Judging from the immediate reaction to last night’s news that TJ Grant has withdrawn from his title fight against Benson Henderson, a lot of you seem to feel that Grant’s injury is somewhat less than legitimate. As the conspiracy theory goes, the UFC recognized that Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis would do much better business than Henderson vs. TJ Grant, and paid off Grant to fake an injury. (Who knows, maybe Pettis’s knee injury was bullshit as well?)
So let’s pump the brakes on this speculation right now. According to TJ Grant last night, the lightweight contender is recovering from a concussion suffered while grappling — an invisible injury, but still a real injury — and the UFC did not, and could not, pay him to give up his title shot. Okay? Can we all move on with our lives now? Oh, if only.
Here’s the deal: I actually believe that Grant’s not the kind of person who would sell the title shot he worked so hard for, but the almost universally-skeptical reaction that this situation produced tells us a lot about the UFC’s public perception — namely, that the promotion is a shady outfit that would pay its fighters to lie in order to set up more profitable fights.
The UFC and TJ Grant have every right to be offended by this suggestion. Unfortunately, a century’s worth of dirty-dealings in the fight business have trained fans to expect the worst when things work out a little too conveniently for a promoter. It’s especially unfortunate for TJ Grant, a humble, hard-working guy who has been fielding some rather nasty accusations since last night, and may be hearing about this for a long time. That’s the reality. But since the UFC is an organization that has always valued secrecy in its business dealings, perceptions of unethical behavior will always linger among MMA’s more imaginative fans.
The bottom line is this: You can all feel free to call this a “work,” as long as you acknowledge that you have no actual proof to back that opinion up.