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Thiago Silva on Assault Charges and UFC Return: “People Will Forget. They Always Do.”

(Silva posts a message to fans after news of his UFC return is made public.)

By now, you’ve all likely heard the news that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was terminated by his team just hours after a new video surfaced showing him KO’ing his future wife during an argument in an elevator. The reaction to Rice’s termination has been equally celebrated and criticized, with many fans asking why it took visual confirmation (you know, besides the footage we had already seen of Rice dragging his wife out of said elevator) to prompt a decision that the Ravens should have already made. But still, the right thing had been done, so all’s well that ends well, right?

Cue Thiago Silva, a longstanding member of the UFC’s light heavyweight division whose career has been shrouded in controversy for years now. He falsified a urine sample following his fight at UFC 125, tested positive for marijuana just two fights later at UFC on FUEL 6, and failed to make weight two fights later at Fight Night 29. Most recently, Silva was arrested following an armed standoff with police in his Florida home, with accusations of everything from domestic assault to attempted murder being hurled at him by his ex-wife.

To say that Silva has become something of a liability to the UFC would be an understatement, but since all charges against him were recently dropped, many MMA fans are arguing that he deserves to continue making a living the only way he knows how. Dana White seemed to agree, stating upon Silva’s re-signing with the promotion that “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.”

His place in the UFC restored, perhaps it’s time that we heard Silva’s side of the story, eh? Appearing on yesterday’s edition of The MMA Hour, Silva attempted to do just that:

The truth is they didn’t find no proof. I never pointed any gun at my ex-wife, I never tried to hurt (her). Everything she said was a lie. So that’s the truth. The state, they couldn’t prove another thing, so that’s the truth.

I’m just glad the truth came out. [The UFC] trust me, they knew I didn’t do nothing, so they gave me my job back. So I’m very glad for this.

Silva was then pressed further by Helwani, who mentioned that the truth *hadn’t* actually come out and that Silva was cleared on a technicality, leading the light heavyweight contender to change his tone slightly.

I don’t want to talk about that. I’m here to talk about my professional fights, my comeback to the UFC. I really don’t want to talk about my [personal] life. I think that’s not good for me. I don’t want to work with this anymore. I’m done with that.

Here the thing. I didn’t do nothing. She said I pointed a gun at her, I tried to hurt her. I didn’t point any gun, I didn’t try to hurt her, you know? I wanted divorce, she wanted money, I didn’t want to give the money, she set me up, that’s the truth.

When we first posted our thoughts on the UFC’s decision to re-sign Silva, it did not come without a fair share of criticism from you Taters. Most notably, Facebook reader Jonathan St. Louis, who offered the following rebuttal:

Ok this bothers me. Why the fuck do we care if “bad guys” fight? Aren’t we paying and cheering these guys to try and brutally knock each other out if not crank on each other’s necks and limbs? I don’t know about you but I want to see the baddest dudes at doing that regardless if they’re saints or demons…

I’ll admit that I perhaps leaped to judgement when it came to Silva’s innocence — the only details of his case, after all, were divulged by his ex-wife who has since fled the country — but only because the evidence against him seemed to be pretty condemning. Hearsay, sure, but suffice it to say, one does not typically get involved in an armed standoff with police if they are confident of their innocence.

But to Mr. St Louis’ question, I will attempt to clarify my stance. While we certainly shouldn’t expect MMA fighters to be “saints,” to say that we shouldn’t care whether or not they are acceptable human beings is missing the point of “professional” sports entirely. UFC fighters, despite what Twitter will often tell you, are professional athletes who are supposed to be held to a higher standard than your average backyard brawler. Fighters at the UFC level represent the sport as a whole, whether they choose to or not, and this accountability carries over to their personal lives.

If it’s simply “bad guys” you want to see fighting, why even bother with MMA? Why not watch Youtube compilations of gang warfare and underground prison fights? Why even establish a unified system of rules, for that matter? If we’re all just “paying and cheering these guys to try and brutally knock each other out” (not the case), why not allow them to use whatever means possible to do so?

I’ll answer that for you: because UFC-level fighters should be able to limit the use of their skills to the cage. They compete at the highest level of their discipline (and have been for years), and that’s what MMA, like any martial art, is about at its very core: Discipline. Restraint. These fighters are supposed to understand that they possess skills far beyond the level of most “ordinary” people, and that these skills can bring tremendous harm to those around them were they to lose control. To act as if MMA fighters shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions simply because they fight for a living plays right into the notion that MMA fans are just a bunch of skinhead “Just Bleed” dude-bros of questionable character.

We’ve spent the past 20 years trying to convince casual audiences that MMA is not “human cockfighting” or a gladiator sport perpetrated by the most reprehensible of people, and you want to trade all that in because “LOL who gives a shit let’s get to the BROOTAL KO’s!!” Please, Jonathan, I beg you to reconsider your borderline insulting understanding of the sport and its fanbase.

It would be far too easy to turn a blind eye to the personal lives of these fighters while continuing to reward them in the cage, but that’s simply not how the working world works. Not only does signing these “bad guys” open up the UFC to widespread criticism from those the sport is trying to gain legitimate acceptance from, it provides groups like The Culinary Union with even more ammo for their relentless anti-UFC campaigns. Let me ask you this, Jonathan, would you be opposed to the idea of the UFC re-signing War Machine, or Josh Grispi? Or the Ravens re-signing Ray Rice? Something tells me you would, even if you won’t admit it.

In short, why should we care if MMA fighters are good people? Because good people are the ones who deserve our attention, our devotion, and our praise. Good people are the ones who deserve the spotlight and all the benefits that come with it. A corny sentiment, surely, but one that also aligns with, you know, the basic tenets of humanity and all that.

But some of you Taters were right: Silva has been cleared of all charges, and for all we know, is completely innocent in the matter. But one’s professional life is often mirrored by their personal life, or vice versa, and given the amount of strikes Silva has accumulated in his UFC career, it’s growing increasingly difficult to understand why he has been deemed such a necessity to the UFC’s roster. It doesn’t help that his plan for addressing his sketchy past equates to banking on the fact that we will all forget about it.

I don’t care what people think. I’m going to do my job. I’m going to keep focusing on my training, and that’s it. They will forget. They always do. 

-J. Jones

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