Corruption: The Weird, Strange and Out of the Ordinary in Mixed Martial Arts
With each passing event, the weird, strange and out of the ordinary are increasingly becoming common place in the modern era of combat sports where the lines between professional wrestling and prize fighting are increasingly becoming hard to discern. Once a world that prided itself for being as real as it actually gets, now mixed martial arts has increasingly moved into the mainstream realm of a watered down, pseudo version of its once great self where stars are created, narratives are crafted and long term plans are instituted over time in order to arrive at a predetermined destination that ultimately serves the best interest of the promotion itself.
Amidst the global authorities and worldwide leaders in the combat sports entertainment industry today, the topics of corruption and fight fixing seldom if ever get the attention that they deserve from the media for a variety of reasons to include the potentiality of promotional black listing, legal consequences, a lack of true knowledge and insight into combat sports and even being in on and a part of the corruption themselves.
Time and time again, questionable officiating and judging decisions have rendered the outcome of fights controversial while the various media pundits either look the other way or pull the token incompetence card instead of shouting corruption from the rafters.
In the award-winning documentary, “Dirty Games The dark side of sports,” investigative journalist Benjamin Best interviewed former boxing manager Charles Farrell who expertly explains the many ways in which fights are fixed in combat sports. According to Farrell, who managed former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks:
“You fix fights to make betting money. You fix fights to get a fighter a championship. You fix fights to maneuver a fighter up the ranks towards a championship fight. You fix fights to win, in order, again, to position someone strategically. You fix fights to lose, in order to get paid and you know, make betting coups. The way you fix fights varies greatly. You fix fights by buying judges, that’s, you know, one easy way to do it. You fix fights by having the referee working for you so that if there’s any way that the ref can stop a fight in your guys favor, he does. You fix fights by colluding with the fighters, generally the loser, it’s almost always the loser. Winners almost never know that the fight is fixed.”
As one of the sports original fans, I’ve quite literally watched MMA longer than many of the sports journalists today have even been alive and I am regularly taken back by the lack of true insight and reporting from the majority of combat sports news media outlets who report the many weird, strange and out of the ordinary occurrences in combat sports as incompetence or happenstance at best (if they even cover the bizarre occurrences at all) without so much as even a hair of suspicion to state otherwise.
These various media pundits enjoy support from vast swaths of the general viewing public, many whom rely on these individuals for the best and most up-to-date information possible, which is why its all the more comical to see these same media moguls ignore or in some cases even participate in covering up the obvious corruption inherent to the system itself all the while masquarading as the sports oracles of truth.
With the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 forcing the UFC to postpone events and hold cards in arena’s devoid of fans, MMA legend Chael Sonnen explained in his May 20, 2020 YouTube video titled, “Are UFC Judges Influenced by Joe Rogan, Daniel Cormier and Michael Bisping?” that many fighters have relayed through post-fight interviews that they could hear the UFC commentary team during their fights and in some cases even altered their game plans and strategies based off the advice and information they were receiving from the UFC commentary team during the middle of their fights.
This fact leads to one of Sonnen’s acquaintances to reportedly ask him, “As weird as some of, as unusual as some of the judging was and the officiating do you believe they also fall into the human nature of being influenced by the sound of the commentators?”
This question immediately reminded Sonnen of a previous and timely conversation he had just had with a colleague at ESPN, Ariel Helwani, who had recently asked, “Chael, you want to know why some of the judging and officiating was weird? Its because for the first time ever they can hear the commentators,” reflected Sonnen.
“As a matter of fact, It’s the only voices they can hear aside from the corners. They are human beings and they are being influenced,” concluded Helwani to the obviously startled Sonnen. “Ariel, I never thought of that, you’re right,” explained Sonnen as he recounted the conversation back to his listening audience. And if the fact Helwani and Sonnen believe the judges and referees are being influenced by the UFC commentators isn’t troubling enough for you, consider who is influencing the commentators.
“When someone is talking in your ear when you’re talking; is one of the most distracting things,” explained UFC commentator Joe Rogan in his December 14, 2016 YouTube video titled, “Joe Rogan on what its like to wear an earpiece when commentating on UFC fights.” Rogan, explaining how good the UFC broadcast team usually is in not talking over him when he is commentating was asked by his guest, comedian Tom Segura, “Is that earpiece feeding you anything though?”
“Yeah, yeah,” replied Rogan as he explained the conversations he has with producers and even Muay Thai coach Mark DellaGrotte involving fight instruction advice, tactics etc. Quite literally, there is an active pipeline of potentially fight altering information that flows from the operational command and control center down to the boots on the ground to include the athletes and even the judges and referees themselves.
In explaining the obvious, the UFC has a production crew which controls the vertical and horizontal in terms of what the viewing audience see's, hears and experiences who themselves ultimately answer to a higher power and authority. With judging irregularities and questionable referee decisions plaguing combat sports since time infinitum, the fact outside stimuli can manage to influence judges’ decisions rather than the performance of the fighters themselves inside the ring or cage smacks of the kind of Hazard county justice long associated with impropriety and corruption that seemingly reaches into the highest levels of the combat sports entertainment industry today.
With the UFC signing a game changing broadcast deal with ESPN, mixed martial arts is increasingly moving into the mainstream and cracking into the modern era of combat sports entertainment industry where stars are created and narratives are crafted in order to satisfy the public demand for over the top personalities and interesting story lines. Conventional ranking hierarchies and weight class representations are routinely circumvented and manipulated in order to push certain athletes and stars up the ladder of promotional success. While all the while strings are pulled at nearly every turn in order to satisfy predetermined schedules and outcomes in a world where the weird, strange and out of the ordinary are increasingly becoming common place in combat sports today.