Opinion: A Tough Week for MMA’s Reputation
By Jesse Heitz
Mixed Martial Arts as a whole has weathered some severe storms, and it very well looks like the sport will have to do the same for the remainder of this week. This rather stale week will thankfully end in a few days when the dust from the atrocious UFC 161 settles. Aside from the exceptionally weak aforementioned card, several public relations faux pas have also emanated from both the media and fighters themselves, culminating in a week-long trifecta of embarrassing events.
I have written extensively about the weakness and, if we’re being brutally honest, the veritable shortchange that is UFC 161. I also dedicated last week’s piece to the bizarre launch of the PETA MMA-inspired video game in which players can take the form of prominent fighters and beat up animal abusers, experimenters, and trainers. Yet, the last day or two has yielded not one but two new stories that are considerably less than flattering for the image of MMA.
First, we had the so-called supreme power of sports media, ESPN, feature a piece on former boxing champion Riddick Bowe, entitled, “Ex-boxing champ Riddick Bowe punished in MMA debut”. The only problem is that Bowe wasn’t competing in an MMA bout; it was actually a Muay Thai boxing match. But hey, for the world-leader in sports kickboxing is apparently the same thing as MMA.
Recently, UFC veteran Josh “The Punk” Thomson, got into a heated “discussion” regarding marriage equality on his personal Facebook page. The discussion quickly caught fire in the national media circuit, with the Huffington Post writing a feature story on it entitled, “Josh Thomson, MMA Fighter, Compares Gay Marriage To Polygamy, Pedophilia And Incest”. The story then featured some of his comments such as,
“Should you be allowed to marry whoever you want? Before you answer that, should u be allowed to have more than 1 wife?”
“I’m only asking a question. My next question is, should siblings be allowed to marry siblings? My point is, where do you draw the line? I personally don’t care who you marry but I also am smart enough to know that it opens a gateway to men/women trying to marry young kids, siblings marrying eachother and people having multiple husbands an wives. You have to think all of these things are okay otherwise your stopping them from being happy as well which is hypocrisy. Equality doesn’t stop with gay marriage, it just starts with it.”
“Blacks an whites getting married is nothing like this. So your okay with R. Kelly trying To marry lil girls? People trying to marry their brother or sister? Animals? Etc? Those people want the same exact thing, to be happy. Are you gonna tell them no? Paul TChita your not arguing those points cuz you can’t. Look, I personally don’t give a shit who you marry but my question to you is, why is it okay for gays to marry and your gonna turn around and tell the guy he can’t marry the lil girl next door or the teacher she cant marry the lil boy in her class? Siblings, animals, etc. Why can’t they be happy like gay people an heterosexual people?”
Now, we must first consider the source of such an article and whether it was impartially written and if material may have been taken out of context in search of creating some headlines. Other articles come to Thomson’s defense, arguing his inherent right to his own opinion. For me, all of this is off the mark. Indeed, Thomson is entitled to his opinion, but realistically does that allow you to make comments that many might find offensive to an immediate audience of thousands?
As far as the rest of the world is concerned, as nice as it would be to engage in some verbal diarrhea from time to time, doing so is a mere fantasy for the employed. If I were to blather about something that attracted significant amounts of negative attention to both my employer and my profession, it’s reasonable to expect consequences, or at least incredible backlash. The bottom line is that Thomson, whether he agrees or not, is an ambassador for his sport. Nobody is saying he has to support gay marriage or march in a gay pride parade. He only has to smarten up and keep in mind that the media pays attention to his every word.
None of this week’s happenings will sink MMA. They won’t bring MMA’s progress and evolution to a grinding halt. Such sloppiness may fuel the fires of critics and give the sport a temporary black eye. However, one thing is clear, that this week is one to forget.