The recent upsetting glut of news reports featuring prominent or semi-prominent or formerly prominent or never prominent mixed martial artists involved in domestic assault and other felonious fiascos has got some hands wringing. The last week alone has seen UFC and Bellator veteran War Machine (formerly known as Jon Koppenhaver) on the run fleeing allegations of assault against his long-time partner Christy Mack and UFC veteran Josh Grispi charged in a particularly horrific case of domestic violence.
But wait, that's not all. The last year has seen quite a few disgraceful incidents involving Octagon vets. Long-time UFC contender Thiago Silva got cut from the organization after an armed stand-off with Florida police in yet another domestic violence case. Will Chope lost his UFC contract when it was revealed his military discharge came due to domestic violence allegations. Jeremy Stephens got acquitted in his Iowa assault case and managed to stay with the organization. Etc. etc.
Zach Arnold, one of the deans of MMA blogging at his Fight Opinion site has an important op-ed at Sherdog and points out that if these cases continue they could potentially do serious harm to the image of the sport. Here's a taste:
What will neuter the sport's growth is the violent image and stereotype of fighters being overly tanned, testosterone-fueled, tattooed thugs who engage in domestic violence. For a sport that desperately needs to attract as many female viewers as possible, the domestic violence issue can make or break growth. Ask NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about the blowback he has received for suspending Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games due to his incident with his wife, Janay. Ask commentators Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman about the sensitive nature of the subject of domestic violence given their recent suspensions from ESPN.
Why would a major television network executive want to give MMA exposure?
This is not an article blaming the UFC, Viacom or other fight promoters for the behavior of fighters who no longer compete in their organizations. There is only so much promoters can do to weed out the bad apples. ...
MMA is a legally classified ultra-hazardous sport that involves individuals engaging in violent activity. You cannot be surprised that some of the individuals competing in the sport have a screw loose and lack the emotional balance to separate good judgment from bad. Throw in performance-enhancing and recreational drug use, along with brain damage and the pressures that go along with competing for one of the few high-paying slots in the sport, and you have an extremely combustible formula to foster the very worst instincts.
War Machine and Christy Mack on the MMA Hour in June 2013:
Arnold goes out of his way to point out that none of this is the fault of the UFC or Viacom or Fox Sports, they perform background checks and do other due diligence to weed out the worst. However Arnold also makes a very good point that MMA is a violent sport and by its nature its going to attract violent people.
Arnold also raises the specter of a potential disaster along the lines of the 2007 Chris Benoit tragedy when a WWE superstar snapped and killed his family in a horrific murder-suicide after years of brain trauma and rumored heavy abuse of PEDs and painkillers.
Here's hoping it never gets to that point.