Unfortunately, the perception that MMA fighters are aggressive and unruly is reinforced when a notable MMA fighter shows up in the mainstream news due to their conduct outside of the ring.

Unacceptable behavior outside of the cage is not unique to MMA fighters. Rather, there is a growing trend in professional sports where athletes are being convicted of crimes against individuals and society alike.

Most recently, Chicago Bears wide receiver Sam Hurd was arrested and is facing heavy felony charges in connection with trying to buy up to 10 kilograms of cocaine and a half-ton of marijuana on a weekly basis to sell in the Chicago area.

The exploits of Adam “Pac Man” Jones, the talented but troubled defensive back of an assortment of NFL teams, are well known.

On the hardwood, individuals like Ron Artest have had a long history with law enforcement, and Jarvis Crittendon toted a gun around in the team locker room and pulled it on a teammate during a post-practice altercation. On Monday, Crittendon was arrested and is now facing murder charges.

This sort of socially deviant behavior transcends all major sports leagues, and athletes engaged in such behavior have to answer to law enforcement as well as their employer.

MMA is unique, not in the fact that fighters do not commit similar acts, but rather MMA is unique in that there is no standardized policy governing how promotion companies will govern their respectively contracted fighters. In the four major sports (baseball, basketball, football and hockey) each league has a player conduct policy that is agreed to by the players’ vis-à-vis a collective bargaining agreement signed into force by the players’ union. In MMA there is no standard policy. The absence of a fighters’ union or collective bargaining agreement makes it extremely difficult for the fighters’ interests to be commonly represented. However, this does not eliminate the feasibility of creating a standardized policy in order to consistently and effectively deal with fighters that engage in conduct that reflects poorly against their employ.

Now, there are advantages to having no set standard in disciplining fighters.

Promotion companies are able to treat each situation uniquely and hand down discipline as they see fit. However, the negatives of such an approach far exceed the positives.

When a promotion company does not have a set standard to follow, there is no level of accountability. A promotion company can act arbitrarily when disciplining fighters. For instance, let’s say a fighter acting as a challenger to the current champ gets in an altercation and slaps a female in the face outside a casino and is now facing a felony and up to six months in prison. Now, often in the four major sports, this athlete would be temporarily suspended until the legal proceedings would be resolved. Setting aside the innocent until proven guilty philosophy that has seemingly been turned on its head in sports when dealing with such a situation, the fact that the athlete would nevertheless be suspended due to their conduct creates a level of accountability for both the league and the athlete.

In returning to the MMA example, if the fighter were to be suspended, it may put the highly anticipated title fight on hold, or a less interesting fight would be scheduled in place of the marquee match-up. If this were to occur, that would affect the bottom line in terms of profit. However, when a promotion company does not have any standard to follow, they can act however they darn well please. They can ignore the pending legal cloud that looms over the head of the fighter and carry on with the championship fight, but at what cost?

Will the average or fringe fan be disenfranchised when promotion companies are promoting a fighter that may very well go to prison? Just imagine, in our example, if the challenger wins the championship belt and then a few months later is convicted of a felony charge and now is sitting in jail having checked his belt at the prison gates. What sort of image of MMA does that send to the public at large?

In order to create an environment with concrete expectations, non-arbitrary rulings and overall image-conscious promoters, sponsors and athletes, promotion companies should strongly consider creating thorough standard disciplinary policies and procedures for when a fighter makes a bad decision and acts in a socially deviant manner.

Photo: (US Daily Review)

This piece was authored by Chase Buzzell. You can find Chase via his LinkedIn Profile.

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