By Seth Falvo
This is a ban that we’ve been meaning to enact for quite some time. In the MMA community, long-winded rants about issues such as low pay, cruel treatment, and disrespectful articles about the men and women who sacrifice their health for our entertainment are as much a part of being an MMA fan as owning a glittery Affliction shirt. Most fans want you to know that unlike other sports, MMA is a sport whose fans truly and deeply care about the general well-being of the fighters.
And about 90% of those fans are completely full of shit, and need to finally be called on it.
The opportunity to do so has never been better than it’s been these past four days, while UFC veterans have tried to express their displeasure with the organization, only to be told to bite their tongues by the fans. First there was Chris Leben, who actually said point blank that he would have been better off driving a truck instead of fighting for the UFC for the past decade. Next, there was Nate Quarry, who exposed both how little most guys make through sponsorships and how little the UFC actually cares about their fighters. If even half of the fans who claim to respect the fighters actually did, there would be serious pressure on the UFC this week.
Instead, the majority of fans immediately began defending the UFC. Leben was dismissed as a drug addict who blew his money. Quarry was dismissed as a troublemaker who overestimated how much money UFC 56 made at the gate. And of course, there were the more generic arguments, too. “These guys make more money than I do, so who cares?” “If you don’t like it, go fight for someone else and see if you get paid more.” “You knew the terms when you signed the contract, so don’t start complaining now.” None of those arguments are technically wrong; they’re just the types of things you’d say to a bartender who complains about annoying customers, a stripper who complains about being fondled, or anyone else you don’t care about at all whatsoever.
Essentially, the justification of – and in many cases, reframing of – poor treatment towards the fighters proved that most of the same fans who preach about how much they care about the athletes actually don’t. And spare me the “We’d listen to different fighters” line, because when Georges St. Pierre – the dominant champion who dedicated his life towards being the perfect ambassador for our sport – tried to put pressure on the UFC to implement better drug testing, he was met with casual indifference from the fans.
This certainly isn’t to say that we don’t care about the fighters, and this especially isn’t to say that we’re the only people who care about them, either. But rather, this is a call to the fans who throw a fighter under the bus because he wants to treat his injuries, who think nothing of a former WEC champion only being offered $17k to fight, and who cheer for an employer who does things that they themselves would never tolerate at their jobs to quit pretending to care about the well-being of the fighters, because you obviously don’t.
Again, for those of you who do care about the fighters, by all means continue rallying for better fighter treatment, because that isn’t just going to happen on its own. But for the fans who gladly protect the predatory behaviors that plague our favorite sport? Don’t use words if you don’t know what they mean.