Will Chope (James Goyder/Sherdog)The Will Chope Debacle: What Could Have Been Done Differently RJ Gardner March 28, 2014 Spotlight Will Chope was slated to take on Diego Brandao at UFC Fight Night 38 in Natal, Brazil on Sunday, March 23. It didn’t happen, though. Following the weigh-ins on Saturday, the UFC canceled the bout and released Chope from his contract when a report regarding his dark past surfaced. Jeremy Botter of Bleacher Report uncovered that, in 2009, Chope, then 23, had been convicted, by a military judge, of three specifications of assault consummated by a battery against his then wife while he was serving in the Air Force. Chope was subsequently dishonorably discharged for his actions. I personally have no issue with the UFC’s decision to cancel the fight and release Chope. Sure, this offense took place five years ago, but the fact that Chope did not disclose this matter to his employer is appalling. America is the land of second and third chances, but when you attempt to cover your secrets up, well, they come back to bite you tenfold. Chope found this out firsthand. The issue here really isn’t what happened in Chope’s past or how the UFC handled it once it found out, but rather the fact that this whole situation could have been prevented in the first place with a thorough background check. Yes, it is the employee’s—or, in this case, the fighter’s—responsibility to disclose any information that could potentially be detrimental to the organization. But that does not release the employer from doing their due diligence prior to entering an agreement. Let’s look at the NFL, for example. The NFL is filled with players who have plenty of skeletons in their closets. The various teams in the NFL make it a point to exhaustively vet potential players, weighing the risks and rewards of every potential signing. They know what secrets a player might be hiding, and they consciously make a decision to either proceed with that player or move on. Don’t get me wrong, the amount of investment in a fighter on Chope’s level is nowhere near even an NFL player making league minimum, but why can’t the UFC do the same thing as the NFL to some degree? It’s not like the Fertittas, who come from the gaming world, are unfamiliar with the process. Gaming licenses are dependent on the performance of solid background checks. This one mistake calls into question the UFC’s attention to detail. The sad thing is that this happened on the eve of Chope’s second fight in the organization and, had Bleacher Report not run the story, Chope would have competed without anyone batting an eye. Pre-employment background checks are put into place so employers know exactly what kind of baggage their employees are bringing with them. It’s not about barring someone from working or denying them an opportunity, but rather it serves as a chance to get out in front of any potential issues that could resurface. The UFC is a billion-dollar business now, and although no one expects all the fighters to be squeaky clean, the fact that the promotion was unaware of this issue is alarming. It makes me wonder what dirty little secrets are just waiting to come up next. Chope is an prelim-card fighter with little to no draw, but what if something like this is discovered about one of the UFC’s marquee fighters? Would the promotion react in the same manner? If I were making the decisions for the UFC, I would have an army of investigators out there looking into everyone and getting out in front of anything that may be found. Problems like this are so much easier to deal with when you are ahead of the curve. It’s when you get blindsided and have to react on the fly that things get murky. Had the UFC done its due diligence prior to signing Chope, then, when this story came out, the promotion could have been prepared to say it was aware of his past and that he is a changed person who the UFC will continue to support. Instead, the promotion must now answer for why they did not know. Richard Wilcoxon Chope is 23 now. The assault took place when he was 18…but the age doesn’t matter. The offense really doesn’t matter. If it did Arianny would no longer be employed by the UFC after being arrested for domestic assault on her boyfriend. The only thing that mattered in this case was that Chope was small time and no one would notice if he was on the card or not. If he had been a money maker for the UFC, they wouldn’t have done anything. That is the UFC’s history of dealing with issues. Dana White makes homophobic and misogynistic statements, nothing is done. Matt Mitroine is suspended for hateful statements. Forrest Griffin makes rape jokes on twitter and Dana says he should stay off twitter. Miguel Torres makes rape jokes on twitter and is cut….be a no name and the UFC is quick to make a moral stand but be a big name and the UFC will defend your behavior, make a joke of it, and pretty much ignore it.