What was seen on CBS this past Saturday was to say the least an absolute embarrassment for the sport of mixed martial arts.
And on top of that, it also should be considered a giant step backwards as well. While gigantic steps have been made over the past 10 years for MMA all it takes is one ridiculously stupid incident to push everything back in a big way.
As the night unfolded I was asking myself why in the world so many fighters, corner men, hangers-on, etc. were all allowed into the ring when the fights were over. It was obvious to me that it was an accident waiting to happen. I didn’t realize that an incident of such unfortunate magnitude would take place mere minutes later.
The sport of MMA has grown in prominence by such large leaps and bounds in the past few years but all it took was one disgusting outburst to ruin things. Is it any wonder that despite all the progress MMA has made that companies like Nike, McDonald’s, AT&T, and the like haven’t jumped on board. Sure there are brawls of similar magnitude in baseball, football, and hockey, but those sports have made their progress and are cemented into everyday society. MMA hasn’t got near to that level of household acceptance. How would you like to be the company with a huge logo in the middle of the ring and instead of seeing slick fighting taking place over top of it, you’re seeing sick, street brawling.
And how would you like to be the parent explaining that riot to a youngster. It wasn’t about a pitcher throwing at a batter’s head or a quarterback being thrown down out of bounds by a lineman. Go on explain it. Would it make any sense to say “Well, all I wanted was to put my name out there for a rematch” or “He disrespected me.” Doesn’t quite carry the same weight in an argument, does it?
First and foremost this incident should never have happened, and as someone who personally looks after a ringside area, I virtually guarantee that it would never happen at Maximum Fighting Championship. True it’s tough to absolutely guarantee anything but for sure I can steadfastly say that every precaution is taken to not allow that kind of riot to happen.
Why can I be that confident? Because from Day 1 of working with MFC and particularly when being put in charge of the ringside area, it was taken as a very serious responsible by myself and my staff that safety and sense be first and foremost in our minds. You can do that in several ways. The first is simply by being present and accountable. You can’t be wandering off, schmoozing, visiting, chilling in the backstage area or just being caught being a fan. You’re working and you’re responsible for the most important of the arena other than the actual inside of the ring or cage.
The next step is talking to the fighters and hand in hand with that, making it clear what is tolerated and what is not by laying it out in the fighters’ itinerary. It’s clearly stated what is allowed when it comes to entourages and what is not. In the MFC you can have as many guys as you like walk you to the ring, but they have to leave once you’re at ringside and they can’t come back – win or lose. It was clear watching CBS the other night that the fighters, not the staff, were in charge in ringside. They did whatever they wanted – in this case bringing teammate upon teammate with them to ringside, having them camp out, and then still being allowed into the ring at the end of the fight.
No matter what a staff does to control things at ringside if you’re out-numbered by a 4:1 ratio, you’ve lost whatever handle you had on things. And if that staff is on their toes like the MFC staff is you cut the chances of such a violent down to a very low percentage.
It’s about being on your toes, too. Yes there are hotheads at every fight and the testosterone is pumping so tempers are up and emotions are running high. But obviously no one on that CBS card was awake – how could you miss an obvious situation brewing like that? It’s called keeping your head on a swivel. You have to know what’s going on around you. Case in point, when Nick Thompson and Pat Healy butted heads in a potential tete-a-tete at an MFC event, we were on top of it enough that other than some heated words and a minor push, no other escalation resulted.
Even when the MFC had some much more volatile names on its roster, nothing serious ever came up because we knew what could potentially happen and those situations were snuffed out before they became a problem. A little nose-to-nose beefing at the end of the fight is one thing. But when it gets physical it’s gone too far. Real professionals know where the limit is. Spotlight-stealers and those with a gang mentality have no realization when that line is about to be crossed.
And finally, it’s about respect. The MFC staff respects the business and doesn’t want to let an event such as a televised riot take place on its card. Most importantly though the fighters on the MFC roster have a respect for the staff and the brand of the show and they don’t want to embarrass themselves or the organization under whose banner they fight for. As an example, you might see Dwayne Lewis come to the ring trailed by an entourage that stretches back to the dressing room. Yet that crew knows the rules, abides by them, and represents with dignity not disdain for the sport and the opposition.
I’m knocking on wood, for sure, but I’m still promising that this type of obscene incident isn’t going to be taking place in the Maximum Fighting Championship.