UFC suspends Johnson, cuts Silva again

September 19, 2014

The UFC announced the indefinite suspension of Anthony Johnson and the release of Thiago Silva on Friday.  Johnson’s suspension comes on a new report regarding allegations of past domestic abuse and for Silva videos were released by his wife which is purported evidence of his drug and domestic abuse issues.

Silva was re-signed by the UFC a day after charges against him related to domestic abuse were dropped after his wife was reticent to aid authorities and abruptly moved out of the country.  Silva was released Friday prior to any fight assignment after re-signing with the UFC.  The reason for the sudden release is due to two videos.  One video shows Silva carrying a gun and one in which his wife claims he was on drugs.  His wife provided the reasons for releasing the video via Bloody Elbow.

The UFC issued a brief statement on Thiago Silva:

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.

Johnson’s situation appears a little more complicated.  Blood Elbow reports that the mother of Johnson’s two children has filed a police report stemming from alleged threats and a report of domestic abuse from back in 2012.  Johnson had another domestic violence incident with another woman in 2009.

The UFC issued a brief statement on Anthony Johnson.

We are aware of the situation involving Anthony Johnson. As a result, we are suspending him indefinitely. We are using a third-party law firm to conduct a formal investigation and once we have more information, we’ll determine whether further course of action is necessary.

Payout Perspective:

The UFC’s actions on Friday can be seen as a direct reaction to what has gone on with the NFL. For Silva, it was similar to the Ray Rice incident, a video is what caused the league to take action.  Here, the Silva video caused the UFC to rethink its decision of taking him back and make the awkward decision to release him after just re-signing him.  In my opinion, the UFC should not have re-signed Silva so quickly.

As for Johnson, the news comes at a time when he had a career revival in his return to the UFC.  Even though the domestic abuse allegations occurred in 2012, the NFL’s issues have made the UFC much more aware of these problems.  In the case of Johnson, the indefinite suspension will probably last as long as the law firm investigates the situation.  If there is nothing found, I’d expect he would be back with the UFC.  If there is evidence of further abuse or a pattern of abuse, I’d expect the UFC to release Johnson again.

From a PR perspective, the UFC must be sensitive to these issues of alleged domestic violence especially with its past problems and the current issues going on with the NFL.  We could see the UFC being much stricter with its code of conduct and dismissing and/or disciplining fighters more than before.

Was Silva re-signing bad timing or just bad?

September 11, 2014

Recently the UFC re-signed Thiago Silva after charges against him for domestic violence were dropped.  The NFL fumbled the handling of Ray Rice and its subsequent fallout reveals that the UFC is not the only sports organization that has a problem with domestic violence and the subsequent handling of the issue.

Rice has been suspended indefinitely from the NFL and essentially banished from football including the Canadian Football league which indicated it will uphold the NFL’s suspension and will not sign Rice.  Rice has lost sponsors and has even been eliminated from the annual EA Madden video game.

When questioned on Fox Sports Live on Wednesday about the Rice issue in comparison to Silva, Dana White indicated that Silva had been cleared of the domestic violence issue.  This was due to Silva’s wife moving back to Brazil and her unwillingness to assist in the investigation.  The memo obtained by MMA Junkie reveals the horrid details and although there was no videotape like in the Rice case, it is just (if not more) disgusting.  The memo states he had put a gun in his wife’s mouth and threatened to kill her and later on threatened to kill people within the BJJ gym where she trained.

Yet, the day after charges were dropped, the UFC re-signed Silva.  Just as swiftly as the UFC fired Silva for his arrest after the standoff with Florida police stemming from the domestic abuse accusations, he was scooped up by the organization once the charges were dropped.

Silva denies wrongdoing for the domestic assault which he claims never happened in an interview on The MMA Hour.  This is no revelation that he would deny the charges.  It may be surprising that Silva was willing to conduct an interview to attempt to clear his name.

Despite White’s defense of his recall of Silva, it looks like a terrible move in light of the ongoing Rice scrutiny.  The latest videotape and discovery that the NFL may have had the information before levying a penalty to Rice will come under critical media and internal investigation in the weeks to come.  This NFL scandal should be something that the UFC should take note and prepare itself in the future.

Payout Perspective:

This is the fight game and there are many unfortunate instances of domestic violence issues occurring from MMA fighters (e.g., War Machine and Josh Grispi come to mind) and boxers.  One need only look at Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s past to know that despite domestic issues, fighters go on with their careers.  But does that mean it’s correct?  Of course not, but it happens.

