Should the UFC implement a Wellness Program for its fighters?

The UFC should not be looked as an up-and-coming sports organization.

They have been relevant for more than 15 years now. As the sport has gotten bigger, the fighters have seemed to become a little more awry with their actions and words. With this becoming an issue, it’s time for the UFC to establish a wellness program for their fighters.

The NFL, MLB and NBA have guidelines in place to dissuade players from possibly stepping over the line when it comes to the law, media, fans/public, and more importantly themselves. These guidelines help players know what actions will be punished and how they will be punished. Punishment is determined by the seriousness of the act.

For example, MLB’s commissioner may place an accused player on paid administrative leave for up to seven days while allegations are investigated.  Once the investigation is finalized a player can be fined and/or suspended.  Suspensions have ranged from 15 games up to Roberto Osuna, who served a 75-game suspension after a domestic violence incident.

Why do I bring this up? The UFC has a responsibility to instill some form of professional discipline into their fighters who happen to be their number 1 asset. Let’s look at a few incidents that have involved UFC fighters giving a black eye to the organization:

  • Jon Jones was involved with a hit and run accident (Apr 2015, he left an injured pregnant woman behind in another vehicle). He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and was subsequently sentenced to up to 18 months of supervised probation. The UFC stripped him of his title.
  • Conor McGregor wasn’t scheduled to compete at UFC 223 (Apr 2018) but his actions almost caused the event to be canceled. McGregor crashed the media day event as retaliation for a confrontation between Artem Lobov and a group led by Khabib Nurmagomedov. Words were exchanged and then McGregor hurled a hand truck through one of the bus’s windows. Another person with him threw an object and cracked the windshield too. No punishment or fine was administered, yet he was rewarded six months later as he headlined UFC 229.
  • Colby Covington after a win over Tyron Woodley (Sep 2020), addressed the media after his fight and said, “He’s (Woodley) a communist; he’s a Marxist and he stands for criminals. He hates America.” He didn’t stop there, he proceeded to say the Black Lives Matter movement is “a complete sham” and those who support it “are terrorists.” Trash talk is part of the game, but this went beyond the pale of talking trash, especially in the wake the recent social climate in this country. A few days later, UFC President Dana White said “These guys all have their own causes, things, their own beliefs. We don’t muzzle anybody here, we let everybody speak their mind. I don’t know what he said that was racist.” In my opinion, the UFC should’ve made a stronger stance against Colby after numerous fighters said they were offended by his comments.
  • Lastly Mike Perry, he is infamous for using the n-word on his social media as if it’s cool and needless to say, he is white. Perry used the n-word in a derogatory fashion in tweets directed at actor Michael Jai White, who is black. On July 9, 2020 Perry is alleged to have struck three people during an incident, knocking one man out and sending him to the hospital. This week, his ex-wife during an interview alleges she was physically assaulted by Perry “a handful of times,” to include an incident where he “ground-and-pounded” her in their home until he got tired. Once again, it looks like the UFC will take no action against Perry as he is still scheduled to fight Robbie Lawler on Nov 21.

If the UFC had a wellness program in place, these types of incidents could possibly not have happened. When there is a chance that you will be fined, or suspended, fighters/players seem to find ways to not be in trouble to make sure their financial well being is not affected. As long as the UFC turns a blind eye, these incidents WILL become more egregious.