Yakkin' About Mixed Martial Arts: On The Lam with Jeremy Stephens

Has UFC finally out UFC'd itself?
TAGS: Felony
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Tim Marchman:  So we are late to this story, which took place several fight game news cycles ago, but I think the Jeremy Stephens thing was the most UFC-like thing to ever happen. 

Tomas Rios:  In the sense that it was poorly handled despite having an obvious solution with a well established history of working just fine? Sure.

Tim Marchman:  Former WWE champion Dave Bautista had a possibly rigged fight against a Maytag repairman this weekend and that didn’t even register on the scale of absurdity next to this.

Tomas Rios:  You should tell the people what happened because if I do, well, I'm not sure a long defeated sigh in text form will provide the proper exposition. But still: sigh.

Tim Marchman:  This would really be best done as Drunk History.

Tomas Rios:  I don't think there's enough beer, dude.

Tim Marchman:  So okay, on Friday morning, UFC scrub Jeremy Stephens, who has a 7-7 record in the Octagon, is basically just a dude who makes cards because the company runs three times as many shows as it should and was previously best known for calling Floyd Mayweather a nigger, was arrested.

Tomas Rios:  To be fair, Stephens called Mayweather a "nigga" which of course changes everything. He also called him a "faggot", but that's par for the course with the UFC. Why do we like this stuff again?

Tim Marchman:  The MMA press passed on word and several writers suggested that since the guy was in jail in Minneapolis because he was apparently on the lam from cops in Iowa, he was unlikely to fight. Dana White immediately took to the twitters and proclaimed that no, Jeremy Stephens would in fact be fighting and that anyone who said differently was not to be listened to. He then—and I am not making this up!—spent the entire day negotiating with the Hennepin Country sheriffs, at one point apparently suggesting that they should take this man from jail to the arena under armed guard so that he could take part in a violent cage fight, before returning him to jail afterwards.

Tomas Rios:  I will vouch for the fact that none of this is made up. Unfortunately.

Tim Marchman: When this offer was refused he suggested that they were out to either get Stephens or bust Dana White's balls, or both.

Tomas Rios:  The best/worst part of this is that White spent his whole day trying to make a preliminary fight happen. The preliminary card on Fuel TV drew 44,000 viewers. In other words, the president of a billion dollar business spent his day using whatever capital he had to ensure a fight no one cared about would happen.

Tim Marchman:  White was so convinced that he would be able to make this deal that he ranted on television about how this fight would be happening on the main card, suggesting that he wanted the audience watching UFC on FX to listen as his announcers explained that this brave young man had just been brought from the lockup directly to the arena to fight and would be going straight back, win lose or draw—a truly Spielbergian tale of the triumph of the human spirit.

Tomas Rios:  Fun fact: I was watching the fights with a friend who cares not for sports. When White came on to discuss Stephens' situation with play-by-play man Jon Anik, she immediately said "Why is this guy yelling at us?" Which is by far the single most important question every UFC fan should ask themselves. Indeed, why is this guy yelling at us? And why do any of us listen to a word he yells?

Tim Marchman:  Another fun fact: In one of his rants about this, White blamed the fuzz for keeping Stephens from putting food on his family's table by not allowing him to leave jail under armed guard to go participate in a meaningless cage fight. Which leaves open the question of why White wouldn't just pay him his purse, given that White has doubtless dropped restaurant bills larger than said purse.

Tomas Rios:  Because White won't let these fucking police departments get away with their bullshit safety-first gameplans, bro. They're ruining the sport and fucking up his business. This is a fight, not a legal matter to be resolved by the courts. You can't sit around and wait for decisions formed by legal experts and juries. You gotta go in there and fucking fight. And when that fails, you gotta accuse the police department detaining your employee of acting in an unethical if not outright illegal manner too. This is a fucking fight, bro.

Tim Marchman:  It should be noted that while it's not exactly clear what Stephens is alleged to have done, it was serious enough that his bail has been set at $100,000, and the persistent rumors about what he did have involved the kind of stuff that would get you extradited from one state to another and get your bail set at six figures.

Tomas Rios:  It should also be noted that the UFC keeps a veritable army of lawyers on retainer. Literally any of them would have told White that there is no way he was going to spring anyone from prison who had been arrested on a Friday for an outstanding felony warrant. If you get arrested on a Friday for anything more than public intoxication, enjoy your weekend stay, dude. I thought everyone knew this.