A recent SI article concludes that the Silva signing is bad business for the UFC. He’s not a main event fighter like a Mayweather, who will once again garner a hefty pay day partly off of $75 PPV buys.  In fact, Silva’s presence in the Octagon will only have people recall his past transgressions.  Then again, will people have a selective memory about Silva after a couple fights?  Anyone recall ex-NFL player’s Warren Moon’s domestic issues?

So, why was the UFC willing to take a chance on Silva so soon after the charges were dropped.  Was Bellator or WSOF chomping at the bit to sign him?  Silva was an interesting fighter with a distinct look and fight style that may have had a following of fans.  But if you are a sponsor, would you want Silva to sport your logo on his trunks or on his fight banner?  What kind of following will he have now? Would you want to put Silva on a Fox show?

White said the right things in response to questions about the Rice video on Fox Sports Live.  That was easy.  What will be hard is addressing the domestic violence issues for the UFC going forward.  While it’s understandable to assess each case separately, there must be a bright line rule when it comes to a sensitive issue as men hitting women.

Ortiz-Bonnar promo launches fight announcement

September 7, 2014

Bellator MMA announced its first big event under the Scott Coker regime with Tito Ortiz facing Stephan Bonnar on Saturday, November 15th.  The event was promoted on Friday’s Bellator 123 telecast with an in ring promo that was reminiscent of pro wrestling.

The Bonnar-Ortiz segment can be seen here. It features a man in a mask and the requisite fighter pull apart.  It was part pro wrestling, part early days of UFC when Ortiz and Chuck Liddell/Ken Shamrock feuded.

Tito-BonnarIn addition, the promotion will hold the rematch of May’s PPV fight between Michael Chandler and Will Brooks.

The event will go up against UFC 180 which will feature Cain Velsquez defending his Heavyweight title against Fabricio Werdum on PPV.

Payout Perspective:

What do we think about the promo for the fight?  Is it too scripted for MMA?  My only critique is that they should have had security pull the fighters apart and not Coker, et al.  That would have made the scene a little more authentic.  Certainly, something like this is done to drum up buzz for this fight.  For the MMA fan, the allure of the November 15th fight is Chandler-Brooks but the shoulder programming and subsequent promotion for this event will be Bonnar-Ortiz.

UFC apologizes for judge removal

August 26, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that the UFC has issued an apology for the removal of a judge at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 48 in Macau.  The statement apologized to judge Howard Hughes “for calling his professional judgment into question.”

White removed Hughes after the first two fights on Saturday’s card after he believed that Hughes was a factor in the decisions for which White did not agree.  The UFC has now issued a “mea culpa” by stating it should not have done it.

Via MMA Junkie:

After an internal review, the UFC organization announced today that a breach of its independent regulatory protocol occurred on Saturday night during UFC FIGHT NIGHT MACAO.

After the second fight of the night, UFC President Dana White requested that Howard Hughes, one of the event’s five assigned judges, be removed from working any further bouts. Pursuant to UFC’s protocol, neither White nor any other UFC executive possesses such authority. Nevertheless, protocol was breached and Hughes did not work further bouts on Saturday night.

The UFC organization has always been in support of government regulation and oversight. Additionally, the UFC has established a protocol when required to self-regulate events due to the lack of an official athletic commission, federation or other regulatory body. In those instances where UFC holds events in locations without a regulatory body, the UFC’s protocol dictates that the organization’s internal regulators will handle all commission functions independently and without interference by company executives or employees.

The UFC remains committed to maintaining the strictest regulatory environment for competition and vows that no similar breach of protocol will happen again.

Both White and the UFC apologize to Mr. Hughes for calling his professional judgment into question. Hughes has judged more than 25 UFC fight cards and the UFC looks forward to him working on its events again in the future.

Payout Perspective:

As we indicated, there could have been several interpretations of White’s actions.  While we may think it proactive, it also posed a problem with an appearance of impartiality and fairness.  In a sport where gambling is prevalent (one might argue encouraged), there needs to be an independent authority appointing judges, etc.  This is a problem with international shows that do not have commissions.

The statement also attempts to repair Hughes’ reputation as a judge.  While the guy may have had a bad night in judging, having him removed could destroy any future judging opportunities for Hughes.  It was a good move by the UFC to make this statement.

