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Commentary: Why black UFC fighters struggle to earn respect from fans & media

By Zach Arnold | September 28, 2011

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From Jordan Breen on his Tuesday radio show:

“I think part of it obviously is, there’s no getting around the fact that all of these guys make their own fates to some extent. Quinton Jackson does absurd things sometimes like motorboating and not being as dedicated as he could be in the gym. Rashad Evans has prickly comments at times and dances and does things that draw people’s ire. Even Melvin Guillard has a long and checkered history of questionable behavior. Anderson Silva conducts himself weirdly sometimes. There is individual incidents that are unique to the persons that make it important.

“But I do think in a lot of cases, yeah, there’s… you know… it’s not everybody, it’s not like every white male reacts viscerally to, ‘oh, a high-level black athlete.’ But many do, many do, you know? I think maybe sometimes it gets harped on too much but there’s a reason that, you know, people like (King Mo) are called ‘cocky’ and ‘arrogant.’ Part of it is because they are but the way the context in which it’s constantly framed is often times a very implicitly racist one. It’s widespread. It’s not everybody, but it exists.

“So, yeah, it is an unfortunate place to be in at times and the other thing that needs to be said for it also is a lot of it is intra-squad warfare there. A lot of it is to take a page out of Quinton Jackson’s book, black-on-black violence, you know? You have these guys going out there calling one another Uncle Toms and all this kind of other stuff. That’s pretty volatile and difficult stuff to be just throwing out there and that’s from black fighter to black fighter in a lot of cases. So, it’s wrong to also see it as a case of, oh, it’s like white media and white fans hating Black fighters or treating them differently and coding their language.

“It goes the same way, you know, being a black athlete is also made difficult by the way black athletes trend to treat other black athletes in some cases especially and I would even go so far as to say uniquely to some extent in the Mixed Martial Arts sphere where more so than some other sports, you know, the issue of being an Uncle Tom and these kinds of silly issues come up more prominently, you know. You don’t see it as much in a lot of other sports, it comes up very, very much in prizefighting especially…

“I don’t think there’s any getting around that Jon Jones is irrationally hated and dwelling on all things, part of it is how poorly he’s portrayed himself. In many respects, part of it is kind of the hokey nature of it all. Part of it is how manufactured he seemed recently with the British interview with Luke Thomas and other foolish things like this. He’s made some poor choices and I’m sure for some it’s residual racist foolish and for some, you know, they just might not like the cut of his jib and think he’s arrogant, plain and simple, and not desire him as a person. There’s lots of reasons you could potentially dislike Jon Jones. However, I think it’s weird to dislike Jon Jones and simply see him not as a great fighter. But I think it’s a begrudging bit of bitching and the reason I say that is… people’s reaction to Jon Jones and if you ask someone today, even a Jon Jones hater, who’s the best Light Heavyweight in the world? They’re still going to say Jon Jones, you know? There’s not that level of denial. I think part of why the Jon Jones hate is so ridiculous and so venomous is that these people at the same time that they critique Jones have to tacitly admit that he’s great. Because the way in which the argument’s positioned is, ‘oh, well, Jon Jones can’t beat Anderson Silva.’ ‘Oh, Jon Jones, he’s going to lose!” It’s not, ‘oh, Jon Jones, he can’t beat top Light Heavyweights’ or ‘oh, Jon Jones, he’s not the favorite against Rashad (Evans).’ Even people who hate Jon Jones have to talk about the Rashad Evans fight as if they’re saying, ‘oh, well, I mean, Evans has a shot.” Like if you hate a guy and that’s the best you can do, ‘oh, he’s got a shot,’ you’re clearly acknowledging the dominance of that party. So, I think even in the Jones hate, I think it’s still reflected how good of a fighter he really is.”

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 12 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

12 Responses to “Commentary: Why black UFC fighters struggle to earn respect from fans & media”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    MMA really doesn’t have a race issue with their athletes or their fans. The fact that it’s such a young fanbase means they don’t have a lot of the social hangups that older people might have.

    For most of the fans, I think they like or dislike the fighters purely on there personality. That’s not to say the fans don’t get it wrong sometimes. For example, the hate for Rashad Evans makes no sense. But I really don’t think it’s a race thing. I think it’s just the bandwagon effect that even started as early as Matt Hughes hating on him while he was on TUF.

    • Jason Harris says:

      What’s odd to me is Jones (and other black fighters) seem to catch an unusually high amount of flack from other black fighters. I have no idea what the dynamic is, but I know it exists. I don’t think it’s nearly as much of an issue from the fan perspective, but guys like Rampage for example seem to turn it to 11 when they are fighting another black fighter compared to their other fights.