Tim Marchman:  That's the kind of negative thinking that Dana White doesn't listen to. Everybody was fucking telling him that he couldn't fucking build this fucking thing, you know, all these fucking guys on the fucking Internet. And he fucking built this thing up to a fucking billion dollar fucking business, you know? Speaking of the internet, while dealing with this farrago of conspiracy, Dana White took time out to post to the Underground about the situation. This is like David Stern posting at 4Chan.

Tomas Rios: It's good you brought up David Stern because Dana White is definitely the unrestrained id of every current sports commissioner. Roger Goodell is pretty thugged out, but even he has to pay lip service to the NFL's institutional arcana. Dana gets to play in a sandlot of his own creation, which is on some fucked-up auteur theory shit in that the UFC is definitely his personal creative vision. Namely: a nightmare-scape soundtracked by Limp Bizkit and the low hum of self-imposed entropy. (Crosses "casual auteur theory reference" from Yakkin' scavenger hunt.)

Tim Marchman:  The thing that can be said for Dana is that his instinctive reaction is pro-athlete rather than pro-fuzz. I mean, it is stupid and appalling, but on the lizard brain level he is anti-authority and I dig that. That said, what is the end game with having a dude marched from his jail cell into a televised cage fight? Do you think Dana gave a minute's thought to how this would play in a 90 second TV story on why UFC is illegal in New York.

Tomas Rios:  This is the same dude who did all the things we've been saying he did. Back when the UFC was in financial triage, that brand of single-minded shortsightedness served Dana well, because you have to be willing to chop off a leg if it means saving the heart. But now? We're talking about a relatively stable business that has to figure out how to grow without saturating its existing fanbase. That's an awfully nuanced business plan for a dude with no actual business education beyond spending his childhood friends' money and, much more importantly, no willingness to learn.

Tim Marchman:  I don't know. "Providing a living metaphor for the worst caricature of the sport I am in charge of by trying to get a man accused of a felony out of jail and directly into a televised fight" seems like a viable business plan. We should talk fans. I am leery of taking twitterers and MMA site comment writers as representative of anything but it definitely seemed there was a broad movement toward "What's the big deal bro?" even as synapse-deprived fight writers were pretty much straight out saying, "Stephens not getting out of jail and onto the teevee was the definition of a dodged bullet and also has Dana's brain possibly been eaten by space aliens?"

Tomas Rios:  Again, the problem is volume. I saw plenty of fans offer perfectly reasonable comments on Dana's latest folly. The problem is idiocy tends to be much louder and far more determined. There's also the thing I've been saying for too long: Dana screams narcissistic personality disorder and has the cult of personality to match. That's the ill 1-2 and not one that goes away overnight. I had one Twitter humanoid seriously argue that .500 record having, preliminary card barnacle Stephens got clipped because he's a "high-profile arrest" and police departments love a high-profile arrest since it's not like those cause huge headaches. Let me repeat that, a presumably non-brainwashed person took Dana White's casual conspiracy theorizing and slathered it in Alex Jones steez.

Tim Marchman:  I couldn't tell you anything about Jeremy Stephens outside of his arrest and his Floyd Mayweather related antics and I'm the kind of fight fan who has opinions on how real Dave Bautista's stand up defense looked in his fight against the guy who installed an outlet that could handle my new dryer's voltage. I guarantee there is not a single law enforcement officer in the Twin Cities who gives one fuck about this guy leave alone timing his arrest to undermine a D-level UFC show. (Noted: The strangest thing about MMA may be the existence of a part of the fanbase that actively defends the commissioner. There is no analogue for this in baseball, football, basketball, soccer, boxing, golf, tennis, cycling or high-level bocce ball.)

Tomas Rios:  Even if you believe something untrue, the consequences of that belief are real. In other words, there is no difference and there isn't a solution save for Dana going away and the sudden emergence of a non-beholden-to-the-UFC media. Good fucking luck on both fronts.


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TAGS: Felony

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This, naturally, is essential and great. My only quibble is that I'd suggest that on the lizard-brain level, Dana is anti-authority that isn't his. Which may be to say no more than the easiest place to find big-time control freaks is always your closest libertarian enclave.