Holyco case raises questions about role of MMA media

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Monte Cox, who has extensively promoted both professional boxing and professional MMA, once told me why liked MMA better. He related an incident from when he used to promoter prizefighting, and went back to get some info from a fighter for the announcer.

“What's your record,” asked Cox?

Angry, the seated boxer looked up him and said “Man, why do you have to ask me that?”

In MMA a guys record is usually win-loss-draw, not arrests and incarceration.

However, the most recent WSoF show on NBC opened with Dustin Holyko vs. Neiman Gracie, and as revealed by Brent Brookhouse at BloodyElbow, Holyko, 24, has an extensive criminal record, and a number of white supremacist tattoos.

His public record on the Volusia County Clerk of Circuit Court database shows 16 different criminal charges dating back to 2005, including domestic battery and cruelty to animals charges in 2011, felony battery domestic violence in 2012, and domestic battery by strangulation in 2013. He served over two years in jail for robbery with a non-deadly weapon, and is currently on probation for the offense.

In addition, Holyko has White Pride written on his biceps, Iron Crosses on his forearms, and Nazi “SS” lightning bolt symbols on his back.

In an interview with MMAJunkie, Holyko attributed the tattoos to a jail stint at 18, the older charges to an unfortunate past from growing up on the streets, and the recent charges to causes far less heinous than they appear. Further, Holyko said he has quit drinking, turned his life around, and was adamant that he is not racist.

“I am proud of my race, but I’m not racist or any kind of Nazi,” said Holyko. “One of my trainers, Mike Vasquez, he’s Puerto Rican and Spanish, and he’s like a dad to me. A lot of my training partners and friends are from different races. I have not a racist bone in my body at all.”

The WSoF cut ties with the fighter, saying that prior to Brookhouse's article, they had no knowledge of the fighter's background.

In an interview with MMAJunkie, WSOF matchmaker Ali Abdelaziz faulted Brookhouse for not coming to the WSoF with the information.

“We don’t do background checks on people,” said Abdelaziz. “But if something comes up, and it’s something we need to know about, I believe us and the media are all part of the team. If the guy who wrote the story knew about the information, he should have told us before the fight. I know it’s not his job, but to protect our sport and grow, if anybody has information about this kind of behavior, they should let us know.

“We don’t tolerate this; we had no idea this kid had this behavior or a tattoo or an affiliation, but he will never fight for the WSOF again. It’s embarrassing, and that will never happen again.”

A number of members of the MMA media found fault with the idea that Brookhouse should have reached out to the WSoF and informed them, presumably privately.

T. P. Grant ‏@TP_Grant
WSOF to @brentbrookhouse “Hey do our job for us, but don't publish it when we screw up because we are on the same team, kthanksbye!”

@brentbrookhouse
I totally failed in my responsibilities to WSOF.

Ben Fowlkes ‏@benfowlkesMMA
I hope you've learned your lesson, Brent. Don't let it happen again. RT

Josh Gross ‏@yay_yee
Damn weird mentality of what media is/should be in the MMA world. Terrible, actually.

Ben Fowlkes ‏@benfowlkesMMA
But, let's be honest, it's not like weird ideas about what the media's role is are uncommon in MMA.

Chris Nelson ‏@3ammma
this reminds me, Strikeforce veteran and noted human trashbag Brandon Saling is still at it 

There was a time when the sport of mixed martial arts was terribly fragile. In all of 1998, there were only three UFCs, and back then nearly everyone who loved it – fans, promoters, fighters, media – sought to protect it from a mainstream media that considered it human cockfighting.

Now however, FOX spends $700,000,000 million to broadcast the sport to millions. With that widespread acceptance comes a different responsibility – not to save it from harsh scrutiny at all costs, but to protect its long-term interests by exposing failings, as necessary.