(Thiago Silva and Thaysa Kamiji Silva in…happier times, I guess? / Photo via Ryan Loco)
By Sydnie Jones
Editor-in-chief of WomensMMA.com
UFC light-heavyweight Thiago Silva was cut from the UFC back in February after he had a standoff with a SWAT team, following an incident outside of the Pablo Popovitch Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Fort Lauderdale. Here’s how it started, per Thaysa Silva’s and Pablo Popovitch’s statements to police:
(Thaysa Silva) and victim #2 Pablo Popovitch were inside the center when she observed the defendant driving his vehicle, a 2012 Dodge Charger bearing FL TAG G7ARY. She could see the defendant pull up to the center because the entire store front is clear glass. The defendant then started honking the vehicle horn continuously. She then went outside to speak with him to avoid a confrontation since victim Silva and victim Popovitch are in a romantic relationship. The defendant is aware of this relationship and this fact contributed to his actions. She approached the defendant which was driving, and when she was approached the driver side, he rolled down the window. She immediately noticed that he had been drinking and extremely intoxicated. He then produced a black glock firearm and pointed it at the victim. He stated, You have ten seconds to bring Pablo outside and if he does not come out, I will go in the gym and start shooting everyone. It should be known there was a class in session with approximately 25 students inside. Victim Popovitch then exited the center to protect victim Silva from harm. He then approached the driver’s side of the vehicle and observed the defendant pointing the firearm above the door frame at the victim Silva. The defendant threatened to kill both victim Silva and victim Popivitch. Popovitch then ran back into the gym, locked the front door, and called 911. The defendant then drove away.
And then, on September 5th, the UFC re-signed Thiago Silva in a dazzling demonstration of ignorance, tone-deafness, and who knows what the fuck. The decision is almost entirely incomprehensible, despite Dana White’s meager efforts to explain it:
“But he was acquitted of all charges. How do you not let the guy fight again?
“He went through the legal process and came out of it untainted. He deserves to be able to make a living again. He’s back under contract.”
A) He was not acquitted of all charges. The charges have been dismissed with the announcement of a nolle prosequi, which is not an acquittal. Nolle prosequi is the decision not to prosecute those charges at that time. It doesn’t necessarily mean never, and it is possible to re-indict someone on the same charges.
B) The UFC isn’t some benevolent foundation dedicated to all that is fair and just, as White’s appeal seems to suggest. Otherwise, Ben Askren would be currently fighting in the UFC, and Anthony Johnson would’ve been banned from the promotion long ago. To re-sign Silva with that rationale is disingenuous and hollow.
C) Silva did not go through “the legal process.” He got out on bail, Thaysa Silva fled the country, and the charges were dropped.
D) Thiago Silva was making a living. He was working as a kickboxing instructor with the Blackzilians (thanks for the pic, guys, I’m digging that Nosferatu look) and had a fight scheduled with some amoral promoter for the end of August.
So what is White thinking? Maybe they want to set him up as a can so everyone can watch him get destroyed in the Octagon while capitalizing on his infamy. Does White actually believe his own line of bullshit? I mean…he can’t, right? Did Silva send some threatening text messages promising to have him killed?
During an interview with Ariel Helwani, Thiago Silva has a lot of nothing to say for himself. After taking offense to Helwani asking about that whole SWAT team standoff thing (c’mon Helwani, can we just move on? it’s in the past), Silva says he wanted a divorce but his wife demanded money, and then when he wouldn’t give it to her, she “set (him) up. That’s it.” Seriously.
Unsurprisingly, Silva is painting himself as a man victimized by a crazy, lying, gold-digging woman set on personal vengeance. I doubt White is dumb or sexist enough to believe that, but by allowing Silva back in the UFC, he’s co-signing that narrative, to a degree. How nice that Dana could change this poor man’s life, after Silva was beset by multiple instances allegations of domestic abuse and scary-as-shit behavior that seemed to be escalating. Deadspin points out there were three separate instances. It’s so inspiring when these hard-luck cases can regain their self-confidence and right the wrongs done to them and get to fight for the most prominent, elite promotion in the world.
Let’s pretend Dana does think he’s doing the honorable thing. Does he endorse his fighters saying super sexist, smug things like, “I learned…don’t trust girls”? Of course, Silva chuckles and says he’s joking. No doubt. After some daffy girl trying to profit off his simple desire to be free of her, it must be very easy to be totally joking about how women are untrustworthy.
“People will forget. They always do,” Silva says, which I can personally guarantee will not be true in this instance. Also, does he use the internet? The Internet never forgets.
Later on in the MMA Hour, Helwani also interviews Anthony Johnson, who entered a nolo contendre (no contest) plea for domestic violence in 2010. Johnson, who is somehow still in the UFC despite what White describes as a strict policy enforced since “day one,” was rehabilitated by the penal system with the following: one day in county jail, eight hours of community service, three years’ probation, and 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling. Boy, what a penance.
Following the premiere of TUF 20 on September 10th, Fox Sports Live decided to seize a golden PR opportunity for the UFC to demonstrate its morals and policies around domestic violence with a brief interview with White. What followed was so patently and verifiably false it bordered on humorous. Here’s what the UFC president said when host Dan O’Toole asked him how he justified re-signing Silva:
“If you believe in the process, if you believe in the legal process, they came, [police] arrested him and he wasn’t brought up on any charges. Plus, I know a lot more of the story and what went on. If you take his side of the story, her side of the story, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but he went through the process and he wasn’t charged with anything.”
So, rest easy, everyone — Thiago gave his bestie Dana the lowdown, and you don’t need to worry about it anymore. Silva would have no reason to lie about what happened or anything, because he’s a good guy and his wife fleeing the country is just what happens in this type of situation. It pretty much all makes sense and is believable. IF you believe in the “legal process” and assume that it doesn’t falter.
When O’Toole asked if the UFC would follow the NFL’s lead and strengthen its stance on domestic violence, White had this to say:
“We’ve been like that since day one, anyway. Obviously, when you’re dealing with human beings, there’s going to be things where guys are going to test positive for all different types of drugs. Guys are going to do stupid things. Guys are going to say stupid things in social media. There’s going to be all these things that happen. We have a record, a track record of getting rid of many people that have done bad things.
“We’ve been human beings in letting these guys, other guys make up for what they’ve done and come back. There’s one thing that you never bounce back from and that’s putting your hands on a woman*. Been that way in the UFC since we started here. You don’t bounce back from putting your hands on a woman*.”
Since this was on television, White couldn’t actually say “asterisk” and list the exceptions to that rule who currently fight in the UFC. Like Anthony Johnson and Abel Trujillo. Yeah, that’s an unimpeachable policy, Dana. Strictly defined and rigorously enforced.
Apparently, White still thinks his audience is dumb enough to believe the lines he’s feeding them. It’s White’s prerogative and responsibility to shape his company’s relationship with domestic violence, and re-signing Silva is a serious misstep that isn’t going to go away. People can change. But when domestic violence offenders have a recidivism rate of 62% within two years post-release, is gambling your company’s reputation on on those odds worth it?
Follow Sydnie Jones on twitter at @syd1138, and read her two-part series on sexism, misogyny, and domestic violence in MMA here and here.