFC, Griffins’ didn’t really face a punishment at all; deciding on his own to donate to a rape crisis center along with a public apology.
This is not the first time—and likely won’t be the last—that a slur will be used by an MMA fighter on social media, as the always outspoken Nate Diaz was hit with a $20,000 fine and a 90 day suspendsion when he used a homophobic slur to describe Bryan Caraway after he felt a bonus was wrongfully taken away from Pat Healy.
In terms of the pros of social media, as MMA fans on twitter and facebook have seen. It can be a very useful tool to hype up fights, call out opponents, and even get noticed and signed by the UFC.
Of all the fighters (about the majority of the middleweight division) to call out Michael Bisping, Tim Kennedy was the most persistent, continually tweeting at Bisping until finally the UFC scheduled their fight at the TUF Nations finale in April.
As is the same with Chael Sonnen—who has the promotion aspect of the fight game completely figured out. Chael has been setting up this fight with his opponent and TUF Brazil coach, Wanderlei Silva, for years. Going as far as tweeting out poems about the Brazilian, until the UFC could no longer ignore this huge grudge match. And the promotion didn’t stop there, as Chael has continued to make subtle cracks at his opponent through social media during the taping of TUF Brazil.
Khabib Nurmagomedov was without an opponent since his victory at UFC 165 over Pat Healy, he took to twitter to call out his fellow lightweights, Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. Although Khabib ultimately did not get the fight he wanted, he did stir up some news and attention, when Dana White tweeted “Nobody wants to fight Khabib”. All the attention he has received, has only raised his stock within the UFC and to fans, especially those who were not familiar with him before.
For up and coming fighters looking to capture the attention of and get signed by the big promotions, social media can be a useful tool for this as well. Many fighters fighting in the smaller promotions take the opportunity after a victory in the post-fight speech to call out UFC matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby to give them an opportunity in the UFC. This is usually followed by the continuation of said call out, taken to twitter and facebook platforms.
A perfect example of both the pro and the con of social media, is UFC featherweight Conor McGregor, who tweeted a lyric from a Dr.Dre song to answer a fan’s Q&A involving Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. McGregor later had to issue an apology for this as the UFC was clearly unhappy about with the Irishman. On the other hand, McGregor’s charisma and character has gotten him the attention from fellow fighters in the UFC, most notably a budding feud with lightweight Diego Sanchez. McGregor and Sanchez have been going back and forth on twitter—as well as on various interviews and radio shows—and now have created a potential future matchup that fans would be very interested in seeing.
The pros of social media far outweigh the cons, with one specific caveat, it has to be used with a certain level of intelligence and common sense. So long as you don’t post something you will soon regret, as with the case of Tyler Manawaroa—who may get another chance in the future with the UFC, being just 19 years old—but as of now he’s going to dwell on something that he likely regrets he posted over a year ago.