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.