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Assessing the Damage from the Strikeforce Brawl

By on April 19, 2010

diaz brothersAs a person who enjoys the entertainment that comes from seeing crazy, random or absolutely ridiculous things, I was torn immediately after viewing the now-infamous Strikeforce: Nashville brawl.  On one hand, it was unquestionably the most riveting part of the night.  The fights were good enough, and we got answers to a lot of questions regarding the fighters who participated, which is always nice…but this was the moment that really would get people talking.  On the other hand, I knew instantly that the fallout would be the same old ridiculous, paranoid nonsense about “setting the sport back (insert whatever number seems scariest) years” and everything else we hear when fighters aren’t on their best behavior.

On the other other hand, it gives me plenty to write about.  Yes, I’m allowed to have three hands.

Let’s break this completely ludicrous and entertaining minute of television down, shall we?  I think the best way to move forward is not to write another “The Sky is Falling and the Sport is in Grave Danger” column to throw onto the ever-growing heap, but instead to take a look at all of those involved and gauge their responsibility for what went down, as well as how this whole thing might affect them in the future.

If you came to read a fearful speech about how the mainstream media and sports world in general will now be casting MMA aside and forcing us all to sit and eat at the proverbial kids’ table, you’re in the wrong place.  And if you truly believe that every time something like this happens, the sport is in some kind of serious danger, answer me this: how did the whole “Frank Mir is going to set the sport back after saying he wants to kill Brock Lesnar” thing work out?  Oh, that’s right.  Nothing changed, no harm was done, it’s forgotten.  Take a deep breath.  The sport was built without the acceptance, approval and endorsement of the mainstream media, and it will continue to succeed with or without it.

So, let’s take a look at the key players in the fiasco, shall we?

Jason “Mayhem” Miller

Normally, I wouldn’t even waste keystrokes defending a guy who simply did something that has been done dozens of times in mixed martial arts without incident in the past.  However, if the internet has taught me anything, it is that no matter how obvious a conclusion is after an event, there will be those that will, for some reason, feel the need to play devil’s advocate.  Oh, and the Diaz brothers have a lot of fans.  Therefore, there were those that actually blamed the whole incident on Miller, incredibly enough.  Hopefully, those people are not a) licensed drivers, b) government officials, or c) teachers, because that would just be frightening.

If you are of sound mind and body, and already understand the ridiculously simple concept that entering a cage and asking (with a smile, no less!) a guy who just won a fight about the possibility of a rematch does not entitle one to a beatdown from multiple grown men, feel free to skip to the next name.  The rest of you, slowly sound out the syllables and I’ll do my best to explain why you are completely crazy.

How many times have we seen a prospective title challenger step into the ring/cage after a championship fight and challenge the champion face-to-face?  Dozens!  It’s part of the business.  Furthermore, Miller did not disrespect Shields in any way other than interrupting his interview, which qualifies as “rude”, but not quite as rude as “soccer-kicking a guy who is attempting to fight off several other assailants while on his hands and knees”.

Furthermore, Miller is the only one to issue any kind of official statement of apology.  Now, Jake Shields did apologize on the air after the rubble was cleared and things settled down, and Gilbert Melendez also apologized to CBS officials post-fight, but those guys mainly just shoved Miller to set the whole thing off.  However, with Miller, I’m amazed because the guy who had the least responsibility for what actually happened is the one who is most apologetic.  And, as I said the other day, please don’t approach me with the whole “if Miller hadn’t come in, this wouldn’t have happened.”  Well, if Shields hadn’t beaten Henderson, it wouldn’t have happened, either.  If Gus Johnson hadn’t interviewed Shields, it wouldn’t have happened.  If a dinosaur had broken wind at just the right time millions of years ago, it may not have happened.  If the action itself that helps lead to an unfortunate event is not wrong, don’t blame the action.  Like I said, Miller had poor timing and questionable judgment, but it doesn’t justify what occurred after.

Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez

I’m lumping these two together because they both shoved Miller after he interrupted Shields’ interview, which set the whole thing off.  Shields gave more of a little nudge, while Melendez seemed to want Miller to get out of the spotlight and let his teammate have his moment.  It’s hard to fault him for that.  Then, Miller came back aggressively, as if to shove Melendez back or confront him, and that’s when it all got crazy.

Both of these guys have apologized and distanced themselves from the melee that took place after they shoved Miller away, although they also both refuse to throw their teammates under the bus for outright jumping Miller, too.  That’s not unexpected.  I still have no idea why Shields would jump Miller, especially when he saw Miller coming and smiled at him.  He never appeared to have a problem with Miller in the past, and for all he knew at the time, the whole thing could have been set up to arouse interest in a possible fight down the line.

I don’t think either of these guys will face any kind of repurcussions for their roles, nor should they.  I don’t think Melendez needed to shove Shields, but I understand to an extent why he did it.  Shields doesn’t need to worry about it, he’s off to the UFC to start collecting a huge vault full of money that he can swim through a la Scrooge McDuck.  Melendez will go right on asserting himself as one of the top lightweights in the world, and there’s no reason to expect future incidents from either one.

The Brothers Diaz

Dun-dun-DUNNNNN!  If you guessed that I may be just about to say some unflattering things about the Nick and Nate Diaz- congratulations!  As every smart person should do when they are about to criticize someone who could very easily end their life, let me preface this with a comment: I am continually impressed with the abilities and constant improvement of both of these guys as fighters.  I don’t necessarily think that either one is a “bad person”, whatever that means.  However, both clearly have a ton of issues that they need to work out.

