Confront the toxic hypermasculinity of combat sports that enables intimate partner abuse without reproach or reprimand with this one WEIRD trick. Well, it’s more of a flurry of UNUSUAL sleight-of-hand flourishes that build up to a WEIRD payoff. But rest assured: the MMA community HATES her. And you, and me. War Machine’s supporters wear their contempt for us where the since-incised sleeves of their Tapout shirts should be.
Oh say say, where is my sense of fair play? Surely his brother (or someone desperately charading as such) isn’t a neutral data point. He’s an individual, not an indicator. People. Just. Do. Bad. Things. It’s. Not. Some. Cultural. Affect.
War Machine is a man of many a moniker–porn star, men’s rights activist, abuser, aspiring rapist–but one thing he is not is a bad apple. The whole tree is fucked.
In February of this year, Thiago Silva put a gun in his wife’s mouth, intent to kill her over the quintessential “quelle surprise”: a suspected affair. And for sure: accountants and librarians are likewise liable to assault their intimate partners too. I’ll give you that. I’ll even let you have a side of bleu cheese though we would normally charge you for it. But if your accountant once traveled to China to make a Bulgarian wrestler submit to a triangle choke, you might be Cobra Commander. In which case, Dennis Quaid is still out there–get back to work.
Thiago Silva and War Machine are trained to kill. They haven’t gotten that part, yet, but they have a physique and acquaintance with combat physiology on par with the military. Or rather, the military is on par with MMA; living legends of the sport like Royce Gracie, Randy Couture, and Ken Shamrock are frequently sought as special instructors at military training facilities. Blessed be we! In the hands of our capable military and their reputation as paragons of not-taking-out-the-horrors-of-war-out-on-intimate-partners, these skills can come to be cultivated in an environment of respect and discipline. The sort of respect and discipline that it took for UFC hopeful Will Chope to beat his wife at knife-point so badly that he was then dismissed from the very discreet and discerning business of killing foreigners for oil.
All this power. All this knowledge. Employed to terrorize women, to reinforce a textbook patriarchal notion of “a woman’s place”.
War Machine’s supporters flail Christy Mack’s face around on twitter to prop up and posit her as the poster girl for what happens when you cross the Alpha Male. This is a mug shot of misogyny-in-action; a woman survives an attack from a man who could have killed her–who could have killed about anyone reading this (despite my six consecutive “Mom’s Favorite Judo Star” awards)–and they jeer at her injuries, coin callous colloquial innuendo about getting “CM’d” and raise the funds to free her attacker.
And the notion of any differential in intrinsic moral value between a bloodsportsman and a sex worker is so fucking rich it’s got its own robot maid.
My disgust must not be digressed. This has to stop.
To UFC’s credit, they did release Chope, the day of his fight with Diego Brandao, after this knowledge had come to light the day before. To their–what is the opposite of credit? Whatever that is–a bad conduct charge comes up on the most basic background check. There is no way that UFC didn’t know of this incident before it went public.
But a bad attitude makes a good alibi. A time bomb temper, difficulty diffusing personal conflicts, an at-any-cost preservation of perceived masculinity; it’s hard to, say, tell run-of-the-mill from run-for-your-life- until the hands around your throat and you’re browsing the novelty twitter accounts from your infirmary bed.
And oh, how Dana White and Bellator prune and preen that tree. Silva, War Machine, and Chope were all very publicly released from the retinue of their respective promoters when their actions had come into the public consciousness. But they are not bad apples. And you can kick them away, you can throw them, you can dump them in a compost pin far and away where their descendant decay will never touch the soil–and no I’m not done with this apple metaphor–but the tree remains.
That tree has roots in the harshest, darkest dirt of western masculinity. Those roots reach out to six year old cagefighters walking it off in Arizona and viral video street fights. Abuse of power comes as no surprise and neither does Bellator reaching out to sign internet sensation Kimbo Slice after having released that other internet sensation War Machine. And like the Crimson of Ken Nordine’s “Colors”, those roots want more and more and more and more.
The roots are riling beneath our feet, now. Commentators, amateur tapout models and fighters alike queuing at the soapbox to go one on one with a trans woman they don’t think should be fighting.
The tree casts a bleak blight of a shadow in which shelters homophobes, and white supremacists. And praise the Lorde, lest all these MMA moonlighters fighting for gay rights, black empowerment, and trans visibility monopolize the product.
