The UFC, like many mainstream sports, is fighting for the integrity of their brand at the moment. However, the way in which they dealt with Alex Nicholson’s ‘insensitive’ language indicates that they may well lose that battle in the long term.
While cornering team-mate Mike Perry against South Korea’s Hyun Gyu Lim, Nicholson made a racist remark about Lim’s eyes. The comment was picked up by a nearby microphone and made headlines shortly thereafter. Nicholson and the UFC eventually responded to the incident.
I respect every man who steps in the cage and my comments were insensitive towards lim I was hype for my brother but It's all love no hate.
— Alex Nicholson (@spartanlife32) August 23, 2016
However, the response hardly represents an apology. Nicholson claims that he respects Lim as a fighter but not necessarily as a South Korean. He then goes on to suggest his remark was justified because it was made out of ‘love’ for his team-mate rather than ‘hate’ for Lim. Nowhere in the statement does Nicholson actually apologise, and it is very surprising that the UFC did not take action to ensure that Nicholson made a direct apology in order to protect the integrity of their sport.
The UFC’s own response also failed to demonstrate that they have taken the matter seriously.
“UFC competitor Alex Nicholson made a derogatory comment toward another UFC athlete while cornering his teammate, Mike Perry, at UFC 202. UFC has addressed the matter with Nicholson, as well as Perry, to express the organization’s disappointment with Nicholson’s insensitive remark. As such, the organization informed Nicholson that any future instances of this nature could result in a suspension from competition, or termination of his contract.
“UFC requires all athletes to act in an ethical, responsible and respectful manner, as mandated by the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy. UFC holds its athletes to the highest standard and will continue to take appropriate action if and when it is warranted.”
The promotion, like Nicholson, deemed the word to be ‘insensitive’ rather than racist, and brushed the incident aside with a warning to the competitors involved. That decision is disappointing, especially when they are trying to grow their brand in South-East Asia with the new owners in talks about venturing into China in the near future. Their response appears to suggest that such remarks only become racist if they are said twice.
The UFC has been facing an integrity battle of late on many fronts. A number of fighters have tested positive for PEDs, including the debacle over Brock Lesnar and Jon Jones at UFC 200, not to mention the Diaz brothers repeatedly claiming that everyone in the sport is on steroids.
We had the recent bottle throwing incident at UFC 202, which followed on from the press conference brawl between Jones and Daniel Cormier last year. Michael Bisping, after winning his title against Luke Rockhold, recently used derogatory language also, a word offensive to the gay community on this occasion.
One would expect the UFC to take stronger action in all of these cases, but they generally seem to adopt a policy of down-playing and side-stepping such events, waiting for the next news ‘story’ to distract the media.
Of course, Conor McGregor posing with a gun earlier this week did not help matters, especially because he was imitating what looked like a drug lord, and this on the same day that Donald Trump gave a speech in Mexico condemning drug crime.
Gary LaCumbre, Pundit Arena