Mixed Martial Arts Blog

For starters, Sandy Hook was not a hoax. I live in Sandy Hook, and the week’s worth of funeral processions down Church Hill Road was not imagined. The grieving people here are not actors. The ambulances that raced by my house were not props. The kids that have been taken from this community are not coming back. Neither are the teachers.

It’d be nice if Ronda Rousey knew better, but you wonder whether she does. Even after her manager Darin Harvey tried to clear things up in an interview with MMA Junkie.

Rousey tweeted an “extremely interesting must watch video” (as she put it) on Tuesday about a government conspiracy in regard to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn. (a poorly constructed video presenting the whole thing as a staged massacre to boost anti-gun sentiment.) It takes imagination to conjure a wholesale tragedy like that. It takes suspicious minds to help perpetuate the notion, even if Rousey later said she was only trying to present open-mindedness.

There’s open-minded and then there’s absent-minded.

Perhaps Rousey had to be here. Perhaps she should be here. After all, there are plenty of people I could introduce her to who would love to learn that the whole thing was a work of creative fiction, so their family and friends could come home. If only that could really be the case. When my own daughter was on lockdown that morning, it seemed real enough for me.

I am as opposed to high horses as the next guy, but tweets like these come off as senseless. And as a transcendent, historical figure in MMA whose actions take on more intensive scrutiny as she goes along, that’s not something the UFC needs. Responsibility remains an issue for some of these fighters who’ve become overnight celebrities.

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Rousey has yet to understand her own sense of bigness. She’s still dealing in silly.

And right now she’s a long way from being an ambassador of this sport. As a self-proclaimed “Diaz brother” – a product of her better humor – maybe she doesn’t really need to be. She can be as ornery and candid and as opinionated as befits her job. Her mean streak works well in a sport than ends up in a cage.

But she could stand to add something very important to her arsenal that right now is a glaring weakness – and that is common sense. The UFC goes over social media protocol in its annual fighter summit, but it apparently still leaves people with vague notions of what passes as proper behavior.

The UFC likes raw. I like raw. I like candid. I like Rousey. I want her to be great for the sport, and I believe she will be great for the sport.

But there’s a line of decency. It’s not in good taste to post a must-see video that the people all around here – shattered, bereft and traumatized – are in on a conspiratorial work. That the unthinkable thing that happened to them didn’t happen to them at all.

And that’s certainly not the kind of response you want from your superstars. While many athletes are using their status to help, Rousey chose to exacerbate the grief. What is the proper response? There isn’t one, but you can pick up cues from the professionals in other sports, where players came at it from a place of empathy rather than paranoia.

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New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz visited the grieving family of Jack Pinto, one of the first-graders who died on Dec. 14. He was a Giants fan. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers AHL hockey team wore jerseys for a home game with the names of the 20 young victims on their backs. Various NFL teams wore decals. Virginia Tech wore helmets memorializing the tragedy. Landon Donovan and other soccer stars visited and held a clinic here in Newtown. The Providence basketball team wore uniforms of green and white, the Sandy Hook colors, with the name of the village across their chests.

These are ways to pay respects. Even Pat Barry, who knocked out Shane Del Rosario a day after the tragedy, emotionally paid respects to the families.

Was Barry “blindly accepting what he was told,” (as Rousey later tweeted) or being a human being? And if you don’t want to pay respects, don’t say anything at all. What if one of these kids was a fan of Rousey’s? What if his or her parents were?

Miguel Torres was released by the UFC in 2011 after posting an offensive comment on Twitter. Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Maybe Rousey came to realize something along these lines, and that’s why she deleted the tweet and apologized. Or maybe it was the backlash alone that did it, and she just forgave herself on the spot with an “oops, my bad!” Who knows. But she didn’t – and likely doesn’t – fear the consequences.

And that’s a little bit maddening. The UFC doesn’t exactly reprimand its professionals for actions such as these. Yes, the UFC cut Miguel Torres for his “rape” tweet, but it seems like window dressing when he ends up on the roster again so quickly thereafter. Forrest Griffin, who made a rape joke of his own, wasn’t given much of a slap on the wrist.

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More than likely, Rousey won’t be either.

She’s the first female world champion in the UFC and is about to become the first woman to defend that title in a UFC main event. She’s the “big thing” in MMA right now. It’s a terrible time for her to dim her own star.

She made a mistake, and mistakes are forgivable. In an ideal world, you’d hope somebody within the company might want to make sure she understands the nature of her mistake.

Then again, in an ideal world, the Sandy Hook massacre would have never happened to begin with. But the truth is, it did.

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