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Twitter Mailbag: Talking Mo Lawal, Steroids in Supplements, and More

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It’s another Friday on another UFC-less weekend, which means it’s time again to open up the Twitter Mailbag and pray that there isn’t any anthrax in there. Warning: this edition begins and ends with very long answers to interesting, complex questions. I realize it might appear daunting at first, but soldier through. There are still a bunch of short, smart-ass responses in between.

If you’ve got a question of your own, look me up on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. I’ll be the one posting pictures of my dog and giving you unsolicited updates on the weather.

Alex P. @Alex_Newfie
can we get your thoughts on @KevinI 's piece on @KingMoFH for your twitter mail bag?

With pleasure, Alex. But first, those of you in need of a little background info might want to read my Sports Illustrated column from this week, and Kevin Iole’s Yahoo! Sports column from yesterday, wherein he takes issue with my argument, as well as the arguments of several others, including our own Mike Chiappetta and Luke Thomas. Reading those two pieces is probably going to take some time, so while you do that, I’m going to go make myself a deep dish pizza from scratch. Meet you at the next paragraph in a few.

Okay, caught up now? Good, now I can enjoy this pizza while I tell you why I think Iole -- who I like as a person and whose work I respect -- is wrong.

For starters, I never argued that NSAC commissioner Pat Lundvall was racist in her questioning of Lawal. In fact, I argued that Lawal -- who I also like as a person and respect very much -- tends to view the world through the prism of race a little too often. I know, because I’ve had these conversations with him before, and have seen just how quick he is to assume that racism is at the core of every negative reaction. If you want to see one such conversation in action, go read Chuck Mindenhall’s excellent feature on him from a 2010 issue of Fight Magazine. I've had almost that exact same talk with him before. So have plenty of people. I know it’s easy for me, a person who is what sociologists refer to as "a white dude," to throw my hands up and say that race isn’t such a big issue. Mo’s experience is quite different from mine, so I can understand why he might be on a heightened alert for racist attitudes. At the same time, if you walk around with only a hammer on your tool belt, pretty soon everything starts to look like a nail.

I definitely think Lundvall was needlessly condescending. I also think it is very possible for a person to be condescending without being racist. Iole points out a previous instance of Lundvall being exactly as condescending to a white man, which he claims is proof that she is not a racist. Again, I never really thought that she was. I just thought she was far more jerk-ish about the whole thing than she needed to be, and the previous instance Iole brings up only supports that position. That doesn’t even come close to excusing Lawal for going all Rush Limbaugh on her via Twitter, but I can see why he might have been upset about the way she spoke to him.

And please, enough with this nonsense about Lundvall just trying to establish facts on the record or "lay a foundation" for her argument by asking Lawal, in the middle of the conversation, if he speaks English [note: as several people have pointed out, Lundvall asked Lawal, an American-born fighter and college graduate, if he could "understand" and read English, not speak it. If you think there's a substantial difference, stop reading now. There's nothing here that will help you]. Does anyone believe that Lundvall was genuinely unsure about Lawal’s English proficiency? Does anyone think she was worried that, at the conclusion of the hearing, he might leap up from his seat and declare that he had fooled the NSAC all along, for he could not read nor understand a word of English, and must therefore be forgiven for the false information on his pre-fight questionnaire? No. Nobody believes that, because it is ridiculous. If you want to establish that a person read and understood the form they were signing, you ask them if they read and understood the form they were signing. You only ask someone if they understand English if you a) are in a foreign country and desperately need to find the hospital, or b) want to be a jerk to them. Not necessarily a racist jerk, mind you, but a jerk nonetheless.

Finally, Iole argues that Lawal deserved to be fired for testing positive for steroids, lying on his pre-fight questionnaire, and lashing out in a profane attack on Lundvall. You could certainly make an argument that that trifecta is worthy of retribution, but bafflingly, Iole then writes, "Hopefully, he'll be brought back at some point, like has happened to Torres, Nate Marquardt and so many others in the past."

