The UFC's biggest free TV card to date is coming up this Saturday with UFC On Fox 5. Despite the excitement building for the card, their matchmaking decisions have brought the ire of their biggest political rival, the Culinary Workers Union.
UFC on Fox 5 is arguably the best card in MMA history to appear on free TV. Definitely the strongest card the UFC has featured on the FOX network since their new partnership began. The main card features an exciting Lightweight title bout between champion Ben Henderson and contender Nate Diaz. The UFC pulled in veteran stars Shogun Rua and B.J. Penn to face off against rising talents Alexander Gustafsson and Rory MacDonald respectively. Although less divisionally relevant, even the opening bout between Matt Brown and Mike Swick should be action-packed.
Despite all the promised excitement, some of matchmaking for the December 8 card is drawing the wrong kind of attention. Specifically, the political rival of the UFC, Culinary Workers' Union Local 226 takes issue with the scheduling of Lightweights Jeremy Stephens and Abel Trujillo.
Dear Mr. [Eric] Shanks (Co-president, FOX Sports Media Group):
We are writing to alert you about two UFC fighters who are scheduled to compete on the "UFC on FOX
5" event on December 8th at the KeyArena in Seattle. Attached you will find the Trial Information in the
pending criminal case involving one UFC fighter, and two guilty pleas entered into by the other UFC
Jeremy Dean Stephens, a professional cage fighter who competes under the nickname "Lil’ Heathen,"
has been charged with Willful Injury Causing Serious Injury (Class C felony), Burglary in the First
Degree (Class B felony), and Assault Causing Bodily Injury (Serious Misdemeanor). A trial in the case is
currently schedule for January 9, 2013.
Abel Nazario Trujillo, another cage fighter scheduled to compete on the UFC fight card on Dec. 8th
in Seattle, has twice pleaded guilty to Domestic Abuse Assault Causing Bodily Injury, an aggravated
misdemeanor. In both cases, the victim was identified as the mother of his child. In May 2007, Trujillo
also pleaded guilty to Obstruction of an Emergency Communication. In the plea agreement, Trujillo
acknowledged that the crime required the State to prove that his alleged assault victim was making a 911
call, Trujillo knew that she was making a 911 call, and Trujillo hung up the phone. Trujillo competes
under the nickname "Killa."
These criminal cases raise serious questions about FOX’s programming judgment. At minimum, FOX
and the UFC should wait for the resolution of an upcoming jury trial related to the allegations against
Stephens before allowing Stephens to fight on FOX. The trial is scheduled for January 9th in Iowa.
Stephens was arrested on October 5th in Minneapolis on an Iowa warrant, just hours before his previously
scheduled fight on UFC.
One of the victims of the alleged assault is identified as a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army who has
dedicated his career to military service and has been deployed overseas multiple times, according to
a 2010 article. This should be of concern to FOX, given that fans of cage fighting events and regular
viewers of FOX likely include military veterans and active-duty soldiers who, along with their families,
have paid a great sacrifice to our country.
The UFC already has a troubled relationship with some leaders in the veterans’ community and advocates
for survivors of sexual assault, who believe the cage fighting organization has not done enough to prevent
socially irresponsible speech among its fighters. UFC fighters have made jokes about rape, homophobic
slurs and sexually explicit remarks that are demeaning towards women.
In a disturbing video published in April 2012 on YouTube, UFC fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
pretends to sexually assault a woman in a parking garage using chloroform and zip ties. Jackson is
scheduled to fight on the "UFC on FOX 6" event on Jan. 26th in Chicago. At a public press conference
in December 2011, UFC fighter Rashad Evans taunted his opponent by threatening to act like former
Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who at the time faced more than
50 counts of sexual misconduct involving young boys. In other cases, UFC fighters have made light of
rape on their Twitter accounts.
You can find more incidents of offensive behavior among people associated with the UFC at the
following website: www.UnfitForChildren.org
As reported by FOX News, this summer more than 10,000 people nationwide signed a petition calling
on the U.S. Marine Corps to renounce its support of the UFC and to refrain from using taxpayer money
to sponsor the organization. A veterans committee of UNITE HERE delivered these petitions to the
Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos; to Marine Corps recruiting stations in 10 cities;
to Representative Howard "Buck" McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; and to
the Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS).
Leaders of more than a dozen state and national organizations that advocate on behalf of veterans and/or
survivors of sexual assault have called on the military to sever ties with the UFC. These groups include
the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, National Institute of Military Justice, Protect Our
Defenders, Women in the Military Project, Veterans For Peace, Veterans For Common Sense, Veterans
United for Truth, and the Veterans Committee of UNITE HERE, among others.
The UFC was no doubt aware of the criminal charges against Jeremy Stephens at the time in which it
announced on November 23rd that Stephens would fight on Dec. 8th on FOX. The alleged assault was
widely publicized in the national news media. FOX Sports, ESPN, New York Post and USA Today,
among other media outlets, reported details of the arrest and an unsuccessful effort by the UFC to get
Stephens out of jail on bail in time for a UFC fight in Minneapolis on October 5th.
Stephens’ management agency, Evolution Agent, released a statement denying that Stephens was
involved in the alleged assault. According to the statement, Stephens attended a party in Des Moines in
which a physical altercation occurred, and Stephens’ "name came up during the police investigation of the
Less than 48 hours after Stephens’ arrest in Minneapolis on Oct. 5th, UFC President Dana White was
quoted in USA Today and the New York Post as saying he believed Stephens’ assertion that he was
innocent. "I’m taking [Stephens’] word for it," White was quoted as saying. "Man to man, that’s what
he says, and I’m going to take his word for it. I believe him." White was also quoted as saying he was
willing to pay an "astronomical amount of money" to bail Stephens out of jail in time for the Oct. 5 th UFC
fight in Minneapolis.
White’s rush to support Stephens following his arrest was criticized by some in the media. Josh Gross of
ESPN wrote, "[White] can’t know the truth about Stephens, yet he pushed and pushed to get him out on
bond so he could fight in a cage the same night? Think about the optics, which probably has more to do
with public relations but also delves into real-world business. Where’s the benefit to the UFC?"
There are other professional cage fighters with better fight records. As noted on UFC.com, Stephens has
lost three of his last five contests in the UFC. Why isn’t a different cage fighter scheduled to fight on
December 8th on FOX?
In light of the concerns cited above, we strongly encourage FOX to wait for the resolution of the jury trial
in Iowa related to the alleged assault before allowing Stephens to fight on your network.
Culinary Workers Union, Local 226
As stated in the letter, Jeremy Stephens has a lot on his plate right now. In fact, he's scheduled to appear at a pretrial hearing on December 13, just 5 days after his scheduled fight with Yves Edwards. As we reported earlier today, that fight will be the feature bout of the FX prelims for Saturday's event.
The Culinary Workers Union has long been known as UFC parent company Zuffa's chief political rival. The rivalry stems from the refusal of Frank and Lorenzo Ferttita's to allow unionization of Station Casinos, which they also own.