Conor Has a Problem

The UFC can't look the other way this time

Sigh.

From the Irish Mirror:

A famous Irish sports star allegedly sexually assaulted a young woman near a West Dublin pub on Friday night.

It’s understood that the woman made a complaint to gardai on Saturday morning.

Gardai have confirmed to Dublin Live that they are investigating the alleged assault that happened around 9pm on Friday.

The Sun followed up with a story headlined SEX ATTACK PROBE, which is confoundedly brazen, clickbaity and also better than any headline I will ever write.

COPS seized the car and clothing of a world-famous Irish sports star after an alleged alcohol-fuelled sexual assault The Sun can reveal.

The alleged victim, in her 20s, told cops on Saturday the sexual assault had happened in the star’s car in Crumlin, a suburb of Dublin.

Cops seized the car and clothing of an Irish sports star after an alleged drunk-fuelled sexual assault

Just hours later the sportsman was stopped by officers and his motor seized and forensically examined.

Irish privacy laws are notoriously strict, but they are designed to protect both victims and those wrongly accused of a crime. Journalists aren’t allowed to identify criminal suspects unless they are convicted, which leads to things like Famous Irish Sports Star being used when everyone knows who the story is referring to.

From the Mirror’s original story:

It’s understood that the same well-known sports star is being investigated for the alleged rape of a married woman at a Dublin hotel back in December 2018.

Irish media may not be able to identify criminal suspects, but American media sure can.

From a March New York Times report:

Conor McGregor, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s biggest star and one of the world’s highest-paid athletes, is under investigation in Ireland after a woman accused him of sexual assault in December, according to four people familiar with the investigation.

McGregor hasn’t been charged with a crime. It’s important to remember that. He may never be charged with a crime. He may not be guilty of a crime, or he might have powerful friends who know how to make crimes go away. He also has a lot of money, and a lot of money is very helpful in making crimes disappear. If McGregor is never charged and convicted, these alleged crimes will become like so much ether. So, let’s assume he is not guilty of these crimes.

But he is, at minimum, very crime-adjacent.

Normal people do not find themselves in sexual assault investigations on a regular basis. And yet, that is where McGregor stands today.

According to sources I spoke with, Gardai are now investigating multiple prior allegations made against against McGregor, in addition to the December 2018 and latest incidents.

Why would a filthy rich and famous human—someone who likely needs not look far in order to find a willing partner—feel an uncontrollable need to take what he wants by force? I’m not referring specifically to McGregor here, but to the countless powerful men who have faced a reckoning in recent years, and also to those in MMA for whom a reckoning is on the horizon.

It’s baffling. It’s easy to blame the wealth and the fame for McGregor’s misdeeds, and there’s something to that; I would likely become a huge asshole if I found myself with McGregor’s money and fame. But neither of those things would make me feel it’s okay to assault women.

I’m flawed in more ways than I can count. But something like this?

It has to be in you, and long before the money ever came along.

Conor McGregor needs some help. He might need to spend some time in a different sort of cage. He is out of control, and not in the fun sort of way, but in the sort of way that leads to a morgue. And I’m not sure he can regain control on his own.

The problem with being rich and famous is that it attracts people who either want to exist in the orbit of such power or want to benefit from it. McGregor is surrounded by enablers because enablers are the only people he permits in his circle. Those who defy him quickly find themselves excluded and cast aside. Even his family abides by his rules.

The UFC has been awfully quick to gloss over McGregor’s incidents in the past. But they can’t do it this time. I get how desperate they are for stars—and McGregor’s drawing power dwarves the rest of the UFC roster, perhaps even combined—but continuing in the McGregor business isn’t just a blight on their corporate reputation.

It is also a public affirmation that they have zero regard for how his story might end, so long as they can milk it dry before its conclusion.

Support the creation of more stories like the one you just read by signing up for our free email list, or with a Whizzered subscription. They’re just $6 per month or $60 for an annual subscription.

