Matt Mitrione Suspension Reveals Importance of UFC Code of Conduct

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Matt Mitrione Suspension Reveals Importance of UFC Code of Conduct

When UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione went on a rant against transgender mixed martial artist Fallon Fox on a recent edition of The MMA Hour, the UFC reacted swiftly.

The promotion released the following statement to B/R MMA hours after Mitrione had appeared on the show:

The UFC was appalled by the transphobic comments made by heavyweight Matt Mitrione today in an interview on the MMA Hour. The organization finds Mr. Mitrione’s comments offensive and wholly unacceptable and—as a direct result of this significant breach of the UFC’s code of conduct—Mr. Mitrione’s UFC contract has been suspended and the incident is being investigated.

After 17 days, the suspension was lifted and Mitrione was booked to face Brendan Schaub on the July 27 UFC event on Fox 8 Fight Card.  The short suspension was an immediate and sometimes heated topic of conversation among MMA fans. 

When questioned about the short suspension, UFC president Dana White had the following to say, (via MMAJunkie), “The suspension meant we're going to look into this thing and talk to him.”  

White went on to state that Mitrione was fined for his comments. While White would not reveal the amount of money Mitrione would forfeit, he did say it was enough to inspire the fighter to call him several times about the penalty.

The incident, one of the first suspensions to come since the release of the UFC’s official code of conduct, does raise some questions. The main question is how effective are suspensions in a sport where the athletes are paid only when they fight. 

To have any real teeth, a UFC suspension would need to be at least six months. That length of time would cause a fighter to miss at least one fight, considering most fighters compete no more than three times per year.

Essentially, a suspension of three or fourth months is a suspension in word only, as that’s the normal amount of time a fighter usually has off between appearances in the Octagon.

When the UFC first announced the coming code of conduct, Bleacher Report spoke to UFC Executive Vice President Lawrence Epstein about the process. Epstein told B/R, “For example, if you make a discriminatory comment about a certain community, you would be required to provide some community service to that community. In our view, that’s going to turn into a benefit. It’s easy to criticize people you don’t know, but once you get to know somebody, once you get to experience what they’re all about, it sort of changes you as a person in a way that money or fines could never do.”

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The process that Epstein outlined makes a great deal of sense because it forces the fighter to face the group they have disparaged and see them as people, as well as get some much needed education.

Mitrione did apologize for his comments and did set the table for community service, telling MMAJunkie, “I am embarrassed I chose to express myself in such a fashion and am looking forward to living up to this apology through my future actions, words and conduct."

The UFC did say that they had been in touch with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) on how Mitrione could repair his relationship with the community.

The reason suspensions are essentially toothless for UFC fighters is detailed above, and while I will acknowledge that writing a check will hurt a fighter, that pain is temporary. That leaves us with community service for the offending party, more specifically education.

Mitrione needs to work with the group he degraded. He needs to meet these individuals face to face and educate himself, and maybe, just maybe he’ll learn something. Maybe Mitrione, who more than lived up to his “Meathead” nickname in making statements about Fallon Fox, will learn that people have the right to live as they chose without someone judging them based on ignorance.

Hopefully the suspension, the fine and the UFC’s talk with GLAAD are just the first chapters of this story.

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