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Union Jerk: Why Michael Bisping’s Actions Cannot Go Unpunished

In Europe a count is a nobleman and the title refers to a specific rank within the hierarchy of royalty. A count, representing the crown, should aspire to carry himself with dignity, class, and nobility. Based on even the loosest definition of the term it should now be plainly apparent that “The Count” is not an appropriate nickname for a fighter like Michael Bisping. His actions at UFC 127 are a black eye on what was otherwise an entertaining card, and the time has come for him to be held accountable for what he’s done.

It started at the weigh-ins where Bisping and opponent Jorge Rivera got into a heated face-off and had to be separated. While the camera rolled to film the event for Dana White’s video blog Bisping dropped an infamous homophobic slur towards Rivera. This word may not have the same social impact as some other vilified terms and phrases, but in the year 2011 it is not an acceptable term to use in a public setting. Of this there can be no argument. The UFC’s production team should have bleeped the word on the video blog, but more importantly Bisping shouldn’t be using it when he’s publicly representing the UFC (or at all, really).

Then we come to the fight itself. After the staredown at the weigh-ins it was clear that emotions would be running high. Regardless of that fact Bisping cannot claim that his illegal knee to Rivera in the first round was unintentional. Bisping is a veteran of more than 20 professional fights, and he has been fighting in the UFC for almost five years. He has never come close to delivering a foul like the one he gave Rivera on Saturday. He claimed in the post-fight press conference that he simply pulled the trigger too early on the knee, but that’s a laughable claim as well considering the fact that Rivera wasn’t even making an effort to get back to his feet. The fight should have been stopped right then and Bisping should have a DQ loss on his record.

Inexplicably the fight was allowed to continue and Bisping eventually “triumphed” with a TKO win in the second round. After getting the win most fighters would be gracious in victory and then proceed to make amends with their opponent for whatever bad blood may have been spilled. Instead Bisping spat at Rivera’s corner before getting in Jorge’s face to demand an apology. I don’t care if Bisping claims he was just trying to spit at the ground in front of Rivera’s corner men. It’s the complete opposite of good sportsmanship and it’s not the sort of thing the UFC should tolerate.

Can you imagine what the NFL would have done if, after winning Super Bowl XLV, Aaron Rodgers had run over to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ bench and spat on the ground in front of them? Rodgers would have probably been fined, possibly suspended next season, and the sports media would have had a field day. White is lucky that Mixed Martial Arts isn’t a bigger sport than it is right now because if that was the case then he’d see one of his homegrown stars dragged through the mud on cable sports networks and talk radio airwaves all over the world.

Some are already trying to claim that Rivera has some responsibility for this whole mess as well. These people want to point a finger at Rivera for the ethnic stereotypes he negatively portrayed in his YouTube videos while claiming that it’s somehow the same as what Bisping did this weekend, but there’s a pretty big difference there. Rivera’s videos may have been in poor taste but the only one that’s represented poorly there is Rivera himself. Bisping’s homophobic slur was on Dana White’s video blog which is posted to the UFC’s YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. His actions during the fight itself were obviously seen by millions of fans around the world. Everything Bisping did wrong was done while he was on the UFC’s dime, and as a representative of the company he failed miserably.

White and the UFC need to start holding their fighters accountable for their actions in the octagon. If a fighter is exhibiting behavior that casts the company in an unfavorable light then the company should punish that fighter. Bisping should be fined a portion of his purse and then either suspended or moved down the card for his next fight. His actions were inexcusable, despite his best efforts to make excuses for them, and the UFC needs to make sure that the rest of their roster knows what kind of behavior is expected of them. The best way to do that is to make an example out of Bisping, and I for one hope that that’s exactly what the UFC brass chooses to do.


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