When I was young, my mother told me about integrity. She stressed that it was an important characteristic. She explained integrity as doing the right thing even when it is hard. Of course, that is an oversimplification, but it was enough to help me understand the concept.

In today’s computer world, there are a host of definitions for integrity just a click away. I personally like Wiki’s, which reads: “a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes.” It is that word “consistency” that means so much. After all, as my mother said, it is doing the right thing even when it is hard. Anyone can do the right thing when it is easy. However, doing the right thing when it costs you something or is difficult, well, that shows what kind of man you are.

Recently, over and over, I have been stuck questioning the integrity of the UFC. I am not talking about the integrity of the actual fights. I am talking about the UFC’s decisions outside of the cage.

By now, everyone has at least heard about the brawl between The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 coaches Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva. Fighting outside the cage on TUF has always been a no-no. Way back in the first season of the reality series, when Chris Leben exploded, destroyed the house and was held back from going after Josh Koscheck and Bobby Southworth, the UFC stepped in and immediately had Leben fight Koscheck in the cage to get one of them off the show. A few seasons later when Noah Thomas and Marlon Sims actually came to blows at the house, the UFC immediately threw not only the two of them out, but the promotion also kicked Alan Berube out for instigating the fight.

This time it wasn’t a fight between two relatively unknown fighters who aren’t even a part of the UFC yet. Instead, it was a brawl between two contracted UFC fighters. In the balance was a heavily promoted fight. How would the UFC respond? The promotion threw an assistant coach, who isn’t even an UFC fighter, off the show. That’s it. When it came time for a hard decision, the UFC seemed to look for a scapegoat and take the easy way out. The promotion could have pulled one of the coaches. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened. The UFC pulled Tito Ortiz when he was a coach because he was injured and unable to participate in the coaches’ fight. But when the coaches came to blows outside the cage on the show, the UFC seemed to shrink in face of the challenge and chose an easier road.

This is just one small example. For another, take the case of Will Chope. Chope is a 23-year-old fighter who was released from the UFC the day of his fight when MMA media sites published a report a day earlier revealing that Chope assaulted his wife, including brandishing a knife and trying to cover her screams with a pillow. He was discharged from the military for the assault.

Although I don’t want to minimize this crime, because there is simply no excuse for this behavior, it is important to note a few other circumstances. This assault took place five years ago, and Chope has had a clean record since that time. In addition, he was just 18 years old at the time. His ex-wife has even released a joint statement urging that Chope be given a second chance.

It is well within the UFC’s rights to take a hard line on crime. In fact, I have no problem with the idea that any fighter convicted of assault or domestic violence will never step foot in the world-famous Octagon. The problem is the UFC would rather walk a tightrope of making moral decisions when it is easy rather than showing the integrity to make the hard choice.

Chope isn’t a big-time fighter. Cutting him from the roster will not impact the UFC’s bottom line one bit. The situation provided the UFC with a pulpit to stand on and shout for anyone to hear that the promotion is tough on crime. However, even in using that pulpit, the UFC seemed to look for the easy road. UFC President Dana White told MMA Fighting how tolerant they were and how they give guys second chances, but quickly added, “We will give guys second chances, but first of all, we’ve got sponsorship partners, we have television partners, and the list goes on and on. As tolerant as I may be, some of our partners may not.”

The polar opposite case of Chope is the recently re-signed Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, who is made his triumphant return to the UFC in the co-main event a few weeks ago. The problem is Johnson also has a history of domestic violence. His incident also took place five years ago. He was charged with domestic violence, battery with a special relationship, criminal threats and damaging a cell phone. Johnson was placed on three years of probation, one year of domestic-violence counseling, one day in jail and community service. In all fairness, Johnson also has not had any problems since this event. Of course, Johnson is a much bigger draw than Chope.

Although money is the easy answer, it can’t be the only answer. Abel Trujillo also has pled guilty twice to domestic violence and is still on the UFC’s roster. Although he is an exciting fighter, he is not a draw. Then you have the case of Octagon girl Arianny Celeste, who was charged with domestic violence in 2012. She allegedly kicked her fiancé in the face and threw vases at him. The UFC has kept both even though they have little impact on buys or attendance.

Although criminal complaints are the most obvious example of integrity questions, they are not the only ones. Another recent media story revolved around The Ultimate Fighter: Nations fighter Tyler Manawaroa. Manawaroa, a New Zealand-born fighter, showed tremendous potential on the show, even beating recent UFC addition Nordine Taleb. The 19-year-old was told no matter how well he did on the show he would not get a UFC contract based on a racist post he made on Instagram 18 months earlier. Although the post was disgusting by U.S. standards, there were some questions raised based on cultural attitude differences in Australia and Manawaroa being of Maori descent. The UFC chose to take the hardline for Manawaroa.

However, this past month another Instagram scandal broke. UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones had homophobic posts added to his account. Jones and the UFC quickly launched a PR campaign claiming it wasn’t the champ’s fault. One story asserts that Jones’ phone was stolen, but all the thieves did was make homophobic slurs on one of Jones’ social media accounts against a fan who recently talked down Jones on Twitter. In another spin of the story, too many of Jones’ friends had access to his account and they made the posts in question. In what appeared as yet another version of the tale, Jones blamed a social media company he hired. And in yet another version, his account was hacked. Regardless of the story, the implication was clear: Jones was not to be held accountable for the comments on his social media account.

The integrity question is clear in all of these incidents. The UFC is willing to make grand shows of discipline when it comes with little cost. But where is the integrity in making the hard decisions? I am not naively saying every fighter must be treated in the exact same manner. There is no way the UFC can afford to cut a Jon Jones right now. However, it could still take a step in the right direction and discipline him. Fine him. If contractually the UFC can’t, then publicly announce Jones is not eligible for bonuses for his next two fights and explain that his contract prevents further discipline.

There is always a way to act with integrity. You just have to choose to do so. The UFC just hasn’t done so recently.

About The Author

Richard Wilcoxon
Staff Writer

An East Coast native, Richard Wilcoxon grew up a die hard fan of traditional team sports. In the early 1990's, he stumbled onto the sport of MMA and has been hooked ever since. He started writing about the sport on his Sporting News member blog in 2005 where he worked to spread his passion for the sport. He eventually became an official staff writer for Sporting News' "The Rumble" MMA/boxing blog before joining The MMA Corner.

  • Stop sniveling.
    Integrity is situational when it comes to money, and before Wandy imploded, this fight was big money.
    The UFC is a cage fighting promotion – not Emily Post.