I'm sorry, but you can't argue that someone committed a series of offenses that warranted and perhaps even demanded their firing, and yet simultaneously argue that they should be given their job back. If what Iole is saying is that Lawal deserves to be punished by being kept out of action for a while, there’s a word for that: suspension. Zuffa is setting a bizarre precedent with all these firings and re-hirings. So bizarre, in fact, that people are actually starting to expect it. As if it’s a totally normal punishment to be temporarily fired from your job. As if that’s something that happens with such regularity in other career fields or even in other professional sports. This 'I hate you, wait, maybe you're not so bad after all' attitude is something that goes on only in dysfunctional relationships. It shouldn't be standard procedure in a pro sports organization.

Was Lawal absolutely wrong to call Lundvall both a racist and a b-word? Yes. Was he wrong for omitting important information from that questionnaire? Yes. Should he be punished in some fashion? Yes. Is it reasonable to essentially ban him from the big leagues of MMA for these offenses? I don't think so. Again, I like Iole and think reasonable people can disagree on these issues, but I don’t think it serves the sport or its fans to oust a fighter from the top levels of the sport just because of one dumb tweet.

Matt Pryor @CRUMxMMA
Have you enjoyed the past few weeks with the absence of a UFC event? #TMB

Yes and no. It’s sort of like summer vacation when you’re a kid. You look forward to the break and think about all the awesome stuff you’re going to do, but two weeks in you’re sitting around in a ratty t-shirt watching I Love Lucy and wishing you had someone to go ride bikes with. I’ll be glad when the schedule picks back up again and we have more actual fights to write about.

Chuck Mindenhall @ChuckMindenhall
Does Lloyd Woodard own a musket and/or has he ever fought in the Civil War?

Okay, smart guy. I see what you’re up to here. You think just because Lloyd Woodard is a Montanan with a mustache, he must be some sort of Yosemite Sam caricature, huh? You think we’re a bunch of backwards yokels up here in the nation’s fourth largest state, just shooting off guns and swigging XXX brand whiskey. And hey, maybe you’re right. Maybe that is a pretty good little Saturday afternoon in the Treasure State. But before you assume that we don’t know nothin’ about all this fancy MMA stuff, you might want to ask Patricky Freire how his arm is feeling right about now. That's what happens when you underestimate the 406.

James @lightbluesheep
Where is Mike Swick? And, will Matt Serra fight again?

Swick tells me he’s healing up his ACL and hopes to be back in action by August. Also, thanks for thinking about him. As for Serra fighting again, Magic Eight Ball says: Outlook not so good. He doesn’t need to. He had a good career, and now has a brisk gym business back home in New York, from what I hear. I’d like to see him enjoy his retirement and leave the fighting to the young bucks. That is, unless Matt Hughes wants to have another go.

Adrian Garcia @AdriantheWizard
what is the 1st best possible route to take when handling TRT & PEDs? Make all commissions follow same regulations maybe?

That would be a great start, but it’s not enough. This sport needs some sort of independent body to handle policies and testing and punishment. When Dana White says the UFC has too much going on to police the daily actions of 350 fighters, I can see his point. That’s why the UFC -- along with Bellator and every other licensed MMA promoter in the country -- could contribute a percentage of their profits toward forming an organization to conduct random, out-of-competition testing, and to review applications for therapeutic-use exemptions. They should have no influence over that organization whatsoever, and should all agree to abide by its findings. That’s the only way to get serious about cracking down on PEDs in MMA. State commissions don’t have the resources or the collective attitude necessary to get it done. An independent, promoter-funded regulatory body might.

Jason Rule @JasonRule
where does Lawal land when this is done? My vote is Bellator especially since they do not do much in NV.

The problem with Bellator is that they typically want fighters to sign relatively long-term contracts, while guys in Lawal’s situation are usually just looking for a chance to fight once or twice until Zuffa’s fickle affections turn around. That’s what kept Marquardt out of Bellator, which now seems to have been the right choice for him. There have been some grumblings about Lawal considering a run as a pro wrestler, but I wonder if he’d still like that idea six months into living out of suitcases. Plus, he’s such a talented fighter, I’d hate to lose him to athletic theater. He also deserves to be fighting top-tier opponents, so I don’t want to see him crushing cans in some civic auditorium for a couple grand a pop. My bet is he’s back in one of the Zuffa promotions within a year. I just wish we didn’t have to keep going through this same temporary break-up nonsense every time a fighter screws up.