WeightGate and The Danger of Speculation

Hi friends. I know we haven’t had an update in a little while. Rest assured there’s a very good reason why, and you’ll find out that reason quite soon. I apologize for the mystery, but it’ll be worth the wait. We’ve been working hard on something, and we’re excited to share it with you.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk made weight this morning for her Saturday bout against Michelle Waterson.

You’d never know it from the past few days, but this is not earth-shattering news. Jedrzejczyk has fought 12 times in the UFC over five years, at both 115 and 125 pounds, and not once has she come in over the limit. That’s a track record that should earn her some trust. You’d think so, at least. But this week proved two things: How jaded we are as observers of this sport, and how we are so desperate for buzzy, controversial things to argue about on the internet that we end up creating mountains of molehills.

It all started a few days ago when news began circulating that Jedrzejczyk had reportedly informed the UFC a week ago that she might not be able to make weight against Waterson.

Which, okay. That is news, of a sort.

The UFC losing the main event of one of its thousands of yearly TV fight cards isn’t something to get up in arms about, but it is newsworthy. If you’re one of the people who watch everything the UFC vomits onto your TV screen, it might even sting a little to know that your Saturday evening would now be capped off by Kron Gracie against Cub Swanson instead of a title eliminator between the former strawweight champion and one of the UFC’s most under appreciated and marketable commodities.

So it is news, but it is not the kind of news that should engender breathless, reckless speculation and hourly updates on Jedrzejczyk’s status. And yet, that’s what we got.

On the bright side, the whole thing did include Jedrzejczyk seemingly threatening to murder the hard-working MMAjunkie reporter Mike Bohn in his sleep.

The job of a reporter, allegedly, is to inform the public. And so these reports, ludicrous as they may seem on the surface, were in line with our responsibility as members of the media. Did we need to produce hourly updates on whether or not she was going to make weight? No. But staying informed on her status was important, and it was the job, especially when taking into account her admission to the UFC a week ago.

But the reporting led, as it usually does, to a wildfire of breathless speculation on social media and on the outer fringes of the community, where click-bait SEO farms pass themselves off as legitimate media operations. I won’t link to them because fuck them, but you know who I’m referring to. These piranhas, taking a break from prepping their Google-gaming Jedrzejczyk vs. Waterson Full Fight Video Highlights headlines, started publishing stories with the-sky-is-falling headlines like Jedrzejczyk Can’t Make Weight.

And this, in turn, led to discussions about how Jedrzejczyk’s recent plastic surgery meant she could no longer make 116 pounds.

She has fake boobs now so she’s not a strawweight!

I shit you not when I tell you I saw people casually discussing this as if it were a real thing. It isn’t. It’s speculation passed off as knowledge. The only thing certain about this discussion is that the people involved in it haven’t the first clue about anatomy or how it works.

Speculation is stupid, folks. It’s dangerous. And I should know.

A few years ago, I did a post-fight roundtable video from the MGM Grand discussing Conor McGregor’s win over Jose Aldo. In that roundtable, I noted that I’d been told Rafael dos Anjos would be next for McGregor—and he was, until everything went to hell and the fight was canceled. But I also said, without an ounce of sourcing or reporting backing it up, that Dos Anjos sure looked different and smaller since USADA started testing UFC athletes.

Which, of course, was my way of subtly inferring that Dos Anjos might have been on steroids before USADA.

People, this was very stupid. It was irresponsible. It was completely unethical. I wanted to look cool and edgy, and so I mouth-farted something that was reckless and speculative and misinformed.

I’ve never talked about it until now, but it was one of the biggest regrets of my career, and I owe Rafael dos Anjos an apology. If I ever see him person, he’ll get it.

Thankfully, a lot of reporters covering this sport are far smarter than I am. They don’t make mistakes like that, and they don’t engage in the sort of stupidity that circulated over the past few days. But I do wonder how much of a role we in the media—even the best among us—have for creating the kind of atmosphere where that sort of incorrect, hurtful speculation runs rampant.

