In Defense of Miguel Torres
The emergence of mixed martial arts and the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the mainstream media has put its president Dana White, who became a central figure in the company’s promotional efforts, under the spotlight. Enjoying glamour almost as much as his employees, he created for himself an image of a Vince McMahon-like soap opera character, who would have went to Don King’s school of scorched earth business ethics.
What transpires of White’s on-screen behavior is that he likes being the boss, more than anything he’s ever done in his lifetime. Over the years, on the great observational platform that is the UFC reality show The Ultimate Fighter, you could see him fire fighters on cable television, fire coaches on cable television and make a creative use of profanities as a motivational speech enhancer. Question the nature of the reality you see in the show all you want, but the reach of Dana White’s actions is very real. None of the fighters he kicked off the show had much of a career afterwards.
Dana White enjoys the hell out being in charge and under the spotlight at the same time. His latest “boss” move (like I call them) was to fire ex-Bantamweight Miguel Torres from his roster for making rape jokes on Twitter. Very commendable move from the boss, right? To fire a once valued employee for making public comments that made the company look bad.
That’s what responsible bosses do…right?
I don’t think so. There is a cloud of nebulous circumstances around Miguel Torres’ firing. It wasn’t a gesture of goodwill from Dana White, but rather he used Torres’ comments against him to show him the door. What I’m saying here is that Miguel Torres was not fired on an ethical basis, but rather an economic one and White’s appropriation of the recent rape scandals sends a really weird and contradictory message to actual rape victims.
The Tweet that got Miguel Torres fired was: “If a rape van was called a surprise van more women wouldn’t mind going for rides in them. Everyone likes surprises”. Tasteless, I know. Not the brightest thing to say for a guy who’s trying to get back into the spotlight. It’s also a quote taken verbatim from a television show called It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Now, whether an employee should be fired or not for such comments is up to his boss, but the problem here is that Torres’ tweet is not the only variable of the equation.
He was the third UFC fighter to make explicit rape comments in a very short period of time and the only one that had to suffer consequences. Forrest Griffin was the first, tweeting “Rape is the new missionary”, which is an offense of the same potency. A cynical one liner. Right there, if one gets fired, both should be fired. They did the same thing and were treated differently. One could argue that Miguel Torres did it after and he should have known better, but here’s the third variable of the equation. Rashad Evans.
In a press conference in Chicago, Evans told his future opponent Phil Davis: “‘I guarantee you’re going to be the first one to take a shot because I’m going to put those hands on you worse than that dude did them other kids at Penn State.”.
Now THAT’S bad.
Evans was referring to Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State sex scandal abuse that lead to the firing of legendary head coach Joe Paterno. I am aware that in the fight vernacular, rape is a synonym for a severe beating, but comparing Phil Davis to the child victims of Jerry Sandusky is heavier and more deliberate than Griffin and Torres’ cynical one liners. Apparently Dana White had a discussion with Evans behind closed doors, but that’s all there’s been rumored for punishment.
If he wanted to be ethical about this, if Dana White would have pulled a “boss” move that was coherent with his on-screen persona, he would have:
1) Fired all three
2) Kept them all with the company.
There is no way you can justify on an ethical basis the firing of Miguel Torres after Rashad Evans’ comments. It doesn’t make any sense. The ex-Light-Heavyweight champion was making fun of actual rape victims. Dana White can say whatever he wants, say it’s a “case-by-case” issue, but from an ethical standpoint, it’s worthless.
If you look at it from an economical point of view, then you can start making a case for it.
There is no way that the UFC would have fired Rashad Evans or Forrest Griffin. They are two ex-champions that fight in a high-profile weight class. They are money in the bank, potential headliners for every show. Both could potentially step up as a late replacement for a marquee fight.
Miguel Torres on the other hand was paid sixty thousand dollars for his quiet dispatching of Nick Pace on the undercard of UFC 139. This is the real reason why he was cut from the UFC. Michael McDonald made only fourteen thousand for the Knock-out of the Night, on the same card. Yves Jabouin made twelve thousand on UFC 140. Ivan Menjivar made twelve thousand to beat Pace, a few months earlier. From an economic point of view, it makes sense. Miguel Torres as a money outside the bank. He was paid like a champion to fight on the undercard.
Now, Torres’ newfound disciplined boxing style has attracted him many critics, but he had yet to face somebody who could return the punches. Antonio Banuelos had a thirteen inch reach handicap on him. Nick Pace was way too green. Both times, the ex-Bantamweight kingpin did not have to leave his comfort zone to beat them.
Firing Miguel Torres after a disappointing performance makes sense from an economic point of view, but it’s short sighted. They could have given him more dangerous opponents that could trade with him and make him justify his salary, but they decided to cut him based on his slow and methodic victory over Pace. Last spring, Torres had a very exciting (and close) three round scuffle with Demetrious Johnson, but that’s already in the past.
I don’t believe Dana White cares about rape victims to the point of firing one of his fighters. Dana White cares about his business first and foremost and the firing of Torres is a meticulously planned attempt to look good while saving money by dumping a fighter that had become expendable to him. Ultimately, the firing of Miguel Torres can be perceived as a sign of weakness. He’s not the carefree entrepreneur, the captain of his own ship, like he leads us to believe.
Miguel Torres was the scapegoat of a company who’s been looking to trim their roster. I would not be surprised if he’s rehired somewhere down the road, but at a lower salary and to face more difficult opponents. Firing him under the motives Dana White stated in public was unfair and dishonest to the UFC fans. He gave up on him after the Nick Pace fight. His tweet was just a good excuse to fire him.
Dana White bows to the same Gods as everybody else. Those printed on dollar bills.
*** Benoit Lelievre is a member of the Tristar gym. This piece reflects his views alone and do not reflect the opinion of Tristar in any way.
 White gets considerably more air time on a yearly basis than most fighters anyway. Do the math, a fighter gets a maximum of thirty minutes of airtime IF he’s headlining, two or three times a year. White gets about five minutes at every show (sometimes once a week), plus he participates on the seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. The man loves the camera.
 Eli Joslin, for being claustrophobic (season two). Noah Inhofer, for missing his girlfriend (season three), Allen Berube, Noah Thomas and Marlon Sims, for being retarded (season five), amongst others.
Tito Ortiz , on season eleven, a few days before the end of the show, for being injured. He was then unexplainably replaced by Rich Franklin, who BEAT adversary coach Chuck Liddell at the end of the show.
 Season 4, Episode 2: The Gang Solves The Gas Crisis.