In the aftermath of UFC president Dana White slapping his wife on New Year’s Eve, there have been many references to White’s claim in 2014 that, “there’s one thing that you never bounce back from, and that’s putting your hands on a woman. Been that way in the UFC since we started here. You don’t bounce back from putting your hands on a woman.”
The thing about that statement is that the UFC has not adhered to it. Bloody Elbow looks at the UFC’s mixed response to domestic violence and violence against women over the years.
Will Chope was quickly released by the UFC in March 2014 after Bleacher Report revealed he had received a bad-conduct discharge from the Air Force related to charges of domestic violence. A document that covered Chope’s appeal revealed details such as multiple violent incidents culminating in an incident where Chope grabbed a knife, slammed his ex-wife’s head into the ground and used the knife to threaten and attack her (with the handle).
Despite a lengthy criminal history that dated back to his high school days and included a three-year prison sentence for child abuse and battery and a no contest plea on a a third-degree charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon the UFC signed Cody East in 2016.
In response to questions about his signing, the UFC told Bloody Elbow, “From the beginning, Mr. East was very upfront with UFC regarding his past. In light of Mr. East’s history, UFC had an independent investigation conducted into his past and current behavior. Included in the investigation was a response from East’s former probation officer supporting his opportunity to compete in UFC and commenting that he would in fact be a good candidate. As a result of the investigation, and with the understanding that Mr. East had successfully completed many months of rehabilitation and counseling, UFC felt comfortable offering Mr. East the opportunity to compete in UFC.”
East went 0-2 with the UFC. After his release from the UFC, East was arrested on charges of aggravated battery against a household member, aggravated assault against a household member, and false imprisonment. East was arrested again 2022 and charged with battery, child abuse and false imprisonment.
Upon his release, the UFC issued a statement which said, in part:
As a potential violation of the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy, the UFC organization temporarily barred Graves from competition pending the completion of a third-party investigation. Based on the findings of this thorough review and investigation, UFC has advised Graves that he has been released from his contract effective immediately.
UFC requires all athletes to act in an ethical and responsible manner, as mandated by the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy. UFC holds its athletes to the highest standard and will continue to take appropriate action if and when warranted.
Prior to signing with the UFC, Greg Hardy was essentially run out of the NFL. In 2014, a judge found Hardy, then with the Carolina Panthers, guilty of assaulting a woman and communicating threats. ESPN reported that the judge said, “the court is entirely convinced Hardy is guilty of assault on a female and communicating threats.” He was given a suspended 60-day jail sentence, plus 18 months probation.
Hardy’s conviction was overturned on appeal when the victim, Nicole Holder, did not appear for the jury trial. Those charges were later expunged from Hardy’s record. Deadspin detailed the case. Hardy played 12 games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. The team did not re-sign him after that season and no other NFL team picked him up.
In discussing Hardy in 2018, White said, “I guess he had a real bad drug and alcohol problem. Started to get into MMA. Cleaned himself up. If you talk to anybody he trains with, male or female, they say that he’s a very good guy. He’s very humble. Everybody deserves a second chance. And the guy was never charged with anything, he was never sentenced or anything like that. We’re going to give him a shot.”
It’s hard to avoid seeing the problems with White’s statement. The opinions of Hardy’s training partners should have been taken with a grain of salt, at best. Hardy’s second chance came with the Cowboys, not with the UFC. Lastly, not only was Hardy charged, he was sentenced by a judge in the case and served a suspension with the NFL.
When pressed on signing Hardy, White lashed out at the media, “I already covered this. I’m not playing this bullshit with you guys. [Hardy] is on the UFC roster. Period. End of story,” White said. “Listen, you guys want to be sensitive about shit? Anyone can be sensitive about anything. You can make an issue about everything.”
Hardy fought 10 times with the promotion, only winning two of his last seven outings.
Anthony Johnson I
Johnson was sentenced (via MMAWeekly) to three years probation, one day in jail, eight hours of community service and had to participate in 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling after he pleaded no contest to a June 2009 charge of domestic violence.
According to the San Jose Mercury News (via MMA Fighting), Johnson had been charged with domestic violence, battery, death threats and destroying a phone to prevent the report of a crime. The police report of the incident said that Johnson forced himself into the home of an ex-girlfriend after being denied entry to check on his dogs. Both Johnson and the woman had injuries to their faces.
Anthony Johnson II
Anthony Johnson has a relatively lengthy list of domestic abuse allegations against him. In 2014, the UFC suspended Johnson while it investigated the following allegations, which were disclosed in a police report obtained by Bloody Elbow:
*Redacted* stated that two years ago Johnson hit her in the face and knocked out two of her teeth. Since that incident she has had several other verbal altercations with Johnson. *redacted* has only reported one of the incidents to the police.
Most recently, Johnson went to *redacted *’s house and took their dog on 08/24/14. *Redacted* also advised that she keeps receiving calls and text messages from an unknown male subject threatening her. *Redacted* stated that it’s not Johnson but thinks it’s his friends.
