MMA's 10 Biggest Turkeys of 2013
I love Thanksgiving. Who in this modern workaday world of ours doesn't love Thanksgiving? There's the turkey and the football and the family members and the relaxing...it's a terrific grouping of pleasurable activities. Everyone (well, unless you work at Wal-Mart) can participate, and everyone can enjoy it.
But like everything else, there are pros, and there are cons. The biggest con of Thanksgiving is its predictability. Its blandness, if I may be so bold. For example, turkey is great as, like, a symbol. But as a food item, it kinda sucks. Whenever you can use tofu to create a mock version of the food item and that version is met with comments like, "That's really authentic!" you might be dealing with a bland food item.
So with all this in mind, I thought I'd do what I could to splash a few shots of hot sauce on the proceedings.
Here's the concept: We all talk a lot on Thanksgiving about what we're thankful for. But what about those things we're not so thankful for? All the people and things who didn't exactly bring their "A" games over the course of the year? Those are the people and things I want to highlight.
And because I write about MMA, I thought I would draw up a list of the top "turkeys," or goofballs/failures/etc., of the year.
This is a completely new idea conceived entirely by me. We may be on to something big here, people. Very big.
And because it's possible this could become an annual thing, I'm going to begin a running lifetime achievement list. An MMA Turkey Hall of Fame, if you will.
So I'll start with the top 10 of this year, slowly building to the culminating moment when we induct our charter class of turkey immortals. Just one more thing to be thankful for. And you are so, so welcome, you guys.
10. Matt Riddle
Thanksgiving is still a few days away as of publishing time, but here's one turkey that's already "in the pot," if you take my meaning.
A second positive marijuana test earned Riddle his UFC release back in February. On his way out, Riddle, a licensed medical marijuana patient in the state of Nevada, garnered some laughs and even a smattering of applause with a few choice shots at his ex-employer.
A soft landing in Bellator, and Riddle appeared relatively re-tracked. But then he abruptly pulled out of his debut fight in September. Then, he retired from MMA. Then, less than a month later, he unretired from MMA.
Then, earlier this month, with his rescheduled Bellator debut fast approaching (and in his home state no less), he abruptly pulled out again.
Bellator had had enough. And when Bellator has had enough, you know you done messed up.
Riddle, a welterweight who would be on at least a four-fight win streak in the UFC right now if not for the failed drug tests, is a good fighter when he's inclined to actually do it, and he's a funny and likable personality to boot.
But whatever goodwill he had amassed with anyone in MMA is now squandered thanks to all this chicanery, which I believe is a traditional Thanksgiving side dish. See how it all comes around?
9. Nick Diaz
Nick Diaz didn't let his loss to Georges St-Pierre get him down.
In fact, despite the pretty convincing nature of the unanimous decision, Diaz perceived that his performance had actually moved him up the ladder.
At least, that's what one could have inferred in light of Diaz's demand in the moment that he either get a rematch with GSP or a big fight with then-middleweight titlist Anderson Silva.
Oh, and he also admitted on television that he doesn't pay taxes. That seems like something a turkey would do. They probably don't even know what the hell taxes are. They're turkeys!
8. Boost Mobile
Tyrone Spong had just finished winning his second professional MMA fight, a domination of Angel DeAnda at World Series of Fighting 4.
Imagine the combat prodigy's unbridled joy, then, when WSOF officials presented him with a phone from sponsor Boost Mobile—still in the box, no less! No contract required!
WSOF and their sponsor get sprinkled with a handful of ground-up neck wattle here for thinking that prize would impress Spong, get viewers talking (no pun intended), and establish the promotion as an elite organization that takes care of fighters.
I mean, Boost Mobile is surely a fine company, and WSOF is a fine young promotion. But they could have found a different way to do that. The UFC gives out motorcycles, for god's sake. Come on.
Interested in reliving the magic that is Tyrone Spong barely suppressing a giggle as he receives the spoils of his hard work? Check out the GIF here (via MiddleEasy.com).
7. Kristina Sprague
This past winter, Kristina Sprague had an exciting new job opportunity. And then, things went awry.
At first, it was smooth sailing for the newest round card girl for the New England Fights promotion. Then, a man was knocked out. But so focused on the task at hand was Sprague that she dutifully continued in her paces, even past the fallen fighter and the team of people helping him regain his faculties. D'oh!
Sprague went on to make an appearance on The MMA Hour broadcast, where she stood in front of the firing line of questions from host Ariel Helwani. And though she was brave to face the music, it didn't go well. Didn't go well at all.
6. Ronda Rousey
Who else this year performed a more dramatic heel turn than Ms. Ronda Rousey?
