Anderson Silva is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore.
“The guys don’t respect my story, don’t respect my legacy,” Silva told MMAFighting.com on Monday. “Everything don’t make sense. I don’t believe this. It’s [expletive] crazy.”
The former UFC middleweight champion, still considered by many the greatest mixed martial artist in history, wanted to fight on June’s UFC 212 card in his homeland of Brazil. The UFC couldn’t find him a suitable replacement after scheduled foe Kelvin Gastelum was pulled from the bout due to a potential USADA violation.
Silva had spent money on a training camp in Brazil and fans had spent money buying tickets to see him fight. So the longest-reigning champ in company history made headlines on Monday by unloading on the UFC, saying, among other things, that he was promised a superfight with former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre which never materialized.
“When I signed my last contract, Dana White and Lorenzo [Fertitta] say ‘OK, when Georges St-Pierre is back, you go and [have a] superfight, you and Georges St-Pierre,’” Silva said. “I don’t know what happened. Nothing happened. Georges St-Pierre is back to fight and back to fight for the belt. It’s terrible. It don’t make sense. I know it’s a [expletive] business, but I’m working hard for a long time.”
Silva is not the only UFC fighter airing out his complaints in public either. Just last week, lightweight Al Iaquinta lived up to his nickname of “Raging” by venting his frustrations. Iaquinta returned from a two-year absence at UFC Fight Night 108 with a first-round knockout of Diego Sanchez in Nashville — his fifth straight win and eighth in his past nine fights.
After he was passed up for a post-fight performance bonus, Iaquinta, who said he made $26,000 to show and another $26,000 to win the fight, went on a Twitter rant, hurling obscenities at the promotion. He followed up with a specific suggestion for UFC president Dana White.
“Dana White has done a lot for this sport, but he’s not gotten one injury from this sport,” Iaquinta said. “And for him to say, ‘The best part of UFC Brooklyn was the flight home’ — you’re on a private jet, bro. Shut the [expletive] up. … That’s some [expletive]. Shut your [expletive] mouth.”
Meanwhile Gegard Mousasi, previously known as one of the sport’s mildest-mannered fighters, turned into a real-life “South Park” character as he knocked off one fighter after another en route to his free-agency period.
“What is it, my nationality?” Mousasi said after defeating former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman at UFC 210. “Do you want me to dye my hair blonde? What the [expletive]? I am one of the best, I should get paid like one of the best.”
Fight hype is a cut-and-paste sort of business. If one fighter is able to get attention by behaving in a certain way, others are sure to follow. Consider the idea of the “money fight,” in which Conor McGregor was allowed to forge his own path and get filthy rich in the process, as he’s won two championships and defended neither. This has led to a situation in which Michael Bisping has been allowed to fight everyone except the top contenders for his middleweight belt, in pursuit of a big payday. Now it seems like every champion is angling for what they perceive to be the biggest money fight, regardless of whether the public wants to see the bout.
Likewise, venting your frustrations with your employer in public seems to be catching on as a trend, if the headlines garnered by Silva, Iaquinta and Mousasi are any indication. On one level, it’s a reaction to the UFC’s change in ownership. For better or worse, the company’s previous majority owners, the Fertitta brothers, treated the UFC like a family business and Lorenzo Fertitta in particular had a knack for pacifying fighters’ complaints before they went public.
Now they’re in the background as minority partners, and new majority owners WME-IMG have been almost entirely hands-off in public. Even the highly opinionated Dana White, who stayed on as UFC president, has stayed mum on Silva’s and Iaquinta’s beefs.
Fighters have rushed to fill the vacuum. But what’s the tipping point? If someone the stature of Silva speaks, people listen. But if things devolve into one fighter after another griping about their pay and their working conditions, the effect is going to be lessened, just like the idea of the “money fight” is likely to elicit groans when it comes from the wrong mouth.
Particularly when the fighters have proven, time and again, that they’ll do nothing to improve their conditions. The topic of fighter unions was never more in the forefront than it was last year, after the scope of the UFC’s $4 billion sale sunk in.
One planned fighters association even held an introductory press conference, featuring some of the sport’s heaviest hitters. The Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association held an event on Nov. 30 featuring Georges St-Pierre, Cain Velasquez, Donald Cerrone, Tim Kennedy and T.J. Dillashaw, making big noises about bringing change to the sport.
Since then, well, you may as well insert the sounds of chirping crickets. St-Pierre, who wielded the most potential sway, took care of No. 1 and returned to the UFC, with talk of the MMAAA rarely emanating from his lips. No one else has really been an evangelist for the cause either, nor has anyone else of note signed up, or at least they haven’t made it public if they have.
Don’t think UFC management hasn’t noticed this. Fighters don’t appear to be in any rush to wield their collective power, despite conditions never seeming more favorable. So the company might be content to just sit back and let them curse until their faces turn blue.
Silva means enough to the company that the UFC may very well placate him and give him a big fight. He’s 42, but he’s still a legend whose fights mean something. And if the likes of Silva, Iaquinta and Mousasi really wanted to make a difference, they would use their platform to help organize the fighters instead of simply venting. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen though.
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