Dear Joe

(I sent this to Joe Rogan's manager by snail mail. Hope he gets a chance to check it out on top of all the fan mail he gets.)

First and foremost:

Kudos. Kudos and bully for you, Joe Rogan.

I am a diehard MMA fan and have been for some time. As someone who wants to see the sport thrive and takes seriously the narratives that drive it, I cannot even begin to express how deeply proud you made me this morning. I was on and the daily report contained the byline "Joe Rogan attributes Jon Jones' lack of popularity to racism, believes Jones would be embraced if he were white."

At first, I was cautious. You can’t ever be too careful with the MMA media but as I read on and then continued by listening to the PODcast, it seems that your words had not been decontextualized. I won’t say that I was surprised but I have to admit, I didn't ever think it would be stated out loud that Jon Jones’ perception has less to do with him and more to do with the attitudes that surround him.

Aaactually, I think Luke Thomas of may first have hinted at the normalized bigotry that has driven the discourse about Jon Jones but no matter. You are the voice of our sport and your candor on this topic is appreciated by this fan. I have so much fun watching mixed martial arts and the UFC, Joe. The only thing that takes the fun out of it for me is the racism. Pure and simple.

I cringe, Joe. I cringe and become squeamish at some of the dialogue I am supposed to absorb as a sports fan and a human being. What I love about sports and what I love about MMA is how closely it can mirror our broader social dynamics - greatness being achieved through hard work and perseverance, talent being nurtured by family and friends, the beauty of art being expressed in a form we can all appreciate.

And then there’s the racism.

How have we not exercised this from our social consciousness, man?

Jon Jones is the greatest UFC Light Heavyweight Champion of all time. He destroyed the 5 previous titleholders and has put on some of the most incredible performances we have ever seen in combat sports. How is it that we’re not treasuring this guy? How is he fake? Why does it matter? And what scale or barometer are we really using to measure Jon Jones as a mixed martial arts personality or human being? Because it seems to me that being an amazing fighter should be paramount. It’s what he does. It’s his career. And he does it well.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are things about Jon Jones that are annoying and that those things can be objectively irritating. The problem (and you recognized this in your Podcast) is that 1) The indictments of the MMA community are petty, stupid and asinine and 2) They do not hold Jones to the same standard as white fighters.

I mean seriously, dude. We have had some pretty unsavory characters compete in MMA and in the UFC, never mind those who are annoying or ridiculous. The list of people who have made ass’s of themselves who competed or worked for the UFC goes well beyond Jon Jones.

Arianny Celeste beat the Christ out of her Indian boyfriend and got arrested. BJ Penn, Chris Leben, Chad Mendes, Josh Thomson and Dana White all have battery and alcohol related charges. Does Jon Jones have a DUI? Sure he does. Guess who else has one? George "POTUS" Bush. The man who sat in the highest office in the world drank and drove.

Jon Jones is a professional fighter. Some people might say that a man like that has license to be a worse person because of what he is expected to do as a combat professional but he isn’t. He’s not Mike Tyson. He has never raped, murdered or assaulted (Cormier threw the first punch) anyone. He’s never expressed cultural or social prejudice. Oh and he’s never popped positive for performance enhancing drugs.

And this leads me to the Chael/Jon comparison.

I completely agree.

I like Chael Sonnen. He’s an interesting guy and will go down as one of the most thought provoking personalities in MMA history. That said, the man is as close to a disgrace as we have in our sport. He’s the Pete Rose/Roger Clemens of the UFC. He lied and cheated to our faces as a community. He’s been completely out of line on so many occasions that it’s utterly baffling. What do you think would happen if Jon Jones claimed he was going to "pat" Chael Sonnen’s wife on the behind and get her to "make him a steak medium rare"? There would be an uproar…but Chael said it to Anderson and that made it okay.

Seriously, the man is a hypocrite - blasting Lance Armstrong about PED’s while he was participating in the exact same form of blood doping. Worse than that, he gave a voice to the kind of people that wanted Anderson Silva (the greatest mixed martial artist of all time) to lose not because of his lackluster performances but because of where Anderson came from. Honestly, if the Sonnen/Silva fights had been teeming with any more racially charged energy then I would have put my money on someone getting lynched on the way to the octagon before I would have bet on Anderson winning.

I’ve thought this for a while but up until your PODcast, I always figured that it would fall on deaf ears to write about it but here goes:

I don't understand how these people call themselves MMA fans. Sometimes I just sit in front of my computer and wonder how they do it?

How could they boo Anderson Silva? How could they boo the greatest fighter of all time?! How could they rejoice at his getting knocked out even if he was playing around? He always plays around. He’s trying to be entertaining! Was he frustrated with his competition at one point in his career? Absolutely but the man has given us so many spectacular performances. How could they boo the man that gave us the Vitor-Belfort-Front-Kick-To-The-Face??!!

You can do it if Chael Sonnen takes advantage of a very gross ‘quality’ in MMA fans and in people in general. It’s called prejudice, Joe. Sure, he had the fights against Thales Leites, Patrick Cote and Demian Maia as ammunition to criticize Silva but why point the finger at Brazil? In my opinion, it came from a very subtle desire to coerce some fans into an "us versus them" mentality. He said as much in post-fight conferences when referencing how the Brazilians were doing it "right" by rooting for their own fighters.

Well, that didn’t fly with me. Nationalism and xenophobia are too closely related for that kind of rhetoric to not be racially charged especially when it comes to the United States. The issue with Jon Jones and the problem with the discourse about him is the same problem we with how society perceives African-Americans in general. It’s the reason why an unarmed African-American teenager can be shot and killed by an overzealous policeman and it’s the reason why African-American’s are over-policed all over the country.

The particular form of policing that happens in MMA was referenced by George Orwell in Nineteen Eight-Four and he called it "Thought Policing". It’s what happens when the interests of the ruling class are reproduced through social norms by targeting the very thoughts a person has about an individual. Personally, I think the social etiquette police in our sport habitually plays up on racial stereotypes in order to placate an audience that hasn't come to terms with the notion of racial egalitarianism. Maybe that's a lot to expect from MMA fans but they're my people and I want them to act like they have sense.

The question of authenticity, to me, is the most representative of their lack of critical thinking when it comes to this issue. Again, I don’t understand what it’s supposed to mean or why it is even a question. When Chris Weidman first became UFC champion, I saw an interview he gave about MMA legislation in New York. It was jumbled, clumsy, a little incoherent and clearly coached which is why he struggled with it. Guess what? No one said anything about the authenticity of his knowledge on the matter.

Go up a division and every MMA journalist and every armchair promoter is conjuring up innuendo from the big cocky black kid when he sends a stupid tweet. God, it makes me sick.

There are plenty of examples of guys who don’t know what they’re talking about but say what they have to because it’s their job. The idea that other champions and high profile fighters in MMA don’t do this is completely laughable. I take issue with the "white makes right" narrative that protects them from criticism but casts admonishment on Jon Jones. That’s why I don’t care if he trolls people on instagram.

Anyway, I hope I haven’t overstated your opinion on this matter but if I’m at least close, I appreciate where you’re coming from, man. Don’t let anyone get you down with the "white guilt" argument. Its baloney. The reality is this:

In the UFC there are nine world champions and two of them are black. One of those champions is the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world (DJ) and the other is the spiritual successor to Anderson Silva (Bones). I think it’s awfully convenient that these two super-dominant champions struggle with the kind of attention they get from MMA audience (ignoring DJ and booing Bones) while the other seven can do no wrong. Its crap and it needs to stop.

Anyway. Props, man. Keep up the good work and see you at the fights.

- Anti Racist UFC Fan