Tim Bennett @tcbennett84
when should a fighter's corner #ThrowInTheTowel? How much of the onus of fighter safety should be on them? #TMB #JoeWarren

In theory, the corner should be ready to throw in the towel in situations like the one Joe Warren was in. In practice, that’s a tough sell. Cornermen get so caught up in the emotions of the fight, it’s difficult for them to make a decision like that in the moment. It’s easier if they can look at their fighter between rounds and tell he’s in trouble. Then they can at least discuss it with him. If they throw in the towel and the fighter feels like he could have continued, he may never forgive them for it.

Michael J Peñarete @MaikolJP
if journalism wasn't as hot as it was back in the 2000s would you of considered a career in mma? If so at what weight

Wait, you’re saying journalism is "hot"? Or it was hot, and now isn’t? I’m confused. Either way, no, I would not have considered a career in MMA for the same reason that I wouldn't have considered a career in the NFL: I'd be killed instantly. I'm a good enough athlete to compete with fellow nerds, but I can't say I'd want to fight for a living even if I thought I could. That was true before I started covering MMA, and it's even more true now.

Plus, I’m about 185 pounds (when I’m eating reasonably well and drinking socially rather problematically). That means I’d probably have to cut to at least 170 just to fight guys my own size. I don’t know if you’ve ever cut weight, but I have and it sucks. When you’re dieting, something weird happens to your brain. It’s like those cartoons where a starving character looks at his friends and just sees a walking pork chop. I have a lot of respect for the guys who can do that over and over again, but I don’t want to live that way. I like hamburgers and whiskey and quiet days in front of my computer. That’s why I’m so thankful that journalism is hot right now. Or was. Still unclear on that part.

Fraser @FrazAFC94
Friday nights are a horrible slot for MMA: Agree or Disagree.

Agree, but only when there are also MMA events on Saturday night. For instance, right now, when the UFC is on hiatus, then I really like having a Bellator event to watch on Fridays. But when the UFC returns with one event after another on Saturday nights, that’s when the Friday night time slot starts to look like a real liability. I’d love to see Bellator move to Tuesday or Wednesday, especially now that "The Ultimate Fighter" is live on Friday. Spread out the action, and MMA fans can keep up with your events without it feeling like a chore.

Rope @BigNiinja
Say Silva beats CS, what would be left for both fighters? Silva clearly best fighter ever and Sonnen just a windbag now

I don’t know if a second loss to Silva would make Sonnen "just a windbag," since he’d probably still be better than 95 percent of the other middleweights out there, but I see your point. His schtick would definitely have to change, lest it become stale and sad. Fortunately for Sonnen, he’s a versatile talent in the cage and in front of the camera. He could hang around and pick a fight with a new nemesis, or he could retire and become a commentator or TV personality of some kind. If he had an afternoon talk radio show, I admit I’d probably tune in.

As for Silva, that might be the perfect win to go out on. I mean, beating your greatest rival in a soccer stadium full of your countrymen? In the movie version of life, that’s a great time to freeze the frame and roll the credits.

Greg Carter @GCHatesYou
If John McCain had his way and MMA didn't exist, what would you be writing about?

Erotic sci-fi fan fiction. That’s why I’m very, very glad that MMA exists.

geeg @blahhelloblah
Hey, What do you think Zuffa will do with the SF tournament winner? what do you think they should do? thanks

Ideally, I’d say the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner should get an immediate UFC title shot. But since the powers that be have decided to keep the winner around in Strikeforce for one more post-GP fight against the always dangerous TBA, I suppose that’s out of the question. Whenever Zuffa gets around to moving the winner over to the UFC, I think you have to give him a title shot right away. That tournament might not have panned out the way Strikeforce hoped (it was an almost impossibly ambitious plan, after all), but whoever’s left standing at the end will have proved himself deserving of a crack at the big belt.