I advised *redacted* to go to the Courthouse and obtain a no contact order against Johnson.
I provided *redacted* with a domestic violence brochure.
According to Bloody Elbow’s report, the woman said Johnson talked her out of reporting the 2012 incident.
In November 2014 the case went to civil court, where the woman dismissed her complaint (via Bloody Elbow). With that, the case was fully dismissed. The UFC then reinstated Johnson without sanctions. However, the promotion did add at the end of its statement, “The UFC organization will not tolerate domestic violence, sexual assault or any other violation of its Code of Conduct. The organization is committed to thoroughly investigating all allegations and taking the appropriate action when warranted.”
It needs to be mentioned that White tried to paint the alleged victim in the case in a poor light, “The guys came back and said you need to suspend him, not cut him. Apparently if you look into this situation this girl has a ton of felonies and she’s got a real bad history of stuff. And the thing is, when she’s saying this happened, he wasn’t even in the country.”
Anthony Johnson III
In 2015 Anthony Johnson had a run-in with a woman in a gym, where he described how he grabbed a woman’s yoga mat from under her and threw it “across the gym.”
That incident resulted in Johnson agreeing to counseling and the following statement from the UFC:
Following a thorough investigation by a third-party law firm, UFC is extremely disappointed with Anthony Johnson’s recent actions, as the organization does not tolerate behavior of this nature from any athletes under contract with the UFC. Johnson personally apologized to the woman he verbally offended at a Florida gym last week and for the insensitive comments he made on social media afterwards. The woman accepted Johnson’s apology and indicated a desire to put this unfortunate matter behind them. In order to ensure these situations do not happen in the future, Johnson has agreed to participate in counseling and UFC will support him through this process. Johnson has also agreed to make a donation to a Florida-based women’s charity.
Anthony Johnson IV
In May 2019, while contemplating a return to the UFC, Johnson was arrested for battery/domestic battery.
Johnson faced up to one year in jail for an arrest in May. According to police records, Johnson went to the apartment of a woman he had been in a relationship with to discuss an issue between them. During that time, the woman began to pack Johnson’s belongings. He then entered the room and picked her up “in a football hold” and carried her into another room. The woman stated she was afraid due to Johnson’s size and his martial arts experience. She then asked Johnson for her phone, which he gave to her and she called 911.
Johnson’s account, according to the police report, was that he was packing his things when the woman entered the room and continued to argue with him. Johnson said he asked to be left alone several times. He then said he picked her up and moved her to another room. Johnson said he was not trying to hurt her.
There were no visible injuries on the woman and she refused to complete a written statement for the police.
The reporting officer, believing that Johnson had touched the woman against her will, arrested him and charged him with battery/domestic battery.
Johnson struck a plea deal on those charges. On September 21 the court filed his completion of a 12-hour anger management class,
In December 2014, the UFC announced that Michael Johnson, who had defeated Melvin Guillard in March of that year, had been sidelined due to a domestic violence arrest and subsequent investigation.
The UFC’s statement read:
UFC lightweight Michael Johnson was ineligible to compete in the UFC organization following his arrest regarding a domestic dispute in Palm Beach County, Florida in April 2014. Given that the allegations against Johnson constituted a potential violation of the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy, the UFC organization temporarily barred Johnson from competition pending the completion of a third-party investigation. Following a thorough review and investigation—including personal interviews with Johnson and independent confirmation that he has satisfied all obligations required by the UFC—Johnson is once again eligible to compete and will begin training for his next fight at UFC Fight Night: Evans vs. Teixeira in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The UFC will continue to monitor Johnson’s status. He must fully comply with the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy and all other contractual and additional obligations in order to continue competing in the UFC
MMA Junkie reported that Johnson was arrested on April 9, 2014 on charges of simple battery. According to ESPN, charges against Johnson were dismissed.
Despite the April 9 arrest, the UFC had booked Johnson to face Josh Thomson on a July 2014 card. Johnson withdrew from that fight because of injury.
Jon Jones I
Jon Jones reportedly slapped an on-duty cocktail waitress at TD’s Eubank Showclub, pulled her onto his lap and kissed her neck. The alleged victim also claimed that Jones picked her up off the ground with a chokehold and touched her despite her telling him to stop.
Jones pleaded no contest to one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct and received 90 days probation.
White’s response in this case was to seemingly blame the victim.
“Some of the videos are coming back. I’ve seen some videos. I don’t want to talk about it cause I don’t want to hurt his case or whatever but it’s unfortunate, let’s put it that way.,” White told TSN. “When you’re famous, these types of things happen to you.
“From what I’ve seen so far, when it all surfaces and comes to the top, it looks good for Jon. It looks very good for Jon Jones. It’s quite sad actually.”
