Jeremy Stephens' Arrest Fiasco Huge Misstep by UFC, Dana White
Rafael Suanes-US PRESSWIRE
News is still breaking regarding Jeremy Stephens' arrest. According to Dana White at the post-fight press conference, Stephens was hauled in on assault charges from a year-old case. Who the person is, confirmation on what condition they are in, their relation to Stephens and the circumstances regarding these allegations remain a mystery to all but those closest to the involved parties.
Stephens was listed as “held without bail” on the Hennepin County PD website, but White insisted Stephens' bout with Yves Edwards was still going to go down until the waning seconds of UFC on FX: Silva vs. Browne. At the post-fight press conference, White stated that he tried extremely hard to bail Stephens out of prison and jumped through a variety of hoops to try to ensure his fight still happened. For this, the UFC deserves harsh criticism.
Again, we do not know the exact circumstances that led to Stephens' arrest on violent charges, but they are ultimately irrelevant. The undeniable fact of the matter, right now, is that the UFC took extraordinary measures to put an alleged volatile felon into the cage. There is no way this can be spun to be something other than irresponsible and stupid.
The UFC, like any other sports league, has its share of unsavory characters. The NFL has Brandon Marshall and Michael Vick. MLB has Brett Myers and Julio Lugo. The NBA has had plenty of players that have been arrested for domestic violence, sexual assault, driving while intoxicated, aggravated assault, various gun charges and more.
That said, Zuffa has been historically proactive when it comes to punishing fighters arrested on serious charges (and not-so-serious charges, too). Brett Rogers, for example, was immediately bounced from Strikeforce after news broke that he was charged with assaulting his wife.
Was Dana White wrong in helping Jeremy Stephens?
Now, though, the UFC has chosen to live up to the reputation its naysayers have attached to it. The UFC, unlike any other sports organization in the world, has gone out of its way to accommodate a criminal's return to action.
Can you imagine the NFL doing this? Can you imagine the NFL bailing Michael Vick out of jail to ensure he could play the next Sunday? On top of that, can you imagine the NFL doing this for a relative no-namer?
Stephens is by no means a UFC star. He is sitting on a 7-7 record in the hyper-competitive lightweight division and is presently on a two-fight losing streak. All the same, the UFC bent its own rules by attempting to rush a fighter out of a police station and into a cage hours after his fight was scheduled to take place. That dubious courtesy was not extended to Nate Marquardt, who was ejected from the UFC after troubles with his totally legal, entirely non-violent TRT use.
This entire sequence of events raises serious questions about the UFC's standards, policies regarding fighters, and above all, savvy when it comes to public relations. This is a historically poor decision with absolutely, positively no payoff.
Again, no matter what way you want to cut this, the headline that will be run on plenty of news outlets will be that the UFC scrambled to put an alleged violent criminal into a cage fight hours after his arrest. There is no intelligent, reasonable way for Dana White to defend this, and there is absolutely no reason that the fight should have been allowed to go on (even though it ultimately did not).
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