What, exactly, does an MMA fighter have to do to receive a lifetime ban?
It's tough to say. There's precedent for it, but the intricacies of the legal system, athletic commissions and fight promotion game make the action unusual.
As it stands, Cody East is an interesting test case. If any active fighter has an airtight and unambiguous case for such a move, it's that guy.
The 28-year-old East (12-3), who competed in the UFC as recently as October, added to his decade-long history of charges related to abusing women and children when police arrested him in December. Among his alleged transgressions: kneeing his girlfriend in the head, dragging her around by the hair and threatening to kill her 10-year-old son, according to new details that emerged Tuesday via a police report obtained by Marc Raimondi of MMA Fighting.
East faces three felony counts: aggravated battery against a household member (great bodily harm), aggravated assault against a household member and false imprisonment. He was released on $30,000 bond.
In 2008 East was sentenced to three years in prison on child abuse charges. He also was arrested in separate domestic violence incidents in 2006 and 2010, though prosecutors did not move forward in either case.
As fans know, sometimes this sort of thing doesn't matter when the rubber of morality hits the road of MMA reality.
Considered a top prospect in the talent-thin heavyweight division, the UFC signed East in February after UFC president Dana White caught a smaller-circuit East win as White filmed his reality show. The UFC went ahead with this despite being fully aware of his domestic violence history. This fall, after he lost two straight UFC bouts, the brain trust decided the juice was no longer worth the squeeze and released him.
It wasn't the first time a major MMA promotion signed or stuck with a fighter in spite—or even because—of a troubling history of abuse. In 2015, HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel reported that the rate of domestic violence among MMA fighters was twice that of the general population.
MMA is an outlier in the violence it requires of its professionals. But it's more typical of other sports in the way it tends to overlook these considerations if talent and marketability are equation constants. For example, light heavyweight Anthony Johnson and heavyweight Travis Browne are both on the UFC roster right now despite past allegations of domestic abuse.
Things were even more egregious for a time in the Bellator MMA promotion. Under the leadership of previous president Bjorn Rebney, Bellator booked a fight for heavyweight Brett Rogers even though Rogers had recently served jail time in connection to charges he beat his wife. The promotion also signed Dan McGuane despite a conviction related to his stomping a teenager to death in a parking lot.
Bellator's coup d'etat may have come in 2012, when the organization booked a bout for a fighter legally named War Machine when he was essentially fresh out of prison. They even built an ad campaign around it, which came to be known by its tagline: "fueled by hate."
As most fans now know, War Machine is in prison awaiting trial on attempted murder charges related to the savage beating of his then-girlfriend.
To be fair, there is some history of fighters being banned, either in reality or in essence. Rousimar Palhares was exiled from the UFC and World Series of Fighting for holding dangerous submission moves after an opponent tapped. The UFC released Thiago Silva following a dramatic incident involving Silva and his wife. (WSOF later scooped him up but hasn't booked him in a long time.)
Given this latest in a string of incidents, MMA organizations should take the same steps and ban East from competing under their banners.
Most athletic commissions will not license a fighter to compete if he or she has such line items on his or her resume. But that process is not fail-safe.
Even in cases where it is (and that's probably most cases), promotions can go a step further by taking a stand against the abuse of women and children by making it known they won't allow East or those like him to represent their brand.
If East fights again for a legitimate promotion, it might be hard for them to answer the question: If this is not enough, what, exactly, does it take?
Scott Harris writes about MMA for Bleacher Report. For more, follow Scott on Twitter.