Coming into her coaching stint opposite archrival Miesha Tate on the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter (the finale takes place this Saturday), Rousey was the golden girl and undisputed face and champion of MMA.
She is still solidly ensconced in the latter two categories, but that crown of hers is a little tarnished these days after repeated displays of anger, obnoxiousness and out-and-out strangeness during the reality show.
Most recently, she raised eyebrows when, after defeating Tate in a coaches' challenge, Rousey upheld the time-honored martial arts tradition of cursing at and flipping off one's vanquished enemy. That's what it's all about, after all.
Simmer down, Ronda. Simmer down now.
5. Steve Mazzagatti
Who knows? If Josh Burkman hadn't taken it upon himself to release his choke on Jon Fitch at World Series of Fighting 3 in June, we might still be waiting for the thing to stop.
I exaggerate a bit, of course. But Mazzagatti's failure to act as one of the fighters he was charged with safeguarding lay prone and unconscious even as the fight continued was, for my money, the most egregious referee error of the year in MMA.
It wasn't the only one, and Mazzagatti isn't the only one at fault here. But when you combine ineffectiveness (by his own admission, even) with longevity in MMA, you get Mazzagatti. Gobble gobble.
4. Matt Mitrione
Maybe some good came of Matt Mitrione's suspension. After calling transgendered fighter Fallon Fox a "disgusting freak," among other things, the UFC stepped in and shut down the heavyweight for two weeks.
But in the silver linings department, it appears maybe Mitrione is on a path of self-improvement. Maybe. If so, that's a good thing.
Now if he could just improve his ground game, amiright?
3. Anthony Gutierrez
Move over, Cody Bollinger. Move over, Jason Thacker. Move over, guy who walked away from chance at UFC contract because girlfriend accused him of infidelity. Because we have a new champion when it comes to turkeys on The Ultimate Fighter.
In case you were one of the lucky ones who missed it, let me bring you up to speed. Anthony Gutierrez, competing on TUF 18, won his preliminary fight by forfeit after scheduled opponent Bollinger was pitifully unable to make weight for their bout.
Dana White, ears steaming, summarily booted a humiliated Bollinger off the show, right in front of every coach, contestant and camera.
Fast-forward now to the semifinals, where we are surely all a wiser bunch of individuals, right? Wrong. Here, Gutierrez was set to tangle with Davey Grant. At the beginning of the episode, Guiterrez was seen munching sandwiches (extra mayonnaise!) and observing that his teammates were jealous of his ability to eat whatever he wanted and still make weight.
Gutierrez then missed weight by several pounds. I wish I was making this up.
He had a little bit of time to burn the remaining weight, with his coaches gently encouraging, then prodding, then virtually forcing, then in the end, openly deriding him as he gave up on his effort and, in essence, his pro fight career.
A tearful Gutierrez exited through the same door of shame as did Bollinger—mind you, the very opponent Gutierrez defeated by forfeit because of a failed weight cut—just a few weeks before.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well...you gotta make weight, dude. Easily the most amateur performance I've seen on the show. And that's saying something, given that most of the fighters on the show are amateurs.
2. Rousimar Palhares
To me, Rousimar Palhares doesn't come off as a bad guy. But he does come off as a turkey.
After holding a dangerous heel hook submission too long—again—and injuring his opponent—again—Palhares fell victim to a different kind of hook when the UFC yanked him out of the promotion and promised never to sign him again.
The news came Monday from John Morgan and Dann Stupp of MMA Junkie that Palhares has signed with World Series of Fighting. We'll see how that goes.
1. Maiquel Falcao
Maiquel Falcao was just chillin' at a gas station in Brazil when some woman started mouthing off. So he slapped her.
What? Oh, that was wrong? News to Falcao, apparently, whose actions set off a brawl that landed one of his teammates in the ICU. It also landed Falcao on the short list of fighters Bellator felt compelled to release because of out-of-the-cage actions.
It also wasn't Falcao's first transgression, or his first release from a major MMA promotion because of behavioral problems, or assault on a woman. Sheesh.
If Falcao's career wasn't deader than a turkey on Thanksgiving (at least in the major Western Hemisphere promotions, where things like assaulting women are viewed as problems), he might make the cut for the Hall of Fame.
Speaking of which, it's time for the "pièce de résistance." Let us now unveil the charter class of the MMA Turkey Hall of Fame...
Hall of Fame Inductee 1: Jason "Mayhem" Miller
He's young. He's brash. He's a jerk. He's eight kinds of crazy. He runs amok on social media. He runs amok in the real world.
Jason "Mayhem" Miller is really just one big, walking pile of amok. Because I want to get this slideshow done before Black Friday, I won't list out all his qualifications, though you can read them here.
