It has been a hideous week for the reputation of the sport of mixed martial arts, and one which hurts any chances of legalisation of the sport in New York. While UFC president Dana White will blame any potential rejection of future bills to get the sport legalised in the state on corruption, recent events have certainly helped the argument against MMA in NY.
While I am a huge fan of mixed martial arts and have been for multiple years, there is a side to the sport which I hate. The Lyoto Machidas and Dan Hendersons of the sport are true blessings due to their humbleness, honour, professionalism and all of the traits that you make you proud to be an MMA fan, but there are also the likes of War Machine, Josh Grispi and Hermes Franca who help the arguments against the sport.
And while these fighters are all currently outside of the UFC, the fact is that they have been inside the Octagon before, and this damages the reputation of the promotion.
Both War Machine and Josh Grispi have been in the news heavily in the last week-or-so after brutal cases of domestic abuse, both being as sickening as each other.
War Machine fought inside the Octagon twice after participating in The Ultimate Fighter 6, and served time in prison after this stint. Despite having the reputation of a loose cannon, Bellator signed him up, and Koppenhaver (WM’s birth name) posted a 2-1 record under them before his release after the incident in question.
His pornographic actress ex-girlfriend Christy Mack was hospitalised after a severe beating from Koppenhaver, who also threatened her with a knife, breaking eighteen bones around her eyes, breaking her nose in two places, breaking teeth, fracturing her rib and rupturing her liver in the process. Her statement on the brutal attack can be read here, and Koppenhaver is, as of right now, still on the run from the cops.
Josh Grispi, meanwhile, was also involved in a horrific account of domestic abuse, which involved the former WEC and UFC fighter training his bulldog to attack his wife. ‘The Fluke’ competed four times inside the Octagon, and was once on the verge of a UFC title shot, though the fight fell out due to an injury to champion Jose Aldo.
In a domestic abuse case that an officer described as ‘the worst he’d ever seen’, the dog and Grispi put defenceless Kailin in hospital with a number of vicious injuries. Grispi also had guns, drugs and ammunition in his house, with his three year-old kid sitting nearby a box full of weapons and ammo. The details can be read here.
These cases are sickening, but they’re not alone.
What hurts the sport tenfold is that it provides the opportunity for fighters who have served time to still compete, even if it is only on the regional circuit. Former UFC title challenger Hermes Franca, who spent 42 months in prison for multiple sexual battery charges, is set to return to MMA later this month. Thiago Silva, who earlier this year was involved in a police stand-off and accused of cocaine use, was scheduled to compete later this month before falling out due to surgery.
While nowhere near as brutal, the recent ‘brawl’ between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier has also seen a lot of media attention; after Cormier shoved Jones in the neck/face area, Jones proceeded by punching Cormier, jumping on top of him and a number of punches landing from the pair – all during a simple media tour to promote the event at the end of next month.
This has all been brushed over and even promoted to hype the fight, but this is the sort of incident that hurts the sport’s reputation. And to add to this, a video published showed the pair exchanging words, with UFC light heavyweight champion Jones threatening to literally kill the challenger.
MMA can be a compelling sport full of humble fighters looking to provide for their families, but while it remains associated with the likes of Grispi, Silva, Franca, Koppenhaver et al, I don’t see New York passing the bill. A slap on the wrist for a massive brawl that diminishes the sport’s reputation is also simply not enough, while fighters who have participated in events that have scarred the life of the victim should not step foot in the cage ever again.
The UFC may try to distance themselves from criminals (e.g. Will Chope), and this is a sensible approach, but the bill is to pass mixed martial arts as a whole in the state – not just the UFC as a promotion.
As with all opinion pieces, you may disagree with much that I have said – if so, please send a comment down below, or a tweet to @cagepagesfs.