(And he was such a nice guy before he started hanging out with those Diaz boys. Photo courtesy of Fight Magazine.)
When Shinya Aoki broke Mizuto Hirota‘s arm at the New Year’s Eve Dynamite!! show and followed it up with the old ‘Tokyo Heybuddy,’ that didn’t sit too well with the people from Sengoku. Not that they had any real reason to think that their lightweight champ would beat the Dream beltholder, but having him utterly destroyed and then publicly humiliated probably wasn’t what they had in mind when they agreed to that portion of the cross-promotional battle. Now, says MMA Mania, Sengoku officials are asking for Aoki to be punished for his post-fight behavior, which they referred to as "erratic, unforgivable conduct," followed by what they believe to be a mostly insincere apology.
They’re right about one thing — Aoki probably isn’t all that sorry. The move wasn’t exactly gentlemanly, but it was perfectly in line with the persona he had been cultivating in the lead-up to this fight. This is the same guy who pretended not to know who the Sengoku champion was, who called the fight a "disgrace" to himself and his family, and who entertained himself at pre-fight press conferences by telling other fighters to shut up when their comments ran a little long for his liking. If you were paying attention, you could have seen this coming.
But it’s not the first time we’ve seen a little post-fight in-your-faceitude in Japan. Fighters have verbally berated downed foes before, without real consequences. What makes this one seem worse is the fact that Hirota’s arm was broken at the time. Though honestly, who does he have to blame for that aside from himself?
Hirota chose not to tap, presumably because he is a disciple of the ‘Tapping Out is For Bitches‘ school of thought. That’s his choice, and his arm, so fine. You can’t pin that part on Aoki, who only did what any pro fighter would do in the situation.
Did he really need to get all Nick Diaz on Hirota afterwards? No, but it didn’t make things any worse. Hirota’s arm would have still been broken even if he’d gotten up and wept like a baby over the harm he had caused another human being. Aoki acted like a jerk. Or, if you prefer, a real Brock Lesnar. Sengoku is perfectly within their rights to say so, as all we are, and something tells me it won’t bother Aoki any more than it bothers Lesnar.
But to yank his license or mete out some other tangible form of punishment is really an overreaction to an ancillary matter. If Hirota’s arm wasn’t broken, people probably wouldn’t be so upset. They weren’t when Bibiano Fernandes did the exact same thing to an uninjured Joe Warren, and the only difference here is that Warren tapped (sort of) and Hirota chose not to.
The injury is Hirota’s fault, while the unsportsmanlike display afterwards is Aoki’s. It might be hard to separate them psychologically, but let’s not act like this is the first time a pro fighter has acted like a prick immediately after a win. Even in Japan, this isn’t so novel.