In the world of mixed martial arts, the athletes have certain responsibilities. In all sports, professional athletes have contracts, agreements or other obligations beyond their actual performance in competition.
Recently, UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva allegedly decided to skip out on a press event and fly back home to Brazil, thus incurring a $50,000 fine from the UFC (via mmajunkie.com). The issue is that Silva is contractually obligated to attend media and press events, and any others that are in place to promote an upcoming fight.
Since this initial release, Silva has expressed that he would have never skipped out on the event, and that his absence was a matter of not being aware of such an obligation. This may or may not be true, but this is a first for Silva, as he has attended all other media events so far.
If intentional though, this isn’t the first time a media event has been skipped by a fighter. Fresh in everyone’s minds is the notorious actions of Nick Diaz and his pre-fight no-shows when leading up to a fight with Georges St. Pierre. This was an instance that showed UFC president Dana White’s intolerance to such actions and led to Diaz having to step aside from his title shot. GSP also expressed his own strong dislike of doing media events but understands it is part of his job and thus complies.
But is attendance to these events and actions outside the cage as big of a deal as they are made out to be? Have we assigned too much or too little value to them?
Yes, as a professional who signs their name next to the “X” on the line, you are agreeing to certain responsibilities and requirements. If the contract states you must attend these events, then the bottom line is you must do it despite personal gripes.
But on the other hand, the press events are part of the game but not the actual thing that draws us to watch these athletes compete. In a fighter’s case, we want to see them fight. We pay hard-earned money to watch them compete inside the cage. The interviews and conferences are all part of the hype and promoting of the fight, but is this something to truly crack down on a fighter for? Or is it something that should carry more weight and should be a punished even harsher?
Most would agree they would rather see the fighters no-show for a press conference rather than the actual fight; but without that pre-fight promoting, the fight may not be as popular and viewership could suffer.
Is it wrong for a fighter to miss their media obligations? Yes, both professionally and contractually. Is it something that can be blown out of proportion? Quite possibly. The reporting of Silva intentionally missing his conference and then being fined $50,000 for doing so still can add a negative connotation about the overall character of the fighter, and it may or may not be true. This is where the actual reaction can carry more punitive weight to it.
For example, when Jon Jones was faced with the decision to take the short-notice fight with Chael Sonnen last year, it was alleged he declined it, thus resulting in the first cancelled UFC event. However, some stories came out that he had no idea and had no part of that decision. Regardless of what the whole truth is, it didn’t stop thousands of fans from booing Jones when he finally walked out to face Sonnen last month.
That being said though, fans can be fickle in these spurts of love and hatred for a fighter, but it still leaves a mark. Silva has remained very consistent and, prior to his recent no-show, had never missed an event before. But even though it's his first offense in this capacity, it's created an uproar.
Just as with Jon Jones crashing his vehicle, it was his first PR mistake, one that had nothing to do with his MMA abilities but still cast a negative light on him.
These things shouldn’t necessarily be ignored, but it is good to reflect on how much influence we let these outside things affect our views of them. In any sport, we are quick to jump to emotions. Think of the last time a referee made a bad call and you had a knee-jerk reaction, only to find out on the replay that they may have actually made the right call.
We can be quick to defend the ones we like and quick to condemn the ones we don’t.
PED use, marijuana, press events, DUIs and a great deal of other things can plague the reputation of a professional athlete, but how do we truly know the full facts? How do we curb our reaction until both sides of the story have been heard? And even then, how much value should we assign to two sides that could be completely falsified or misconstrued?
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