Late last week, UFC fighter Thiago Silva made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Silva was arrested after a standoff with police. The incident started outside of a jiu-jitsu school in Oakland Park, Fla., where his estranged wife was training. According to reports, Silva made a scene by honking his horn outside of the school before his wife finally went outside to see what the commotion was all about. Silva, who had a gun on him, threatened to kill his wife and her new boyfriend, Pablo Popovitch, who was also present at the school. Police were called and Silva was eventually detained at his home. The light heavyweight fighter is still being held in a South Florida jail with no bond with a myriad of charges against him. The UFC terminated Silva’s contract and UFC President Dana White said Silva will never fight inside the Octagon again.

Those were all proper steps for the organization to take, but did it all come too late?

Mixed martial arts is undoubtedly a violent sport. Rewards can be reaped based upon how violently you dispatch of your opponent. To even get in the cage and be able to display the skills to remove another man or woman from consciousness represents a little bit of a screw loose. No, not all fighters are crazy, violent people—quite frankly, the majority of men who reach the pinnacle of the sport are the exact opposite. Now, however, in the wake of this Silva incident, promoters around the world have to ask themselves if they need to do a bit more research on their fighters.

The sport has grown leaps and bounds from its beginnings in terms of mainstream acceptance and regulation, but placing men with violent backgrounds on high-profile cards doesn’t do anything good for the sport. According to affidavits, this wasn’t the first time that Silva had threatened his estranged wife’s life. How can Zuffa or any other promotion overlook that bit of history?

Silva was slated for an upcoming fight at UFC 170—obviously, that’s no longer happening—and has fought in high-profile bouts in the past. He is the type of fighter who has always been celebrated for his violent style. Of course, the athletic accomplishments that he has in the cage deserve recognition, but I don’t know if I can watch a Silva knockout or throat slash in the same fashion that I have in the past. And I’m certainly not the only one who will feel this way. Furthermore, Silva’s actions are the sort of thing that the Culinary Union, which works tirelessly in its efforts to combat the UFC at every turn, will jump all over this incident as evidence in its attempt to keep the sport out of New York. It wouldn’t be the first time the Culinary Union has seized on such an opportunity.

Prior to the UFC on Fox 5 card in December 2012, the Culinary Union made public the past indiscretions of Abel Trujillo and Tim Means. The UFC didn’t do much to respond to the information, simply because it was true. Trujillo has pleaded guilty to domestic violence charges twice, and Means has not hidden the mistakes that he has made, including a drug addiction that led to a prison stint. This isn’t to say that redemption stories aren’t great, but should a sport like this feature men with pasts of domestic violence?

Trujillo is celebrated for his violent presence in the cage in much the same way as Silva. The man just won $125,000 for his war with Jamie Varner last weekend. Trujillo’s past wasn’t really discussed leading up to the fight, but it was a topic of conversation on various MMA podcasts in the aftermath. Not many people other than Trujillo and the woman involved know the entire context of the events that led to his charges, but the information out there is pretty damning. As Trujillo continues to rise in the UFC’s most stacked division, these questions will be asked more and more. It will be very interesting to observe how the UFC and Trujillo will respond.

This isn’t the first case of a famous fighter facing charges like these either. Former professional boxer Mike Tyson’s past is widely known, yet he is probably one of America’s most beloved sports figures—and virtually an unofficial ambassador for the UFC. Tyson’s redemption story has been great, but his fame was greater than men like Trujillo or Silva. Violent crimes are a slippery slope that fans, media, organizations and athletic commissions have to walk in this sports.

At what point does an offense become unforgivable? At what point does a fighter’s past make watching him uncomfortable? What exactly qualifies a fighter as being redeemed enough to get back in the cage? All of these questions need to be answered.

Promoters have to be careful to not set a double standard. The UFC Code of Conduct now sets guidelines for the promotion’s athletes to follow, but how those rules are enforced in the future will provide a better sense of how the UFC plans to address this problem. The UFC needs to make it known to every one of its athletes that violence is unacceptable the second they step out of the cage.

About The Author

Trey Downey
Staff Writer

A Central Florida native, Trey Downey's interest in MMA came after a trip to Blockbuster and the rental of UFC 47 on VHS. He has been blogging about the sport since 2011 and hosted a podcast called The TD Experience focusing on football and MMA (touchdowns and takedowns). Trey studied radio and television at the University of Central Florida and will soon be attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Trey enjoys watching sports, pro wrestling and is an avid runner.