Punishing Bisping The Right Thing To Do

Michael Bisping

Meting out punishment for Bisping helps move the sport forward

I was swift to shower praise on the UFC when they put Chael Sonnen on the sidelines indefinitely to deal with the issues he’s facing outside of the cage.

It is in the same vein that I applaud the UFC punishing Michael Bisping for his unacceptable actions following his win over Jorge Rivera at UFC 127.

The British middleweight can apologize all he wants, but in addition to proving himself to be a hypocrite, his displays at the weigh-in and throughout his fight with Jorge Rivera are detrimental to the sport and the organization that employs him.

Rivera successfully got under Bisping’s skin with his series of viral videos that mocked the former TUF winner, and after talking down to Rivera at the pre-fight press conference and speaking about being a professional, the 31-year-old contender did the exact opposite throughout the rest of his stay in Australia.

He got right up in Rivera’s face at the weigh-ins, shouting obscenities and using a very loaded word, all of which was caught on tape and broadcast around the world courtesy of Dana White‘s video blog. How that outburst saw the light of day in such a video is beyond me at the moment, but that’s a topic for another day.

While I’m almost certain that Bisping’s intended connotation was more “douchebag” than homophobic slur, the fact that he’s using the derogatory term in a public setting begs a reprimand at the least. What makes it more troubling is that this isn’t the first time the word has slipped through his lips.

He uttered the same term in reference to having Vasoline smeared in his eye as he walked into the cage at UFC 114, and it was quickly caught by White at the podium, who told Bisping to “learn from [his] mistakes.”

The problem is that Bisping followed up by saying, “You know what I mean.”

Yes, Michael, we do; you can find better ways of expressing yourself than resorting to derogatory terms, and regardless of what they mean to you and how frequently you use them in everyday conversation, they have no place in your vocabulary when a microphone is present.

“I didn’t want to look like a wimp” would have sufficed and offended no one, just as keeping the word out of your verbal assault on Rivera at the weigh-in would have still gotten your message across.

But wait, it gets better. Which in this case means worse.

I’m not going to sit here and call Bisping’s illegal knee blatant; there is no way for me to prove such a thing, and I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was completely caught up in the battle and pulled the trigger too quickly.

What I do take issue with his actions while Rivera was down.

Show a little contrition, seeing as you just blasted a fellow fighter trying to make a living and support his family with a horribly illegal knee. Don’t stand there raising your arms, urging the crowd to get excited as a result of your foul; go to the neutral corner, hope you didn’t end the fight then and there, and maybe even show a little remorse.

That brings us to the end of the fight and the reason the former TUF winner is facing punishment from the UFC.

Bisping spat in the direction of Rivera’s corner, primarily his head trainer Matt Phinney, the man who portrayed him in Rivera’s videos.

Regardless of where Bisping claims his saliva was directed, the fact that he’s spitting in the direction of his opponent’s cornermen is beyond unprofessional and is rightfully incurring a punishment. It’s the kind of classless act that detractors will use to stigmatize fighters, despite it being an isolated incident perpetrated by one man who could not control his emotions.

Some have said that Bisping was caught up in the moment, and his apology after all was said and done shows contrition and regret for his actions.

You know what’s better than apologizing after doing something stupid? Not doing something stupid in the first place.

I don’t care how caught up in the moment you were or how insulted and hurt you felt by Rivera’s videos, spitting at his cornerman and excusing your actions as the product of being an emotional person is not sufficient, and the UFC should make that point clear to Bisping with their punishment.

For a guy who was admonishing Rivera’s videos as a lack of professionalism, Bisping sure acted awful bush league himself, even if he refuses to acknowledge that fact or tries to apologize it away.

You can’t spit on people, end of story. Why that is hard for some to understand is beyond me.

The UFC is doing the right thing in deciding to punish Bisping for his actions.

In addition to Bisping showing his own lack of professionalism, this situation extends beyond the need for the Brit to head his own advice and refine his vocabulary.

Just as the move to sideline Sonnen was the right step in the UFC’s quest for mainstream acceptance, taking a similar course of action with Bisping is also the right move.

Established mainstream sports do not tolerate athletes flipping off opponents or fans, and spitting at an opponent is met with a fine, and seeing the UFC take a cue from those other elite professional leagues is another step in the direction of mainstream acceptance.

A case could be made for instituting fines for illegal blows like Bisping’s knee on Rivera, and I wouldn’t be opposed to such a move. We see this in the NFL and NHL for dangerous plays and the NBA for flagrant fouls, and intent has nothing to do with it; intentional or not, it was dangerous, and you could argue that it deserves a fine of some sort.

In my opinion, levying discipline on Bisping for his post-fight antics is the correct decision and shouldn’t be handled lightly.

This comes down to personal conduct and public perception, and the UFC needs to be diligent in ensuring that the right image and right message is being conveyed by their fighters to fans and, more importantly, those who continue to offer opposition to this sport.

Many people already view fighters are thugs and brutish barbarians who take pleasure in inflicting pain on another human being and cannot control their animalistic urges.

Doing nothing about the cursing, spitting poster boy for the sport in England would have given credence to those views. In deciding to punish Bisping, the organization shows that they will not tolerate this kind of behavior, and that is the right message to send.

While there were countless displays of professionalism, sportsmanship and the true spirit of the martial arts exhibited in Sydney, it’s the one instance where those things did not appear than is garnering the most attention.

Thankfully, the UFC is doing the right thing and punishing their British star. My only hope is that he receives more than a public slap on the wrist.

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