Coming out of a rare weekend without a UFC card, MMA fans rejoiced. Stories about the UFC over-saturating their product are frankly…over-saturated, so the prospect of a week or two without a card was a welcome respite. Yet, as Luke Thomas has told us time and time again, the MMA gods hate us, so they have “blessed” us with a fringe-MMA story that has garnered international attention, popping up on just about every outlet you can imagine. Promising UFC Flyweight Andrea Lee was the victim of an alleged domestic assault in the wee hours of August 4th going into August 5th. According to an eye witness, Lee ended up fleeing her house hurt and barefoot, and the suspected assaulter, her husband Donny Aaron (who’s not-too-distant past has already made headlines this year for the worst possible reason), has fled. The story was broken on Tuesday by our own fearless leader here at MyMMANews, one Eric Kowal.
Kowal was kind enough to sit down with the panel of the SFLC Podcast and discuss this story from his side of things. What is it like to be the first person to break a story that gets such widespread attention? Is it even right to break a story like this that is so sensitive, personal, and still ongoing? Is this the type of thing that even counts as MMA news? These are all good questions, and Kowal was very forthcoming about how everything came to his attention and how this story fits into the bigger picture.
But where is the UFC?
One of the biggest topics discussed was the UFC’s response, which if you’re having trouble Googling it right now, that’s because it doesn’t exist. The UFC has been oddly mum about the entire situation, which makes sense from a PR point-of-view, but from a human perspective, it downright sucks.
In the wake of recently signing Greg Hardy, the former football player whose own story also contains multiple allegations of domestic abuse, this lack of action taken by the UFC, to say the least, does not look good. For the UFC to do the right thing, it would literally take one short, sincere press release. “We were made aware of this story. The UFC does not support this type of behavior. We are glad Andrea is OK, and she and her family have our full support.”
And that’s it. The perpetrator isn’t mentioned, no punitive actions are taken, and the victim is acknowledged and supported. That’s all they have to do. Yet they haven’t. Why?
The easy answer is that a hand’s off approach is the way to go here. Best to stay out of the way of an out of control train of internet frenzy, right? Dana White and co. can get rather litigious when it suits them. I can imagine if any of the UFC brass were forced to comment at this moment, the response would be along the lines of, “This is an ongoing situation, and we have no comment at this time.” Even though that hasn’t been said by anyone in the organization as of this writing, they’re letting their silence do the talking for them.
Do they need to respond?
Honestly, the UFC doesn’t have any responsibility in this situation. They’re a private company, and they promote MMA events for the enrichment of themselves and their associates. That’s it. But on a human level, this kind of thing is tough to ignore. Situations and stories like this are what is preventing the UFC (and MMA in general) from really crossing over. People will watch the events and enjoy them, but they won’t bring it up in polite company or wear their shirts in public because of the stigma that is attached to the sport– the stigma the UFC is creating as you read this.
Promoters, fighters, and fans alike have all wanted MMA to get the same mainstream attention like professional football and basketball, and you know what they say, “Be careful what you wish for.” With stories about abuse in sports spewing out of Ohio State and Maryland trending worldwide right now, the UFC has found their ticket to the mainstream, though they have unwittingly chosen the absolute worst possible one.
If you’re one of the millions of people who has clicked on a story about a professional athlete being involved in domestic abuse out of morbid curiosity, then our interview with Eric Kowal will help you cut through all of the sensationalism and get to the heart of the matter. Behind all of the headlines are victims, and their stories are the ones that matter.
You can listen to the entire episode below. The interview with Kowal starts at 25:58.