I don’t have any easy answers to that question.

What I do have, though, is a bit of advice.

If you see one of your friends on social media spouting off and engaging in such nonsense, do everyone a favor and call them out. Make fun of them. Reckless speculation deserves public scorn. I’ve rightfully been on the receiving end of that kind of public shame several times in my career, and I learned a lot from it.

It won’t fix our discourse or the rabid need we have to talk about everything and anything, even if we don’t know what the fuck we are talking about.

But maybe it’ll cause us to think twice before blurting out every little inane, speculative thought that crosses our brains.

Flashback: The Real Miguel Angel Torres

Starting today, I’ll be dipping into my extensive archive of MMA stories dating back to 2005 for a new series I’m calling Whizzered Flashback. I blatantly stole this concept from David Bixenspan’s excellent Babyface v. Heel newsletter, which you should subscribe to if you are a pro wrestling fan. These will be sporadic and are in no way a replacement for new stories here at Whizzered; I simply enjoy looking back at the stuff I’ve done over the years, mostly because they are a reminder of how far I’ve come.

Introduction:

The story below was my first full profile of Miguel Torres, just prior to his UFC 139 bout against Nick Pace. He was coming off a controversial loss to Demetrious Johnson at the time which, in hindsight, was the moment his career began trending downward. He’d been swindled out of money by his former manager, but his signing with Glenn Robinson seemed to give Miguel hope.

Eight years later, Robinson is tragically dead. Torres lives in Chicago, where he runs a busy jiu-jitsu school and, from time to time, still believes he can beat anyone in the world, just as he did when I wrote this piece 8 years ago.

The Real Miguel Angel Torres

November 11, 2011
Originally published at Heavy.com

It’s Wednesday night, and Miguel Angel Torres is telling a story that, like so many others, is probably not fit for public consumption.

Here in a makeshift workout room at the Marriott hotel in San Jose, Torres is holding court after an intense workout. The brothers Zahabi – Firas and Aiemann – are gathered with kickboxing star Tyrone Spong and Miguel’s confidant and long-time friend Bobby Joe Maldonado.

Torres finishes the story, gathers up the crew and leaves the room. In the hallway leading to the elevator, there is an awkward moment when Nick Pace, Torres’ opponent on Saturday night, walks by. Pace, a fighter still fairly new to the game, at least in comparison to Torres, appears in awe of a guy he probably grew up watching in the cage. He casually says hello in the way that only fighters who are facing each other can, but Torres doesn’t have much of a response. After a brief moment of levity with his team, he’s back in the zone.

****

Torres wanted to fight in the UFC from an early age, but that really wasn’t possible in 1999, when his 120 pounds of skin and bones got him picked on by just about everyone. He wasn’t an athlete at East Chicago Central high school, but he wanted to compete, so he’d show up to wrestling practices. Maldonado was on the wrestling team at the time, and though he didn’t consider Torres a friend at the time, he couldn’t help but be impressed with the little guy’s attitude.

“He’d come in there, this skinny little kid, and he would try to do everything. He’d come in there and wrestle with us. He was trying to live the dream, to chase the dream of actually being in the UFC,” Maldonado says. “Everybody pushed him to the side. ‘Yeah, kid. It’s a joke.’ Everybody thought he was crazy.”

Maldonado went away to college for wrestling, and when he came back in 2006, his path crossed with Torres again. It was a very different version of Torres, though, one who had gone on to continue studying mixed martial arts and jiujitsu in particular. He’d opened a gym adjacent to the one where Maldonado used to work out in high school. Torres asked Maldonado to come into his gym and just wrestle, so that’s what he did.

Torres eventually convinced Maldonado to come into the gym and train. Within five minutes of sparring, Maldonado was caught with a knee that split him open and required ten stitches to close. Miguel was profusely apologetic.

