At Tuesday’s Nevada Athletic Commission hearing in Las Vegas, executive director Bob Bennett said the sanctioning body he oversees could look to curb a trash-talking culture in combat sports that appears at times to be spiraling out of control.
Citing the role of Conor McGregor’s heated rhetoric in inflaming tensions with Khabib Nurmagmedov, which ultimately boiled over in a post-fight brawl at UFC 229 in Las Vegas for which both fighters were sanctioned, Bennett hinted fighters could be suspended or fined for their words.
“I think it’s gotten to the point with certain unarmed combatants to where it’s become totally unacceptable,” Bennett said. “There’s not any other athletes, that I’m aware of, that have spoken in various press conferences the way Mr. McGregor has. I definitely think, unequivocally, that’s something we need to take a more active role in and take an active role in for their language.”
The response to this idea has not exactly been positive, as the commission, a government agency, would seem to be leaving itself wide open for a lawsuit on First Amendment grounds should it attempt to sanction a fighter for his or her words.
Count UFC president Dana White, who has made plenty of money over the years off heated hype, among those who think the NAC’s idea is a non-starter.
“I think it’s crazy, I think it’s insane,” White said at Thursday’s UFC 235 press conference in Las Vegas. “I think it’s unconstitutional, first of all. I don’t think you can legally do that.”
As far as White is concerned, while the commission’s role in overseeing events like the post-fight melee at T-Mobile Arena at UFC 229 is valid, attempting to police speech is something altogether different.
“These guys get into a cage and they punch each other in the face,” White said. “They can knock each other unconscious, they can choke each other, but they can’t say mean things to each other? It’s pretty ridiculous.”