Le contributes sponsor money to orphanage

August 21, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that Cung Le will be donating a large part of his sponsorship money to a Vietnamese orphanage.  Le bought rice, toys, candy and gave money to an orphanage in his native Vietnam.

The 42 year old former Strikeforce champion faces Michael Bisping at UFC Fight Night 48 in Macau, China. Le put video/photos on his Instagram account commemorating his vist.

Payout Perspective:

The gesture by Le reflects the good that many UFC athletes do for charity and from a public relations perspective it’s good publicity leading to this Saturday’s event.  Although no monetary figure was reported and it’s not clear how much Le would have made from his sponsors, one would hope it would be a generous donation rather than a modest gift to get publicity.  One would think that if his sponsors knew ahead of time it would have matched and/or contributed to the donation by Le as a way to help out as well as piggy-back the press.


Payout Perspective:

The gesture by Le reflects the good that many UFC athletes do for charity and from a public relations perspective it’s good publicity leading to this Saturday’s event.  Although no monetary figure was reported and it’s not clear how much Le would have made from his sponsors, one would hope it would be a generous donation rather than a modest gift to get publicity.  One would think that if his sponsors knew ahead of time it would have matched and/or contributed to the donation by Le as a way to help out as well as piggy-back the press.

War Machine terminated by Bellator after incident

August 8, 2014

Bellator acted swiftly in terminating the contract of War Machine (FKA Jon Koppenhaver) after he is being identified as the prime suspect which found his girlfriend and another severely beaten.

Bellator President Scott Coker has issued a statement regarding Jon Koppenhaver, War Machine:

“We have a zero tolerance policy here at Bellator when it relates to any form of domestic violence, and after learning of this latest incident involving Jon Koppenhaver, War Machine, Bellator is releasing him from him promotional contract with the organization.”

Payout Perspective:

Although the organization could have waited until War Machine was found to obtain his side of the story, Bellator had enough information to render its decision.  War Machine has been in his share of legal troubles and the alleged assault on his girlfriend was the last straw not to mention domestic violence is something that can’t be tolerated.

Rousey wins ESPY for Best Female Athlete

July 16, 2014

MMA Fighting reports that Ronda Rousey was named the Best Female Athlete of 2014 at the annual ESPY Awards handed out by ESPN.

Rousey beat out the WNBA’s Maya Moore, Olympic gold medalist skier Mikaela Shiffrin and UConn’s Breanna Stewart.

UFC fighters Chris Weidman and Jon Jones were up for best fighter but lost out to Floyd Mayweather.  Weidman was also up for Upset of the Year but lost out to Mercer defeating Duke in the NCAA tournament. Mercer was a #15 seed while Duke was #2.

Payout Perspective:

I actually thought that the 19 year old Shiffrin would have won this award as she was a surprising winner of the gold medal in Sochi.  She was also the youngest to win the gold in the Olympic slalom event.  Regardless, it’s nice recognition for Rousey as the award may mean an ESPN spot or two.  Yes, this is ESPN self-aggrandizement as the underlying purpose of the ESPY awards is to draw attention to the network during a slow time for sports.

Sonnen remains on Metamoris 4 card

July 2, 2014

Metamoris has issued a statement concerning Chael Sonnen.  Despite failing two drug tests, the organization will allow him to remain in his match against Andre Galvao.

We are not cutting Chael Sonnen from the Metamoris 4 card on August 9th.

Why not? Because we don’t currently test for PED’s and we are not an MMA organization. Metamoris is a grappling event with different rules and we require our own unique set of regulations for all aspects of participation.

We are concerned about the issue of PED’s overall but we have a lot of research and work to do before accurately defining our stance. Due to the instability and controversy surrounding the regulation of PED’s we are taking our time to discover the best approach and fit for our organization.

Lastly, for the people who understand the level of opposition Chael is facing at Metamoris 4, his use of any suppliment [sic] or drug is not likely to provide any advantage whatsoever. Chael is a world class wrestler and MMA fighter and his participation is an exciting way for our fans to see something they don’t normally see.

-Ralek Gracie
Metamoris Founder

Here is the Metamoris official trailer August 9th.  In a short time, it produces the best hype videos around.

Payout Perspective:

Good for business, maybe bad for public relations.   Metamoris can have Sonnen participate if it wants to but it vicariously tells the outside world that it does not really care about what people are putting in their bodies when competing.  But, as it has hiked up its streaming price, eliminating its top match on the card would have hurt sales.