Stealth Lee @stealthlee
If Montana were an MMA fighter, who would it be? :) #mailbag

I feel like it’s a copout to name a fighter who’s from Montana, like Lloyd Woodard or Keith Jardine, though either would work. Instead, I’ll reach beyond state lines and say Don Frye. In fact, I think Frye could probably move here and be governor within six months. He wouldn’t even have to try very hard. All it would take is a couple strategically placed billboards, a viral video campaign featuring his Takayama fight, and a debate performance packed with Frye-isms. He’d win in a landslide.

Brian Kaune @TheBriGuy24
Isnt a COC overrated for UFC? Like the NFL,its open to interp of a single man. UFC has the Fertitas to balance when necessary. &do guys really need 2 be told what they can and cant do? Common sense needs to be on a piece of paper? No sympathy 4 stupidity

This is a good question, and it’s also the line of reasoning Dana White usually falls back on when pressed about why the UFC doesn’t have a standing code of conduct. You can make a strong case that guys like Mo Lawal and Miguel Torres should have known it was a bad idea to tweet the things that they did. The problem is the inconsistency in how different fighters are dealt with. Some seem to get away with just about anything, while others are never more than one dumb tweet away from unemployment. You could argue that a code of conduct might still allow for uneven implementation, but at least it’s a start. The question I keep coming back to is, why not have one? What would be the harm in telling fighters and the public that x offense will result in y punishment?

Maybe the UFC is worried that it might then be required to punish a big star in ways that aren’t helpful to the bottom line. Maybe it thinks that fear of swift, capricious retribution will keep fighters in line. But the fact that the issue keeps coming up tells us that maybe common sense really does need to be on a piece of paper, as sad as that is.

Dan Brooks @Combat_Blog
Can Mo Lawal possibly mean it when he says supplements were responsible for his positive steroid test? Can that happen?

First of all, thanks to my good friend and the author of the wonderful Combat Blog for dusting off his Twitter long enough to ask a question. I had almost forgotten that you knew how to work this part of the internet.

Second of all, in order to give you the informed answer I think you will claim to deserve, I called up my go-to source for these sorts of issues: nutritionist and lifestyle guru to the MMA stars, Mike Dolce. According to the man behind the famed Dolce Diet, it’s actually not an unreasonable explanation at all, even if its credibility has been diminished by overuse lately. Since the supplement industry is essentially unregulated by any government agency, and since supplement companies can put almost anything they want in their products (at least until something bad happens and they get pulled from the shelves), many purposely include steroids, Dolce said, which leads to great results and word-of-mouth support from ambitious gym-goers. That’s why many of these supplements -- including S-Mass Lean Gainer, which Lawal said he used -- include marketing code words like "anabolic" and "designer."

"It’s trying to give the savvy meathead a little nudge, saying come look at us instead of the other, legitimate supplements out there," Dolce said. "Typically, these companies are ones you don’t hear about too much. They don’t have a large marketing budget, so those are the little tricks they use to cater to the meathead crowd. When I was 19, I actually used to manage a GNC, and I’d see this stuff all the time."

So how are you supposed to know if there are steroids or other banned substances in your supplements? "You don’t," Dolce said. "These guys really can get away with whatever they want until a government agency finally steps in and squeezes them. But by then they’ve made millions, so they change the formula, pay a fine that’s a very small percentage of their profits, then they fold their LLCs or what have you and move on to the next brand."

This is why Dolce doesn’t recommend supplements to the fighters he works with, he said, and why his first order of business when a new client hires him is usually to get them off "the powders, pills, and potions." If you know what you’re doing, Dolce said, "you can find what you need in food, in earth-grown nutrients. That’s where it’s at. You can’t market and patent spinach."

In other words, yes, it is totally possible that a supplement from a Max Muscle store caused Lawal to test positive for steroids. It’s also possible that fighters and other pro athletes have worn this excuse down to the nub, and now it’s nothing more than a convenient dodge. Either way, if you can’t be sure what’s in the stuff that you’re ingesting, and if your career could hinge on your ability to pass a drug test, maybe you should think before pumping yourself full of some chemical compound that uses terms like "anabolic" in its marketing materials. Just saying.

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