Just like in other sports, when mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters run afoul of public opinion, it taints their legacy. Whether it's allegations of improper performance enhancing drug use or legal problems, when the media gets a hold of the story the fighter's image can be destroyed. Here are situations where MMA fighters have had their legacy severely tainted by scandal, some dragging the reputation of mixed martial arts fighting through the mud with them.
Not So Phenomenal After All
When Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), are part of the scandal, it can affect the mixed martial arts world on a level beyond just the accused. PEDs have been a problem throughout multiple sports because of the massive benefits and advantages it can give athletes. With PEDs and steroids giving extra strength, drive, and power, many believe that PEDs only taint the sport when they are a factor. In 2006, the highly acclaimed assent to the top of the MMA world rankings by Brazilian Vitor Belfort seemed phenomenal. Belfort powered his way to being the youngest UFC champion of all-time.
This phenomenal display of power and strength was something that no one had ever witnessed before. In some circles, Belfort was establishing himself as the most dominant fighter ever, tagged with the nickname - The Phenom. His assent to the MMA throne was quickly exposed with a 2006 drug scandal he tested positive for Hydroxytestosterone.
Possibly the worst part of the whole scandal wasn't necessarily the accusation itself, but his feeble attempt to blame someone, or something else. Belfort tried to cast doubt over the whole situation by saying it was a mistaken reading because of an over-the-counter supplement. If one scandal wasn't enough, Belfort then accused his own South American doctor of overdosing him with testosterone in 2014.
There have been other PED scandals in the MMA world, a scourge that constantly rears its ugly head. Nick Diaz was given a 5-year death penalty for smoking weed; paltry compared the likes of Stephan Bonnar, Cung Le, Anderson Silva and the Female Cyborg a Christiane Santos, who all tainted the image of the sport by using PEDs; cheating to win. However, Belfort's skyrocketing climb to MMA prominence, but continually redirecting the blame, gave the sport an extra big black eye, and labeled everything he accomplishes as suspect to say the least.
Pick on Someone Your Own Size
Other than cheating to win, the other single fastest way to tarnish an image in the world of mixed martial arts fighting is to beat down a defenseless foe. MMA fighters are some of the most dangerous people in the world in hand-to-hand combat.
When a report of a human being, so physically ominous inflicts violence on another person who has little chance to defend themselves, it really places a dark cloud of MMA fighting. Possibly one of the most vicious acts of violence ever to hit the world of sports was the assault trial of the War Machine.
Jon Koppenhaver was brought to trial for his 2014 beating of his porn star girlfriend. When the specifics of the crime began to surface during court testimony, it was alleged that Koppenhaver didn't only assault his victim, but kept beating her for nearly 2 hours.
The case involving Koppenhaver carried multiple charges, including potential life in prison for attempted murder. In March, he was convicted of 29 out of 34 possible charges, with the attempted murder charge deemed a mistrial due to a hung jury. The prosecution may well revisit that charge in the near future.
The War Machine's soiled history includes other allegations of violence, but he is not the only MMA fighter to pick on a feeble foe. Jason Mayhem Miller skirted prosecution, acquitted on domestic violence charges in February.
In an HBO special expose, citing statistics from the Bureau of Justice, MMA fighters was nearly 4 times as likely as professional football players to be involved in acts of assault or domestic violence. Domestic assault allegations are never good for a sport's image, but when you're labeled as some of the most vicious fighters in the world, it soils the image of the sport when their fighters are portrayed as bullies and thugs.
MMA's reputation as a violent sport is something in a sense, promoters and fans alike enjoy. However, when cheating and domestic violence taint that image, it gives the sport a proverbial bloody nose in the court of public opinion.
Drug use and outside violence have tainted the image forever of some of the most promising MMA fighters. It may not be a coincidence if the two problems are somehow linked together. Regardless, both taint the fighter's image, as well as giving MMA's opponents a soapbox to cry against their perception of inhumane violence.