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UFC Release of Miguel Torres Demonstrates the Impact of Social Media on the Fight Game

By:
Eric Kowal
Date:
09 December 2011
Miguel Torres Cut From UFC - US Combat Sports

Yesterday it was announced that former World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion Miguel Torres was released from the Ultimate Fighting Championship by UFC President Dana White.

The reason for Torres’ roster cut came from a “tweet” from the fighter’s Twitter account.

On Wednesday the former champ tweeted “If a rape van was called a surprise van, more women wouldn't mind going for rides in them," Torres wrote. "Everyone likes surprises."

With 40 wins to his name, Torres was one of the most successful fighters on the UFC’s roster.  He has only tasted defeat four times.

Torres’ comment comes just one month after former light heavyweight champion and Ultimate Fighter winner, Forrest Griffin stated “rape was the new missionary.”

Griffin later apologized for his comment and made a donation to the Las Vegas Rape Crisis Center.

Griffin received a smack on the wrist while Torres was sent packing.

Earlier this week at a press conference for the upcoming second installment of the UFC on Fox, former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans exchanged barbs with his soon to be foe, Phil Davis.  Davis, a Penn State alum was on the receiving end of an awkward insult when Evans said, “I guarantee you'll be the first one to take a shot, because I’m going to put my hands on you worse than that dude did to them other kids at Penn State.” 

Evans of course was talking about the widely publicized Jerry Sandusky case in which the former PSU assistant football coach stands accused of sexually abusing multiple underage boys during his time at the institution.

Again, just like Griffin, Evans received a slap while Torres received his walking papers.

White later said that both Griffin and Evans made “stupid” remarks, however, you can see and hear White laughing at the press conference after Evans made the comment.

Ok, so mixed martial artists are not exactly “politically correct” at all times.  That’s not what they are paid to be.  They are paid to be fighters.

It was last year that White held a UFC Fighter’s Summit bringing in his the majority of his fight roster for a company discussion.  One of the topics at hand was the use of social media.

The UFC first decided to live stream preliminary fights for their fans on Facebook on January 2, 2011 for UFC Fight Night 23. When the UFC’s Facebook page received a whopping 130,000 “Likes” during the fight, the decision for White to use social media instead of the official UFC website for the free online streaming of future bouts was a no-brainer. When mainstream media wouldn’t give the UFC the time of day, White gave fighters the simple instruction, “I want you to Twitter your asses off.”

So, White is encouraging fighters to use social media but at the same time he is also serving as the social media police by punishing the fighters for what they say.

At best, Torres should have been fined or received a suspension, unless there was a real history of repeated offenses.

Another case of foot in mouth was when the MMA community received the tragic news of Evan Tanner’s death.  Jon Koppenhaver, now legally known as “War Machine” turned to a popular social media tool at the time, MySpace.

War Machine posted a MySpace bulletin in which he speculated that Tanner had committed suicide and that he may have been depressed over the fact that his career might be over and that he had little to show financially for all his greatness. "What else is an underpaid fighter supposed to do at the end of his career?" War Machine wrote in the posting. "Cash in his 401K? Collect social security? Start to work some [expletive] job for 10 bucks an hour? (This) [expletive] ain't boxing, and if you're not Chuck [Liddell] or Tito Ortiz, you don't get paid dick."

War Machine was later released from the UFC.

During that very summit where White encouraged fighters to use social media, the UFC also announced it would begin awarding several $5,000 bonuses every three months to fighters who show a high level of social networking activity.

The fighters are divided into four categories, based on how many Twitter followers they currently have. At the end of each quarter, three fighters from each category will be awarded the $5,000 bonus. The three winners will be based on who has gained the most followers since the start of the quarter, who gained the highest percentage of new followers and who wrote the most creative tweets.

So unless you want to hear what cereal fighters are eating or how many times a day they feed their pets, fighters are going to be fighters and are going to sometimes post “rash” comments. It is going to happen.

The UFC may need to adopt a social media policy if it is going to encourage their fighters to use the tools but then possibly punish them for what they post.

In the NFL, players face serious fines for updating their social media accounts within 90 minutes before and after a game, and certainly any such activity is prohibited during a game. Patriots’ wide receiver Chad Ochocinco announced he would be deleting his Twitter account after being reprimanded for tweeting during a game.

Feuds between fighters — common in the sport — are fueled by comments on Twitter, and tweets from fighters and trainers are often a source for news about upcoming fights.  This is nothing new.  But when do you draw the line and call it “too far?”

We saw Matt Mitrione and Tito Ortiz throw viral jabs at each other.  Recently, the often brash Chael Sonnen mocked ring girl Arianny Celeste.  Really Chael? A ring girl?  That’s who you are picking on now?

Before that, Sonnen attacked an entire country while trying to get under the skin of middleweight champion Anderson Silva.  Sonnen deliberately made rude comments about Brazilians and their native country. Brazil is one of several countries the UFC has continuing relations, yet White never came down on Sonnen for his actions.

But who can blame these fighters?  The pay scale is so vast that I can see why some fighters are tweeting the things they do.

Top fighters are being paid in upwards of $250,000 a fight while others a mere $3,000.   So if they can cause a stir, push the envelope and get people to follow their social media activity and earn themselves a paycheck in doing so, they will.

But they also run the risk of being reprimanded by White and his staff.  So it’s a double edge sword. 

Heck, Jacob Volkmann another UFC fighter received a visit from the secret service after making comments about wanting to fight President Obama. 

“He’s not too bright. Someone’s got to knock some sense into that idiot.”

But Volkmann did not get released from the UFC after his comment.  Why?  He only did it on a UFC pay-per-view watched by millions of fans.  He didn’t tweet his “stupid” comment.

The recent release of Torres should make fighters extremely weary of pushing the envelope through social media. We’ll just have to wait and see how this action changes the entertainment value of fighters’ daily interaction with social media.

Photo courtesy of espn.com
Last Modified:
09 December 2011

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