First and foremost of those issues would be that not every perceived slight is a reason to fight. We all remember the great hospital brawl between the elder Diaz and his opponent from UFC 57, Joe Riggs.  Furthermore, those who have fought Nick have always commented on his behavior leading up to fights, including receiving dirty looks, sometimes being verbally insulted, etc.  We could all agree that this qualifies as “getting into your opponent’s head” if it weren’t for incidents like the hospital fight or the brawl the other night.  Clearly, Nick Diaz simply feels the need to fight anyone who disrespects him in the slightest.  From the brawl, we can also see that his definition of “disrespect” may be very, very broad.

Nate Diaz hasn’t fared much better.  He has stayed away from incidents during his time in the UFC, though he regularly dabbles in the kind of nonsense his brother is known for.  Perfect example: during an interview with Ariel Helwani not too long ago, fellow UFC fighter (and previous opponent) Kurt Pellegrino walked by them, and Diaz felt the need to stop in mid-sentence and mutter an expletive at him.

Is this kind of stuff entertaining?  Of course.  I laughed my ass off when I read about the hospital fight years ago, and I won’t deny that the antics of the Diaz brothers entertain me from time to time.  Do these guys need help, though?  Quite possibly.  Whenever someone responds to even the smallest perceived slight with violence (or threats of violence), it sheds some light on some possible problems, including low self-esteem or a persecution complex.  I don’t know what is up with these guys, but here is what I feel needs to be said to them:

“Dear Diaz brothers,

We understand that you are tough.  You have proven it by being successful fighters in organizations such as the UFC, Strikeforce and others.  For some reason, you may feel the need to illustrate your toughness to the world whenever given the chance, but we would like you to know that this is unnecessary.  As stated earlier, we have seen you both fight and are completely aware that you are good at beating the crap out of others, and furthermore, that you “ain’t no bitch”.

Please keep this in mind during situations including (but not limited to): being cut off in traffic, being charged too much for produce at the grocery store, someone stepping on your foot in a crowded room, the pizza delivery person being late with your order, someone making eye contact with you for longer than 1.1 seconds, and a fighter publicly challenging one of your teammates to a sanctioned MMA fight.  It is our hope that you will no longer feel the need to respond to these and other situations with violence, since we have conceded that you two are, in fact, badasses.

If you need us to say anything else, perhaps that “you’re the man”, or “your ex-girlfriends that dumped you were SO stupid”, or maybe even “the world would be a better place if the Diaz brothers ran it”, we will willingly do so, if it means we can avoid further violence intended to prove your badassery.

Thank you,

The Rest of the World”

It’s only a rough draft, but I’m thinking of sending it.  Anonymously, of course.

Will either one face repurcussions?  Who knows.  I have to think Nate Diaz may be on thin ice in the UFC if he continues this kind of stuff, as Dana White may not take kindly to seeing one of his fighters soccer-kicking a rival promotion’s fighter during a melee that threatens that promotion’s ability to be taken seriously.  Wait a minute…no, Dana probably won’t mind, after all.

With Nick, I doubt that he will be in hot water with Strikeforce.  They have already put up with his nonsense in the past, including missing a fight because the drug testing schedule didn’t work out for him.  The fact is that Strikeforce is quickly gaining a reputation as a promotion that lets the inmates run the asylum, whether it’s this latest incident, Alistair Overeem not getting stripped of his title after not defending it in well over a year, and Fedor Emelianenko’s management continually toying with Scott Coker and company regarding a contract that they already signed and agreed to.  Which brings us to…

Strikeforce Management

What a mess, huh, guys?  I don’t expect you to listen to everything I say.  For some reason, you continually to allow Mauro Ranallo to be gainfully employed, even though an informal poll will show that 96.4 percent of your viewing audience is either grating their teeth or outright laughing at him throughout each of your broadcasts.  That’s fine.  You didn’t inform Frank Shamrock that a man with his wealth could probably get less visible braces.  That’s also okay, I guess.  But this?  This is not good.

Who exactly is monitoring the one and only door that leads into and out of the cage after the fight?  Jason Miller just walked right in…could I have walked right in?  Could Dana White have shown up, had the audio guy play his entrance music, and given Dan Henderson a Stone Cold Stunner before cracking open some brews with Jake Shields?

Seriously…what is going on?  Hardcore MMA fans already don’t take your promotion that seriously, because you let fighters sit on their titles for years at a time without defending them and you manage to turn the biggest free agent signing of your existence into an absolute disappointment and debacle.  Now casual fans as well will know that Strikeforce is often synonymous with “Bush League”, too.

I don’t hate Strikeforce.  I enjoy it.  It’s the only reason I have Showtime, for crying out loud.  But also, I want it to be good. The promotion seems to have the problem of negating every triumph (the re-signing of Gegard Mousasi) with an awful display of ineptitude (just about anything else that has happened in the last week).  I criticize Strikeforce because I want it to stick around, and it simply will not stick around if things keep going this way.  I said earlier that MMA is not in any threat of disappearing off the map, and I meant it.  That doesn’t mean Strikeforce isn’t in danger, however.

What was more damning than the brawl in terms of Strikeforce’s future on network television were the poor ratings that resulted from the event.  If you truly believe CBS would stop airing Strikeforce simply because of the brawl, you may be a little crazy.  If the ratings were great, Strikeforce could have a brawl like that and not have to worry whatsoever.  But when your poorly-performing program also features a crazy display of “testosterone” (thanks, Gus Johnson!) like that, you’re probably in trouble.

E-Mail Jon Hartley

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1 comment
  1. Topher says:

    Oh those Diaz boys! I highly recommend you send the letter to them as is… please be sure to include your physical address so they can completely forget about the complimentary things you’ve had to say and prove that they really are thugs. It seems like they really would be the kind of guys to get sued for beating up a random dude for saying the wrong thing. Could make yourself a lot of money!!!!

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