And with that, I welcome you to the Turkey Hall of Fame, Mayhem. Here, try on the feathered jacket. Good fit? Great. Now give it back. I only have one of these.
Hall of Fame Inductee 2: "Face the Pain"
TIME TO END THIS SUFFERING! I NEED A MINUTE TO MYSELF!
I'm glad the UFC is still keeping these nu-metal bands afloat. Someone has to. Most sane people walked away from this type of music 10 years ago. But not the UFC. Loyalty, bro. Loyalty.
So why does this song make the Turkey Hall of Fame, then? Because every time I try to convince an outsider to come in and watch the fights, that hey, it's really not that bad, they then have to sit there and listen to "Face the Pain." It doesn't exactly speak to the highest common denominator.
Put another way, we know the sport is violent. We know it's aggressive. We know it's bloody. We don't need a stupid shouting song to remind us that it's appealing to blockheads.
The sport sells itself to blockheads. Maybe introduce yourself another way, so other people outside your key demographic feel like maybe the sport has something to offer them, too.
Hall of Fame Inductee 3: War Machine
War Machine is the Michael Jordan of MMA turkeys.
Not because of the prison or crazy past, which is all very well-worn ground. It's because he continues to make the same mistakes, on some level, over and over.
Not that he's constantly getting arrested anymore (whee!), but he is constantly picking fights of various kinds. With fans, with media, and with anyone else who has the temerity to disagree with him or live their lives outside of his own boundaries of acceptable behavior, which, if the legal system is to be believed, are not always so acceptable.
It all bubbled over in June when he made what he thought was a funny joke about rape on Twitter, then doubled down on his mistake by haranguing the PC Thought Police for the ensuing hubbub. Because they're the real problem, bro. What kind of country is this when we can't even joke about rape anymore?
Machine finally gave in and grudgingly offered an apology, probably at the behest of one or more of his superiors. But it's a window into a guy who, while not the frothing insensate demon some make him out to be, certainly doesn't seem all that interested in mending the mindsets that keep getting him, and those around him, in trouble.
Hall of Fame Inductee 4: Dana White, Hothead Version
Dana White, the MMA advocate and corporate leader, has done plenty of good for the sport. Dana White, the regular guy, seems by all accounts a decent and intelligent person, capable of charity, reasonable thought and even laughter.
Dana White the hothead is another story.
That's the guy who rears up whenever there's a perception that someone has done wrong by White or the UFC. As discussed in this recent Bleacher Report MMA roundtable, White is the first and last public face of the company, and that's not always a good thing when a lot of things that come out of that face more closely resemble boiling hot magma than words.
Look at how he reacts to things when he is upset, including recently his rant against the decision in the main event at UFC 167.
Even more recently, White flashed his typical sensitivity to public criticism when he vehemently responded to a post published on the popular Underground Forum on MixedMartialArts.com calling for White to retire (and, might I add, in so doing kind of proved the poster's point).
It seems that in Hothead Dana Land, everyone's either a stand-up guy or a total joke of a bleeping blapping moron. That's no surprise to anyone who has seen Hothead Dana in action lo these many years. And maybe that's the problem.
Hall of Fame Inductee 5: Tito Ortiz
The charter member of the charter class. Take a bow, Tito Ortiz.
Shortly after unretiring from MMA and signing with Bellator this summer, Ortiz compared the UFC's business practices with slavery, despite the fact that he reportedly earned at least $4 million during his time with the promotion, and despite the fact that slavery really shouldn't be likened to anything except different versions of itself.
Then, when it was expected by many observers that fellow Bellator signee Quinton Jackson would face boxer Roy Jones Jr. in a Bellator pay-per-view, surprise! Ortiz, not Jones, was announced as the opponent. Crickets everywhere went wild.
The very same crickets were on hand for Ortiz's surprise debut cameo for the TNA pro wrestling promotion. Busy crickets!
Then, a week before it was all set to go down, Ortiz pulled out of the fight with an injury, forcing the event off of pay-per-view and onto free TV (which actually worked out pretty well for us fans, but still). And it wasn't exactly the first time Ortiz has caught the injury bug. He's even friendlier with the injury bug than he is with the crickets.
Ortiz is a UFC champion, an MMA pioneer and an honest-to-goodness Hall of Famer, as he should be. But is there anyone else in professional sports whose act is more tired than that of Tito Ortiz? There have to be other options for him that don't involve him being in front of a camera or microphone more than is absolutely necessary. Maybe Louis Rich needs a new agent?
Scott Harris is a writer for Bleacher Report MMA. Find him on Twitter if you so desire. His feed's pretty boring, though.