Notably, misspellings are never good, especially in important press releases like this one.

Noisy Withdrawal: Sonnen retires, Belfort out of UFC 175

June 12, 2014

After failing a drug test that left him out of UFC 175 and having his say about the NSAC random drug test, Chael Sonnen announced his retirement on Fox Sports 1.  In addition, Vitor Belfort will no longer be fighting on the UFC 175 card.

Sonnen’s retirement announcement can be seen here.

In addition, Belfort will no longer appear before the Nevada State Athletic Commission next week seeking a license to fight in Nevada per MMA Junkie.  The removal from the NSAC’s agenda means he will no longer be fighting at UFC 175.  A hearing would have brought up a random drug test in February which showed levels of testosterone not within the allowable range per the NSAC.

Payout Perspective:

Will this be a permanent retirement for Sonnen?  We shall see. It’s hard to say whether Sonnen should have retired before defending himself on TV or did he just want to save face prior to deciding to retire.

The move is likely for the best considering Sonnen is more of an asset to the UFC and Fox as a studio analyst rather than a fighter.  In the short term, it mutes further inquiry into the drug test failure and the potential for an appeal that would have sullied Sonnen’s image which, in turn, would make it very awkward for him to step in front of a Fox camera.

As for Belfort, pulling him from 175 was an easy choice in terms of public relations.  Without an opponent and the potential for him to have to answer questions about a February drug test, it was the best route.  At this point, it would make sense for Belfort to wait to fight.

Both of these moves are still problematic of the post-TRT era.  While they are moves to resolve short term public relations issues, one would hope that the commissions and the UFC work together to come up with an exit strategy in which fighters are able to come off of TRT and ensure that violators are dealt with swiftly and appropriately.

Sonnen speaks about positive drug test

June 11, 2014

Dana White and Chael Sonnen appeared on America’s Pregame on FS1 on Tuesday to tell its side of the story for Sonnen’s failed drug test which takes him out of UFC 175.

Sonnen stated that he would appeal the Nevada State Athletic Commission which is not what was originally reported.  As always, Sonnen was a master of persuasion in changing the conversation as to who was ultimately to blame for the failed drug test.  While there was some push back by the interviewer, it’s clear that Sonnen was allowed the opportunity to give his side of the story and placing blame on the governing body of Nevada.

Sonnen hammered on key talking points to make his case.

–          He took a legal substance to operate within the rules;

–          He took the banned substances to become a parent;

–          The drugs that he tested positive for are not performance enhancers, not illegal and not anabaloic steroids;

–          He made it clear that the drugs were not illegal, but banned;

–          He also made it clear that the drugs were taken “out of competition.”

Dana White preceded Sonnen to essentially defend his fighter and blame the Nevada State Athletic Commission for not providing a plan for fighters to come off of TRT.  White did place some blame on Sonnen for not calling the NSAC about what his doctors told him.

In addition, Sonnen made an appearance on Jay Mohr’s radio show which is also a part of Fox Sports Radio.

Payout Perspective:

No surprise that Fox, not ESPN, are the ones that help with getting out the UFC side of the story.  Sonnen, as always, makes a great case for himself but while he may have viable arguments the overarching issue is that the use of these drugs are against the rules.

The interesting part here is that Sonnen admits to the use of at least 3 drugs (HCG, Anastrozole and Clomiphene) despite just testing positive for 2.  We assume the drugs were used for assistance in helping him live without TRT treatments although Sonnen also admitted that he has (or had) fertility issues in trying to have children.

While I may not be a physician with expertise on these issues, I see two simple ways out of this problem for which Sonnen and the UFC now face:

1)      Ask the NSAC about ways to be clean without testing positive or request an exemption to any potential banned substances; or

2)      Simply not apply for a license until you are able to safely be off of TRT and not test positive for any banned substance.

Sonnen claims that he has not been able to be in contact with the proper regulatory authorities in Nevada but I assume that the UFC could have had enough clout within the state to contact an official and see if it would be possible to seek clarification on becoming compliant after TRT.

Is the Nevada State Athletic Commission at all culpable for banning TRT and then not advising athletes it gave TUE exemptions to a way to become compliant without testing positive for substances which may be on its banned list?  This is an interesting question that we may likely see more come out especially if Sonnen does appeal.

Could this be a case where both sides had fault with in one of the biggest problems in this sport?

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