“He was worried about what would happen, that he injured me in the first five minutes. He didn’t know what was going to happen because he didn’t really know me yet. I told him not to worry about it, that I would be back. I’d say it was an accident.”

Maldonado did return to the gym and continued training. Six years later, he’s never left Miguel’s side.

****

It’s July 2, 2011. Torres is standing in the cage after losing a hard-fought battle with Demetrious Johnson. He was confident that he’d won the fight, but MMA judging seems to hinge on a set of criteria that can’t really be defined. He blamed himself for the loss, hated the fact that he went for the kill in the third round instead of maintaining top control like his trainer Firas Zahabi told him to do. He’d gone directly against his master’s instructions and he’d paid the price.

“I felt like it was my fault. My biggest regret was that I didn’t just lay on him for the entire last round. I got the mount, but I couldn’t really hit him because he was so short that he could turn his hips and escape,” Torres says. “I can see it in my mind very vividly. I could hear him breathing and I knew he was trying to move, but I could hear people starting to boo. I should have laid on him for the last minute and a half, but he put his neck up for a guillotine, so I went for it.”

Zahabi told him throughout the entire training camp that he shouldn’t give up position just to go for a submission, but he didn’t listen. Johnson ended up scoring a takedown at the end of the round that secured his win in the mind of the judges.

“The worst thing for me was looking at Firas’ face. He was so disappointed, because he told me what would happen and I didn’t listen. He told me to stay there and do damage, but I went for it,” Torres says.

The aggressiveness created in Torres during his early years of being pushed around was just too much for him to resist. He’s a good person by nature, but no matter how hard he tries, he still can’t quite turn off the pain of those early years. Zahabi tries to control Torres and his emotions in the cage to the best of his ability, but even the master game plan artist can’t quite undo all of the years of torment Torres suffered through as a kid.

“Whenever I played sports, whether it was basketball or soccer or football, I was always the smaller kid, always playing with older kids. If I wanted to fit in, I had to be tough, and I think that’s where it came from,” he says. “Even when I started training, I wasn’t as big as everyone else, so I had to work harder. I had to be extra tough. And for so long it was like that. And now I’m at the level where I have to pull it back and stop being so crazy.”

The decision to start playing things safe wasn’t made just for career considerations, at least not in terms of wins and losses. Torres had gone so hard for so long that his body was suffering. All of the press engagements, all of the non-stop training and commitments to other people made him tired, and his body never really recovered from the beatings. He knew he could outwork anybody he’d faced and never lacked for confidence when it came to the work he put in during training camp, but he was tired. In Zahabi, Torres found a trainer who would reign him in, keep him from getting too aggressive and perhaps help him heal his nagging injuries and extend his career.

Page 2 of 2

The fall of 2011 was a cathartic one for Torres. After experiencing untold problems with previous management, Torres finally had enough. A meeting with Authentic Sports Management head Glenn Robinson in Houston led to an invitation to train at the Imperial Athletics gym in Boca Raton, Florida.

He journeyed to Florida and began training with the self-named Blackzilians. His first day at Imperial Athletics got off to a rough start when he and Maldonado missed their flights from Chicago. It was a Saturday afternoon, and Torres was worried that he would be too late to train with anyone, but K-1 star Tyrone Spong volunteered to stick around and hold pads. Spong, one of the deadliest strikers in the world, with legs the size of tree trunks and one hell of an impressive resume, wanted to see what Torres had.

It was a match made in heaven, or at least, in Boca Raton.

“Within five minutes, Tyrone had me throwing five times harder than I ever had,” Torres says. “He just changed some little things around. We clicked right away.”

Torres signed with Robinson, embarking on a completely new and unfamiliar phase of his career. He spent two weeks in Florida and then traveled, with Spong in tow, to Montreal to continue his camp with Zahabi.

The decision to sign with Robinson and Authentic Sports Management was a purifying moment for Torres, a fighter who constantly struggled to make ends meet even while fighting on the biggest stage in the sport. For the first time in a long time, his training and financial situation came together as a whole, giving him a sense of peace that he hadn’t felt in a long time.