MMA is legally classified as an ultra-hazardous sport, but to whom? Intimate partners, referees, random people in Sweden. War Machine seems not worse for wear after 21 professional fights. The same cannot be said for Christy Mack, or the wife of Josh Grispi, who earlier this year had the family pitbull set on her.
The love and patience War Machine had not deemed fit for Christy Mack in that–vomit bag at the ready– “moment of passion” was indeed bestowed upon the sport he committed his life to. He trained. He joined a team. He started a nobody and worked his way up. I can’t, I won’t dismiss and disregard the sincere devotion and care he has for his art.
And neither will I disregard the countless trainers, teammates, promoters, officials, and others involved in his curation of that art. He is not a bad apple. He had been watched, witnessed, studied. He slept in a dormitory with other dudes, inked and ripped like himself, who had the opportunity to check each other, to keep that kinetic emotion in the cage where it belonged and not let it out.
Every day War Machine, like Thiago Silva, like Josh Grispi, was surrounded by people who told him he was good when he was mean, that they liked him when he was mean, that it made them want to be mean–can’t someone just be “that guy” and say “but hey man, if you still find yourself angry and wanting to hurt or be hurt outside of the ring maybe you should seek therapy”.
Dana White and Bellator make a big show of throwing away their bad apples but never do they look back at that tree and think “maybe it’s something we’re putting in the soil.”
“Maybe we should be better at tending it.”
Has the apple tree metaphor lost you at this point? Y/Y
I’m talking about maybe a little accountability here from MMA organizations that maybe this culture of compulsory alpha male entitlement, while good for ratings sometimes, might actually suspend the sustainability of the sport in the long run and make it inaccessible for people who encounter nonconsensual violence on a more regular basis–you know, like women.
Say what you will about the military, like, for example “it’s a parasitic drain on western culture that serves only to train local government how to wage war on its own citizens”, but when someone told someone that Sgt. SingleCake caused the limp of an eight year old girl, he found himself in a room with baby blue ducky wallpaper, playing a game of word association. Child Abuse. Incarceration. Foster Care. Family Therapy Instead Maybe?
#JusticeForChristyMack is not publicly firing a guy who won’t be able to work anyway because he’ll probably be in fucking prison–OKAY ALSO WAIT WHAT WHY DID HE HAVE A BLOG IN PRISON, I WASN’T EVEN ALLOWED A FUCKING VIEWFINDER.
War Machine and Thiago Silva tried to kill what they (in their own abusive way) “loved”.
And I think it’s perhaps our prerogative to give back in kind.
I’m not hyped up on hyperbole. This is a thing the MMA community actually fears.
If more attention is brought to the rise of intimate partner abuse in combat sports, then it will inhibit the marketability of MMA.
That’s a nice out of control and poorly regulated sport you have there. It’d be a shame if something were to happen to it.
Like the co-opting of your social media presence and promotion to bring light to your lack of accountability and anti-abuse resources. I’m sure Stephen Colbert would appreciate a day off from having to check his twitter mentions.
Or organized boycotts of MMA events, with an explicit focus on publicizing the gruesome acts of your featured performers, until a public stance is made on abuse and actionable intent to provide support to people like Christy Mack, Thaysa Thiago, and Kaitlyn Grispi.
Or hey! Why don’t we all just write Bellator and tell them how we feel about their non commitment to preventing abuse and what they could be doing to maybe stop enabling such shitty behavior of their talent.
Like provide better mental health resources.
Like maybe employ more people who are not bros with tribal tats who won’t echo chamber abusive alpha male shit like joking on television that you’ll murder your girlfriend.
Or investigating whether or not any of War Machine’s trainers, teammates, or colleagues had a notion of his abusive nature and could/should have said something.
If you don’t respond to any of the emails I’ve been writing you, you can just make these resources available on your site or during broadcasts:
And yes: I said the l word. I love MMA. I like the muscles and the hitting and sometimes there’s a double KO and it’s so cash, man. But no love is so transformative that I will afford even one woman to endure the abuse that stems from unchecked alpha male entitlement. Especially when that abuse is (reasonably) preventable by not looking the other way like a bunch of “I got mine” assholes and providing reasonable, sustainable mental health resources for your fighters and, in acknowledging the existence of said abuse, enable women like Christy Mack to get the support she needs from you and the rest of the community.
If MMA is to thrive, it must come out of the Machine Age.