On Wednesday evening, World Series of Fighting announced the signing of former UFC light-heavyweight competitor Thiago Silva to take part in their four-man tournament that will crown a new champion. Given the promotion's history with controversial fighters, this is yet another example of the startlingly poor decisions they have taken over the past year.
Silva's troubles began last February, when a standoff with a SWAT team lead to his eventual release from the UFC. Armed with a gun, Silva had driven to Pablo Popovitch's Academy, the location where his wife, Thaysa Kamiji, trained, and threatened to kill her and Popovitch because of an alleged relationship between them. Once police were summoned to the scene, Silva fled to his home and barricaded himself in while the SWAT team surrounded his home. He was eventually arrested and initially charged with attempted murder. The charges were later changed to aggravated assault with a firearm and resisting arrest.
However, the charges would later be dropped, as the Broward County State Attorney office was unable to follow up with the victim, as she had apparently fled the country.
After UFC President Dana White stated that Silva would "never" fight for the UFC again, he was welcomed back with open arms. Of course, he had the right to make a living. Yet his stint would only last two weeks, as his estranged wife would release several videos showing his apparent cocaine use and several signs of domestic assault with a firearm.
Prior to the release of the videos, Silva delved into the scandal on The MMA Hour and stated that he "learnt never to trust girls." Then, with a surprisingly unconcerned expression, added, "people will forget. They always do."
While the incident has certainly not been forgotten, it appears WSOF is fully prepared to sweep the Brazilian's past under the rug and pretend he is entirely innocent of all convictions.
At least that is how it appears to be from the statements that MMAFighting.com received from the leading executives in the promotion.
"[WSOF executive vice president] Ali [Abdel-Aziz] and I talked about it," Sefo said. "We researched his situation, and the charges were dropped. He wasn't convicted. In my opinion, you're innocent until proven guilty. The guy is a great fighter so we want to give him an opportunity."
"I've talked to a lot of guys in his camp," Abdel-Aziz added. "Everyone talks about his character. I'm lucky enough to know a little more about the situation with his ex-wife, and I feel comfortable with this. If the judge didn't convict him, why should we convict him? He's of the top light heavyweights in the world. We can give him an opportunity and a platform to showcase his skills."
Ray Sefo, the president of WSOF, would have had a potentially salient point had it been accurate in Silva's case. However, let it be made clear: he was NOT acquitted of the charges; he did not have to go through the judicial system and face a judge in court; he did not even have to defend himself at any point in the process. The charges were dropped because of an uncooperative victim, who had fled the country.
How exactly does that prove one's innocence?
If that does not strike WSOF as questionable behavior, how about the abhorrent video evidence that the victim posted several weeks after fleeing the country? Does harrowing video footage not tarnish his alleged innocence, at least in the public eye? Silva is shown clearly holding a weapon and intimidating his wife on video, which is beyond acceptable behavior for any fighter on a respectable promotion's roster.
The timing of the announcement was even more peculiar, as one of the promotion's "consultants" was charged with ten months in a federal prison for tax evasion several days ago. He was promptly removed from his position with the promotion, but it was too little too late in terms of protecting their image. One would have assumed that they would have taken some time before announcing a controversial addition to their roster.
While Silva may be free of the shackles of law enforcement, his reputation has not escaped untarnished. With domestic assault awareness taking a major role in society and media over the past few years, Silva's history will remain a permanent stain on his image, as well as whoever choses to promote him.
Sadly, this is not the first time that WSOF has allowed such promotional blunders to cast gloom over the organization; Ryan Ford, a Canadian with a troubling history of home invasion, has headlined two of their shows. Now, they are allowing an alleged domestic abuser, who has been arrested previously for a standoff with police officers, play a starring role in their upcoming light-heavyweight tournament - with the potential of him being crowned their new 205-pound champion.
How would NBC feel about parading an alleged abuser as their flagship promotion's champion? I highly doubt that seems like an appealing option. In fact, it sounds like a nightmarish last resort.