      • Joey says:

        Yeah it reminds me of the movie Mean Girls were all of the girls were turned against each other.

        It’s an odd comparison, but apt.

  2. jhf884 says:

    So, it seems like J. Breen thinks this is mostly an issue for MMA (or prize-fighting). I wonder why that is.

    After all, an north-american sports fan is used to the best athletes in the highest levels of competition being (for whatever reason) black. Football, basketball, even baseball.

  3. Jason says:

    I guess I didn’t know there was this issue. The reason I don’t like a certain fighter is typically because they act like a cocky a$$, namely Rashad Evans and Michael Bisping.

  4. Steve4192 says:

    Meh.

    I don’t think the problem is nearly as bad here as it is in other parts of the world. Go attend a soccer game in Europe if you want to see outright racist behavior.

  5. James says:

    That seems like a lot of words without making any specific point. Basically a lot of hate for black fighters is based on their individual behavior, rather than skin color?

  6. david m says:

    Between this and the sidebar on this site linking to Yahoo MMA Blog in which Steve Cofield says Jon Jones may be the smartest fighter in mma because he watched tape of Rampage (imagine that?!), the mma media is officially retarded. Not anything I didn’t already know, however. What a joke.

    Rashad is a cocky asshole so people dislike him. He called Rampage an Uncle Tom and called Jon Jones a white boy. Where is Jordan Breen’s article about using white boy as a slur? Shut the fuck up with this drivel. Nothing is more annoying than white people who are hypocritical and expect more from white audiences than black audiences and don’t hold white and black fighters to the same standards.

    If a white fighter had gotten arrested ramming his oversized truck into cars on the highway, the mainstream media would have pointed to that and said that mma is a sport for white trash idiots. If a white fighter had choked a reporter and threatened him during an interview, same thing. If a white fighter had stuck his head in a reporter’s cleavage and treated her entirely like a piece of meat, it would have been a big deal. Rampage does it and nobody cares.

    Koscheck years ago famously called Matt Hughes slow and white; I am still waiting with bated breath for a sherdog audio podcast (just kidding) about the scourge of racism directed at white people in mma.

    Regardless, there is not a single example of racism identified in this transcription. The only racism I see is Jordan Breen slurring white people by implying they automatically have negative feelings towards black athletes in mma.

  7. Jason Harris says:

    I don’t know if race is really the issue, but it has been really interesting to see the general fan reaction to Jones as time has gone on.

    When he was an unknown guy coming off the undercard with exciting finishes, everyone and their mom was chomping at the bit and swearing he needed to go fight Anderson Silva. Sometime around the whole Rashad Evans drama, he got labeled as cocky/arrogant….how? because he says he respects his opponent but he thinks he’s going to win? Like, I dunno, EVERYONE IN MMA?

    A friend and I were talking about this, and it seems guys fighting Jones just handle themselves like politicians….you don’t need to explain WHY your comments make sense, you just say it and people start believing it. Evans and Jones throw out that Jones is cocky. And so the internet goes….yeah, he sure is! That freakin’ cocky guy! Doesn’t matter if you can back it up, just mention it, and once it’s in the discussion, you’ve won.

    What I find incredibly hilarious is the vast majority of people who complain about Jones being cocky and arrogant will rage out on the internet about Anderson Silva being the best and defend all his showboating and disrespect to the fans and opponents with shit like “oh, he wasn’t challenged!”

  8. [...] Fight Opinion discusses why black UFC fighters struggle to earn respect from fans & media – “A lot of it is to take a page out of Quinton Jackson’s book, black-on-black violence, you know? You have these guys going out there calling one another Uncle Toms and all this kind of other stuff. That’s pretty volatile and difficult stuff to be just throwing out there and that’s from black fighter to black fighter in a lot of cases. So, it’s wrong to also see it as a case of, oh, it’s like white media and white fans hating Black fighters or treating them differently and coding their language.” [...]

  9. [...] This is not a new charge from the Sherdog personality. However, he certainly stepped up the theory since Jones won big over Lyoto Machida at UFC 140 in Toronto and did the ESPN ‘car wash’ of interviews/TV shows on Tuesday. [...]

  10. Jack says:

    I think its kind of odd that you have white people trying to explain why blacks arent liked in UFC. The answers is obvious regardless of how you want to phrase it. Its because they are black. Even if they kept all of there “character flaws” but were somehow white guys they would be loved. We all know of PLENTY of white fighters with HORRIBLE attitudes that have an incredible fan base… thats just the way it is. Thats just the way the U.S. is, big deal… we should just move on really because nobody is going to change it.

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