(SI debuts its new show, “Internet Commenters: Live!”)
It was bad enough when conspiracies theories begin to pop up about Chris Weidman’s triumph over Anderson Silva this past weekend at UFC 162. Somehow, some people can’t seem to comprehend that Silva isn’t the reincarnation of some Byzantine deity of violence and as such is susceptible to being knocked out, and they’ll engage in whatever mental gymnastics it takes to absolve their hero of the errors that led to his demise. Still, this is the Internet — a place which was the inspiration for Godwin’s law, which holds that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.” Point being, stupidity is an unfortunate but invariable norm of the Internet.
However, when Sports Illustrated begins parroting these allegations, something, somewhere has gone terribly wrong.
It’s pointless to bother debunking these conspiracy theories. Sane, rational people will be able to conclude that fighters who throw fights don’t allow themselves to be fully knocked unconscious, that fighters who do stoop to such are desperate for cash as a result of not making an exorbitant amount of money quantified by their own name, and that if Silva did intend to throw the fight, he would have just been submitted by the kneebar/heel-hook attempt Weidman attempted in the first round. If that train of thought doesn’t make sense to you, nothing will.
But surprisingly, none of the participants in this discussion for SI felt the need to bring up any of these points. Contestant number one, senior writer Chris Mannix, defended the allegations by asserting that he’s heard rumors of fight-fixing happening in boxing, but “maybe not at the highest level” though. It’s probably worthwhile to point out that it does not appear Mannix has watched the fight in question, or for that matter is familiar with the UFC or MMA in general. Much like a high school student who is asked to offer an analysis of a book he was supposed to read but clearly hasn’t, Mannix grasped for whatever tangential information he can muster in an effort to sound informed and insightful.
He wasn’t successful. His counter-argument to his own non-existent argument was “why would the UFC want Anderson Silva to lose when the potential for a superfight is right around the corner?” That would be solid logic if he’s referring to a fight with Jon Jones or even Georges St. Pierre, but Mannix was actually referring to a bout with Roy Jones Jr. That bout – despite Dana White’s pre-fight bluster – was unlikely to happen in the first place, would not have happened before a real superfight, and probably would not have drawn as much as a real superfight between UFC champions. To his credit, he seems to conclude Silva did not throw the fight. To his lack of credit, he doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about.
Contestant number two didn’t fare much better. Number two – presumably producer Ted Keith – responded that “when [he] read the results on Sunday morning,” he suspected the fix was in. Again, he didn’t watch the fight. He was just surprised by the result, and came to the conclusion that it was most likely fixed, before thinking that if it was fixed, Silva would have won. He went on to say that because the UFC is more loosely regulated than boxing – which is not true, if only because boxing is poorly regulated as well – it was entirely plausible for fights to be thrown as a means to build its brand.
Fortunately, contestant number three – presumably senior producer Andrew Perloff – astutely notes that if the UFC desired to build its brand, why would it jeopardize its momentum by fixing fights? The risk-reward ratio is far too imbalanced for a company still on the rise; any benefit from having the “right” guy win would be vastly overshadowed by the potential pitfalls if the entire legitimacy of the organization came into question. See, this is why Perloff is the senior producer – he actually has some semblance of a brain.
All in all, this is an extraordinarily disappointing segment from Sports Illustrated. For one of the major sports news organizations to lend credence to baseless conspiracy theories that do damage the brand of the UFC and the legitimacy of the sport of MMA is bad enough. But to debate these issues with a panel that hasn’t even watched the event in question and is barely familiar with the sport is not only insulting but poor journalism. As SI continues to cover the UFC going forward, hopefully it will do so with people who actually know what they’re talking about.