The world today is full of double standards for behavior no matter where you look. The MMA world now seems to be falling into this cycle just like all the rest.

The UFC has notably introduced a fighter-conduct policy which, spread across five pages, goes through the do’s and don’ts for anyone aspiring to either become a part of the UFC roster or remain so in the long term.

Within this policy, the UFC begins with a preamble that includes the requirements of avoiding statements with negative connotations in any way, shape or form, whether in the form of racism, sexism and so on. Additionally, it rather ambiguously states that fighters must adhere with what is termed as “commonly accepted standards of decency.”

The policy goes on to give some specific examples of what will not be tolerated. These examples include anything that is of a criminal nature (see the recent Thiago Silva debacle) and extends to online behavior as well.

The whole purpose of this policy being implemented by the UFC is to give the promotion something to fall back on as a way of damage control in the event that something controversial happens in the public eye. Furthermore, there have already been several examples of how this policy has been utilized by the UFC since its introduction as a means of publicly denouncing the conduct of one of its fighters.

Matt Mitrione was disciplined and given a heavy fine by the UFC for his comments about Fallon Fox based on the fact she fights in women’s MMA despite being born a man. This was clearly seen as falling into the category of derogatory conduct which brought the sport and the UFC into disrepute.

Perhaps most recently, we have seen that although the UFC has this policy on paper, it will not go out of its way to discover any such violations prior to a fighter becoming part of the organization. This is in spite of the fact that the policy explicitly states that “misconduct prior to a fighter’s provision of service to UFC may also be considered.” This was certainly the case with Will Chope, who was pulled from the UFC Fight Night 38 fight card just hours prior to competing. This was as a direct result of an article that discussed his prior removal from military service and sanctions resulting from domestic abuse, a fact that was seemingly unknown to the UFC and MMA fans as a whole. The UFC wasted no time in utilizing its policy and cutting Chope from the UFC. Whilst this sent a clear and correct message of condemning domestic abuse, it raises questions about the vetting process fighters go through and whether Chope should have ever got that far down the road without his past being discovered.

This lack of detailed vetting is nothing new for the UFC (although by no means commonplace). The UFC had to make it clear that Tyler Manawaroa would not get a contract with the promotion, win, lose or draw on The Ultimate Fighter reality show as a result of a racist post he made on Instagram dating back to 2012.

So, although it is clear that the UFC means business when it comes to the sanctions it imposes, the promotion is perhaps more selective about what types of offenses it goes out of its way to pick up on and the extent to which it will go to in order to proactively enforce the policy.

What is perhaps most obvious, though, is that the UFC applies the policy in a selective manner. It has no problem stepping in and disciplining the likes of Matt Mitrione, Will Chope or even Miguel Torres before that. However, with the lack of household names currently active as of 2014, the promotion has been, and always will be, less likely to rebuke one of its big names. It simply cannot afford to do so.

One of the reasons that Ronda Rousey has become the star that she has is her honest, no-nonsense attitude. As with any character with this kind of volatility, the downside of that from a commercial standpoint is that statements can sometimes be made off the cuff and, although the majority will be relatively acceptable, there need only be one outlandish statement to turn the tide.

Recently, Rousey came out with the typically bold statement that she wouldn’t care if Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino was injecting horse semen into her eyeballs. She went on to say that due to prolonged drug use, Cyborg is “not even a woman anymore, she is an ‘it.’”

This statement would certainly be characterized as derogatory and insulting to Cyborg in much the same way as Mitrione’s comments were towards Fox. Additionally, it contradicts the UFC policy that the fighters must maintain “commonly accepted standards of decency,” not to mention that Cyborg is a fighter who is someone that the UFC is interested in signing and, in the eyes of many, needs to sign to add significant depth to the women’s roster.

This statement from Rousey is not the only example we have seen of this selective application of the conduct policy.

Jon Jones didn’t suffer the wrath of the UFC when he was given his DWI in 2012. During his time in the UFC, Jones has been a constant thorn in the UFC’s side because of his apparent single-mindedness, which has not always led him down the path most beneficial for the UFC. But, ultimately, the UFC knows that Jones is big business and it is willing to accept the rough with the smooth when it comes to Jones, whereas the promotion might not be so accommodating and understanding to lesser fighters.

Even as recently as last week, Jones gave the UFC another headache with the current controversy surrounding the apparent “hacking” of his Instagram account. It is again perhaps notable that despite the UFC policy’s insistence that any issues will be thoroughly investigated, this particular issue seems to have been dismissed out of hand by everyone at the UFC. Instead, it has been chalked up to a simple case of a fighter losing his phone or something to that effect. (Questions as to why someone would access Jones’ phone to simply post one or two distasteful homophobic slurs and do no further damage are probably best left for another time.)

Additionally, there is always the commonplace disregard for the image of the sport that has been broadcast as reality television on The Ultimate Fighter. This trend has even been continued by notable UFC favorite Chael Sonnen with his brawl on the set of TUF Brazil 3, the end result of which being the postponement of his fight due to injuries Silva sustained in the scuffle. All of this has gone unpunished by the UFC, however, with UFC President Dana White going as far to say that his anger at this behavior lies solely with the producers of the show who allowed it to occur and not the fighters who are supposed to conduct themselves within the confines of the UFC’s policy at all times.

Therefore, in spite of the very precise language used in the policy, the fact remains that the UFC (as with virtually all other areas of the sport) holds all the cards and has ultimate discretion when it comes to when and if it will impose sanctions for violations. Moving forward, it seems the policy is put in place for fighters lower down the roster who the UFC consider to be a disposable asset, whereas the policy will be put aside for the major stars of the sport.

This type of unbalanced enforcement is not anything out of the ordinary in either the sporting world or the wider world for that matter. There have been countless examples of sports stars getting away with things would land your “average” sporting professional in hot water. Likewise, there have been numerous instances of celebrities getting away with things for which you or I would most likely face criminal charges.

Ultimately, this policy, like any other set of rules and regulations, are a guideline at best. When all is said and done, rules can be bent or even broken if doing so benefits those enforcing them, and the UFC is no different.

About The Author

Greg Byron
Staff Writer

Greg Byron started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after his brother introduced him to a local MMA fighter/coach when he was just 16 years old. Greg has trained for nearly a decade in both BJJ and MMA, competing in several grappling events within the UK. In addition to MMA, Greg possesses a law degree and works for a firm in northern part of England.

  • Lars Anderson

    Except…cyborg really is an ‘it’.