“It’s a big relief. When I met Firas and all of these guys, it felt good training-wise. But there were still issues. I got audited twice and I had $60,000 in bills to pay with only $10,000 in the bank. I didn’t know what to do,” Torres says. “I had the gym, I had my daughter. I have all of these things to take care of, and now I have this huge bill, and they’re telling me that if I don’t repay it within 2 months, they’re going to repossess my shit.

“It’s just a lot of pressure. I don’t want to delve too much into my personal stuff, but there were just a lot of issues. I did seminars and training and whatever I needed to do to pay my bills, but I always ended up at zero again. And I would be at zero with the idea of ‘what’s going to happen next,’ you know? Was there something that I owed that I didn’t know about? But now I’ve gotten that straightened out.”

There comes a time in human life when the things that burden you become so heavy that the only real outlet is to vent your frustration. Torres did that last week, taking to Facebook to describe his financial situation and to send a message to people back home that he believed weren’t being honest with themselves or others. It offered a rare look into the mind of a fighter struggling to cope with things he could no longer carry by himself, and it hit home. Letting go was a release for Torres, who found himself free, for the first time in his career, to focus exclusively on the fight at hand, the one that takes place inside of a cage.

“It’s a lot, but people don’t understand what it takes to go through this. I didn’t just start two years ago, you know? I’ve been doing this for a long time. There are a lot of responsibilities, and I’ve worn a lot of hats. Every time I’ve tried to get someone to help me, to wear one of my hats, they’ve screwed me over,” he says. “So it’s hard to trust people with my heart. But as you get older, you get wiser. You stay on the bike and you keep riding.”

Maldonado has seen the change in Torres. “It’s one of those things that he held in for a long time. He wants to help people. But it comes to a point where you just try to help someone so much, you have to eventually stop,” Maldonado says. “And now he’s settled. The line is drawn, and you’re either on this side or that side. And the guys that are on the other side? They’re not going to come back. The ones who are his true friends, the ones who are supportive, are going to at least approach him and tell him they’re sorry, that they want to figure it out. It definitely settles who is with you and who is against you.”

****

I take Torres back to the moment in the hallway with Pace, where the guy who grew up watching him destroy opponents said hello and received nothing in return. It was a strange moment. Go back to the old high school days in Indiana and all of the moments where Torres tried to work his way to respectability, to overcome his size and the odds and the anger to become something more than he was. Surely Torres had heroes, much like the way Pace looks up to him now, and surely those heroes drove Torres to the kind of success he may not have achieved on his own.

Does that count for anything?

“I don’t care if he thought I was his hero. It doesn’t mean anything to me. When I go out there and fight somebody, I want to destroy them. It just doesn’t matter to me. The way I look at it, he’s meat and I need food. In the crudest sense, that’s how I feel.

“I lost the last fight and everyone thought I was done, or that I was weak. That’s so far from the truth. I swear that my wrestling has improved one-hundred percent. By next year, it’s going to be even stronger,” he says. “Everything happens for a reason. If I would have beaten Demetrious, I would have gone to Montreal right away. I would have kept my same management situation. I would still have all of these problems. I wouldn’t see my daughter and I’d still have all of this stress. Even if I beat Dominick Cruz, I’d still have this host of 5’2” miniature wrestlers waiting for me.

“It all happens for a reason. I wouldn’t have met Tyrone, I wouldn’t have signed with Glenn. There’s a whole lot of good that came out of me losing to Demetrious. You don’t see the bigger picture until it’s painted, and I’m just painting in the corner of the picture right now.”

I Need A Goddamn Time Machine

Here Is What I Would Do If I Had a Time Machine.

I would get in this time machine and I would skip past the 43 different UFC cards between now and November 2 that I have no interest whatsoever in. I would go to November 2 and I would watch Jorge Masvidal fight Nate Diaz for the Baddest Motherfucker Championship. That is what I would do.

