This past weekend, the UFC held its first-ever Athlete Retreat in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the past, there were fighter summits which served as an educational resource for finance management, social media and brand-building. This retreat served as more of an all-inclusive conference. In an e-mail sent to the roster, the event was explained thusly,
“This event represents a unique opportunity for you to interact with your fellow athletes, UFC staff and your new ownership group, while hearing from a wide variety of experts across sports, entertainment and business.”
WME-IMG covered all travel and hotel expenses and provided food for the athletes in attendance. Close to 400 fighters descended upon Las Vegas for the unveiling of the UFC Performance Institute and plenty of seminars and presentations with guest speakers and promotional sponsors.
This is where the event took a wrong turn. Several fighters complained about a representative from Anheuser-Busch, accusing him of being drunk and obnoxious while giving a presentation. The resulting tweets told the tale from multiple fighter views, including Jessica Penne, Angela Hill, and Aljamain Sterling:
Hey @AnheuserBusch maybe next time u send a rep 2 talk about image make sure they don't show up drunk on your product #UFCAR17— Jessica Penne (@JessicaPenne) May 21, 2017
@JessicaPenne @AnheuserBusch pic.twitter.com/p37PcwPhFi— Angela Hill (@AngieOverkill) May 21, 2017
"Be yourself, be Conor McGregor" -bud light guy #UFCARRetreat #UFCAR17 https://t.co/1qomxUof07— Angela Hill (@AngieOverkill) May 21, 2017
The most unmotivating speech, while looking like he might've slammed a few drinks. WE ALL pretty much said, "Screw this guy!" https://t.co/s6VFoZalbI— Aljamain Sterling (@FunkMaster_UFC) May 21, 2017
We're always told to represent ourselves the correct way, while we listen to a drunk dude, at 930am, saying "be McGregor...we want winners"— Aljamain Sterling (@FunkMaster_UFC) May 21, 2017
Who the hell would want @AnheuserBusch to sponsor them with a drunk douche talkin to them like he's Gods gift. The shittiest speaker by far!— Aljamain Sterling (@FunkMaster_UFC) May 21, 2017
This was just one of several incidents that went awry at the retreat. A lightweight spoke up about his concerns over the Reebok deal and was summarily removed from the area. Another lightweight left the event, comparing the UFC to a strip club. And of course, there was the feud between Cris Cyborg and Angela Magana that reached its boiling point, resulting in the most feared woman in MMA punching the strawweight squarely in the mouth. Cyborg was cited with a misdemeanor battery charge earlier this afternoon.
Perhaps the world’s largest and most successful MMA promotion will think about better security measures and vet their guest speakers a little more thoroughly before hosting another retreat where most/all of their fighters are in attendance. It certainly couldn’t hurt.