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Monday, June 04, 2007
Mixed Martial Arts--- Sims-Thomas Street Fight and Scheduled UFC "Rematch" Give the Sport Two Black Eyes
Editorial by Ivan Trembow

A lot has been said and written about the UFC's handling of the unsanctioned street fight between Marlon Sims and Noah Thomas on a recent episode of The Ultimate Fighter. The UFC absolutely did the right thing by kicking Sims and Thomas off the show. Two fighters in TUF history were kicked off the show and no longer welcome in the UFC for not making weight (Kenny Stevens and Gabe Ruediger), and doing anything less than that to Sims and Thomas for getting into a street fight would have accurately been seen as encouraging exactly that kind of behavior on future seasons.

This brings us to the fact that despite being kicked off the show and called a disgrace to the sport, Marlon Sims and Noah Thomas are being welcomed back into the UFC. Not only that, but they'll actually be fighting each other in a bout that is being promoted specifically as a rematch of the street fight. And not only will this fight take place on the season finale card on June 23rd in Las Vegas, but it will actually be given the "main card" treatment and air live on Spike TV.

It would be very difficult for the hypocrisy in all of this to be more overwhelming. First of all, there's the fact that the fighters are put in a house with no form of entertainment or contact with the outside world and then provided with as much beer and hard liquor as their hearts desire.

Quasi-outrage and shock notwithstanding, that basic combination is a formula that has been used to create drama, confrontations, and fist-fights on a wide variety of reality TV shows for many years. It's not rocket science.

If the UFC didn't want alcohol-induced wild antics or confrontations on the show, it would be very simple to eliminate the alcohol from the equation, as evidenced by Season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter. After Chris Leben's drunken episode on TUF 1, Zuffa's Lorenzo Fertitta said to remove the alcohol from the house and to tell the contestants to act like professional athletes.

One season later, the alcohol was put back in the house towards the end of Season 2, in part because of the belief that there wasn't enough in the way confrontation or wild antics, which means that it should not come as a surprise to anyone associated with the show when the abundance of alcohol contributes to exactly that kind of behavior.

Just as much of a disgrace to MMA as the actual Sims-Thomas street fight itself is the fact that Sims and Thomas are going to get another shot in the UFC, in a match against each other that is being promoted as a rematch of their street fight, and they are being rewarded with a main card slot on the season finale of TUF, while other TUF 5 contestants who didn't get into street fights are relegated to untelevised prelim status, with their finale undercard bouts seen by a fraction of the audience.

It doesn't excuse their actions in any way, but Sims and Thomas' judgment was impaired when they had their street fight because they were drunk.

Spike TV and the UFC cannot use the same excuse for their poor judgment in deciding to reward Sims and Thomas for getting into a street fight on the show.

Both Spike TV and the UFC share the blame for this because either party could have refused to go along with it.

If it was the UFC that was the primary force in wanting to have a Sims-Thomas "rematch" on the TUF 5 finale, Spike TV could have said, "No, we're not going to air that. Put it on PPV or on your web site if you want it to happen so badly."

If it was Spike TV that was the primary force behind it, the UFC could have said, "No, we're not going to have that fight on one of our events, and you can't force us to put any fight on any of our events."

Instead, both Spike TV and the UFC either endorse the decision or share in the complicity for it by allowing it to happen.

Barely a week after the UFC received the most mainstream media attention and coverage in its history, the message that is sent by the Sims-Thomas decision could not be more disturbing: "If you gain enough notoriety from getting in a street fight, you will be rewarded for it."

Sadly, this can't be considered a one-time lapse in judgment, as this is the second time that this message has been sent to potential UFC fighters. The first time was in 2005 when Sean Gannon was given a UFC contract as a result of the notoriety he gained from a video of his unsanctioned street fight with Kimbo Slice.

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