There are many other important things I could and probably should do if I had a time machine. There are so many good things I could do for the world, like going back in time and buying Apple and Google stock and become the richest person alive. I could even do some shit for mixed martial arts. I could go back and watch the early awesome PRIDE cards, or I could tell Tim Sylvia to stop wearing his fucking heavyweight championship everywhere he went. I could go back and tell Matt Riddle to just forget the whole fighting thing and go straight into pro wrestling. I could go back and tell Brock Lesnar to please not do the breakdance, no matter how badly Cain Velasquez beats the shit out of him, or teach him how not to give Frank Mir the easiest win in the history of easy wins.

I could do some kind of arson somewhere in Vegas so firefighter Steve Mazzagatti wouldn’t be there to ruin Jon Jones’ perfect record with bad refereeing. I could smoke weed with Nick and Nate Diaz on the day weed was decriminalized in California, except I did that and it was awesome, so never mind.

I could go back and find out what the fuck Bjorn Rebney meant by MEXICO and whether he really went to MEXICO and, if he did, what he did in MEXICO for all those years until he came back and started a fighter association that flamed out in record time. I could also find out what happened to Franklin McNeil.

I could do all of those things.

But what I would do right now, if I had this fucking time machine, is to go forward to November 2 and watch Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz.

I would do this even though Masvidal and Diaz got together today at Madison Square Garden for a press conference to hype their fight and talk some shit about two pieces and sodas and real motherfuckers, and then they didn’t do any of that. Instead, the two most exciting men in the UFC, the two baddest motherfuckers in the game, said the same shit that, oh, Rafael Ricardosono and Steven Mallfarts would say. (I have no idea if these are actual UFC fighters. They might be, though).

Like, someone asked about Masvidal giving Leon Edwards his famous two piece and a soda, which was awesome, and what kind of combo meal did he have in store for Nate?

“He's a different caliber than the guys that you mentioned and I've seen him pull through some tough situations and win those decisions,” Masvidal said, which his NOT THE THING I WANTED TO HEAR.

Yes, sure, Jorge, we have seen Nate Diaz be a tough motherfucker. That’s kind of his brand. Also his brand is doing whatever he wants to do. And smoking weed. But can we talk about other things? Things that have nothing to do with your opponent being a tough motherfucker?

And man, I really don’t like Respectful Nate Diaz. I mean, I like him. That’s the real Nate Diaz—he is the nicest dude you will ever meet—but what I wanted was the Other Nate Diaz. You know the one. He shows up in public from time to time and captures our imaginations and our hearts.

And yet, despite my great disappointment at the respect shown between these two, I would still get in my fucking time machine and cruise on over to November 2. Because folks, there’s no other fight that comes close to matching this one. None.

One more thing: Masvidal said he was done talking about Conor McGregor? This was funny.

Nobody is ever done talking about Conor McGregor.

The press conference wasn’t a total loss, of course.

Dana White got some good digs in at Colby Covington, and if there’s any way to make me a Dana White fan again, it’s to shit on Colby Covington’s head. Covington had a date booked with Kamaru Usman for the UFC welterweight title on this November 2 show, but then Colby’s false sense of superstardom kicked in and, before he knew it, he was on the outs again. Which is very funny, especially when it was followed once again by Covington going super beta and whining about being disrespected. That’s the kind of thing I can get into.

"Colby Covington can say whatever he wants," White said. "We make fights for a living, that's what we do. We go after guys and say, 'This is next, this is the date, do you want the fight?' And obviously, he wanted more money to fight Usman. We went back and forth.

"This is the second time he's done it. He had a title fight in Dallas, too. So, we said if you don't want to fight Usman, then we'll give you Tyron Woodley. He turned down Tyron Woodley, too. You either want to fight or you don't. When Colby Covington wants to fight, he'll let us know."

Please let it be never.

Loading more posts…