Matt Mitrione was suspended today for comments made on the MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. According to MMA Fighting, Mitrione asked about Fallon Fox, a transgendered fighter, and responded:
“Because she’s not a he. He’s a he,” he said. “He’s chromosomally a man. He had a gender change, not a sex change. He’s still a man. He was a man for 31 years. Thirty-one years. That’s a couple years younger than I am. He’s a man. Six years of taking performance de-hancing drugs, you think is going to change all that? That’s ridiculous.”
“That is a lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak,” he continued. “And I mean that. Because you lied on your license to beat up women. That’s disgusting. You should be embarrassed yourself. And the fact that Florida licensed him because California licensed him or whoever the hell did it, it’s an embarrassment to us as fighters, as a sport, and we all should protest that. The woman that’s fighting him, props to you. I hope you beat his ass, and I hope he gets blackballed and never fights again, because that’s disgusting and I’m appalled by that.”
There are a few things to unpack here. First, Mitrione chose his words very poorly. As a professional fighter bound to the UFC’s personal conduct policy, he has to know that the UFC is taking a closer look at what fighters do and say. Other professional athletes like football players and basketball players are bound to similar conduct policies.
On the other hand, he didn’t call Fallon Fox “sociopathic” because of her sex change. He called her “sociopathic” because he believes that she deliberately hid the fact that she was transgendered in order to beat up women. And honestly, I can’t disagree with that sentiment all that much. “Sociopathic” is harsh and I don’t think Fox is a “freak.” However, there is something very wrong with the fact that Fox did not reveal she had previously been a man to athletic commissions in the past. In a strange, backwards way, Mitrione was actually trying to defend women.
Furthermore, it is an opinion. Right or wrong, it’s what he thinks. Did he come off like an idiot? Yes. I don’t agree with his opinion and I think he used some hateful language. But he is allowed to think that way. He is allowed to believe she is a “sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak.” I am sick and tired of the politically-correct police trying to half-assedly thought-police their way into the lives of public figures. He worded his thoughts in a terribly unprofessional way and he deserves to be punished for that action, but not for the thought itself. Had he worded it better, he might not have been suspended, but the sentiment would be the same. He would still think that Fox is “sociopathic” and “disgusting.” He should still be suspended. However, he shouldn’t be forced to make an apology that we all know is untrue.
If the UFC is going to show that they are serious about their new conduct policy they better come down hard on Mitrione. Otherwise, they should lose the act and stop trying to pretend like they care about professionalism. Hell, Dana White is the president of the UFC and he has had his own issues with homophobic remarks in the past. Joe Rogan espoused a very similar position to Mitrione on his podcast, albeit in a much less brash way. If he isn’t suspended for a significant length of time, they shouldn’t even bother. It’s not like this will reflect poorly on the sport; in all likelihood, the mainstream media will never know this incident ever happened.
If he is given a suspension is 3-4 months, it really is not much more than a charade. He would have taken that amount of time between fights anyway so it wouldn’t be a suspension that would affect him in any meaningful way
The NFL also dealt with a similar situation prior to the Super Bowl when Chris Culliver of the San Francisco 49ers made derogatory comments against gays. That situation was even more serious because it occurred during media week of the Super Bowl, which is possibly the most heavily-covered sporting event in the world; and, Culliver plays in San Francisco, which has one of the highest populations of gays per capita of any city in the United States. He wasn’t suspended at all.
It is clear that Mitrione said some dumb things on the MMA Hour. He acted unprofessionally and should be punished harshly for acting like a buffoon. There shouldn’t be any middle ground in this case. The UFC should either come down hard on him or they should do what the NFL did: nothing.