Jon Jones II
Jon Jones was charged with misdemeanor battery domestic violence and felony damage to a vehicle following his September 2021 appearance at the UFC Hall of Fame ceremony. In exchange for the domestic battery charge being dismissed, Jones pleaded no contest to ‘destroying property of another’.
In response to the arrest of Jones, White said, “I got 650 guys that are… there’s shit that goes on here every day. It’s the fight business, man. Every day, we got stuff going on. Stuff that you don’t know about, that we deal with on a daily basis. You guys just hear about shit that ends up in the media.
“We’ll see how this thing plays out legally with him, and we’ll go from there.”
Jones is teasing a return to the UFC in 2023,
According to the 2015 HBO Real Sports investigation into domestic violence among MMA fighters, the UFC signed Anthony Lapsley not long after his third conviction for domestic violence. Lapsley fought for the UFC twice before he was released with an 0-2 promotional record.
Luis Peña was arrested three times in 2021. In May he was charged with domestic battery after being accused of punching a woman in the face. In June he was charged with robbery by sudden snatching, battery and criminal mischief after he was accused of grabbing a woman’s phone and destroying it. Then in October, Peña was arrested and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence and battery.
Not long after his third arrest, the UFC released Peña.
In May 2019, the UFC allowed B.J. Penn to fight Clay Guida while he had an active restraining order against him. Penn was accused by his estranged partner of threats, verbal and physical abuse, and sexual coercion.
After the fight, UFC executive David Shaw said, “I think until there’s some sort of conclusion reached on that situation, and there’s information that comes to the forefront, I think that he’ll continue to have a plan to fight.”
Thiago Silva I
In February 2014, a SWAT team surrounded Thiago Silva’s home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was taken into custody at that time and charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a weapon, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and one count of resisting an officer without violence. At the time, White told TMZ, “This guy will never fight in the UFC again.”
The police report of the incident included the following:
During the argument, the defendant picked up a silver colored revolver, pushed her to the sofa, pointed the firearm at her and told her he was going to kill her. When she began to scream, he covered her mouth with his free hand. He then placed the firearm in her mouth while still holding her down. While attempting to scream, the defendant then left the resident and fled in his vehicle. She stated to Deputy Story that she was in fear of her life.
Later in the report:
…the defendant sent the text message to the victim in Portuguese stating ‘I am gonna fuck you up and you are going to die. I am going to hire someone to kill you and I am going to move my girlfriend in.’
In another incident that was in the police report, Silva went to the gym where his estranged wife was working:
She immediately noticed that he had been drinking and extremely intoxicated. He then produced a black glock firearm and pointed it at the victim. He stated, You have ten seconds to bring Pablo (Popovitch) outside and if he does not come out, I will go in the gym and start shooting everyone.
Later in the report:
The defendant threatened to kill both victim Silva and victim Popovitch. Popovitch then ran back into the gym, locked the front door, and called 911.
The charges against Silva were later dropped when his estranged wife stopped cooperating. The reason she stopped cooperating was simple; she had left the country.
After the charges were dropped, White told UFC.com:
When this thing went down, I said he’d never fight in the UFC again. When I watched it unfold on TV and heard of the charges, it didn’t look good for Thiago Silva. But he was acquitted of all charges. How do you not let the guy fight again?
He went through the legal process and came out of it untainted. He deserves to be able to make a living again. He’s back under contract.
To say Silva went through the legal process and came out “untainted” because his estranged wife had left the United States and stopped cooperating with the police, was a stretch.
Thiago Silva II
In September 2014, the UFC released Silva again after his ex-wife posted a series of videos on YouTube where she claimed Silva was on drugs and carrying a gun.
Speaking to MMA Fighting at that time, his ex-wife, who was living and working in Abu Dhabi, said of the earlier case, “They already knew I had a job offer in Abu Dhabi and that was an opportunity to restart my career with the man of my life, doing what I love. You have no idea how much I love this place. My husband is here for me when I need. We’re very happy. Everybody knew about this job.”
She continued, “I dropped (the restraining order) so I wouldn’t have to come back to trial and risk losing my job, so I ended up helping Thiago.”
At the time of Silva’s September release, the UFC wrote:
Thiago Silva was released from his UFC contract on Feb. 7 due to his arrest by police in South Florida. The charges against Silva were dropped by the Broward County District Attorney’s office and Silva was re-signed to the UFC earlier this month. Based on new information received today in the form of video and audio evidence, Silva has been terminated from his UFC contract.
Abel Trujillo was convicted of domestic abuse causing injury in 2007 and domestic abuse assault in 2009, according to Iowa court records (Per TSN). Despite that, Trujillo fought for the UFC 11 times between December 2012 and December 2017.
In 2019, while no longer a UFC fighter, Trujillo was sentenced to two years probation after pleading guilty to sending inappropriate messages to a minor. With his guilty plea, Trujillo had three felony charges dismissed. The initial felony charges included attempted sexual exploitation of a child.