Sports

MMA Community Finds Rare Consensus in Cyborg/Magana Feud

Seems there really is something that will bring fighters together: a bully.
May 25, 2017, 7:04pm

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you can't get a crowd of mixed martial artists to agree on anything. The very things that make fighters what they are—the willingness to stand half-naked and alone in a cage in front of thousands of people, the eight-week exercises in solipsism disguised as fight camps, the deep physical self-obsession, the solitude—are the same things that make any kind of consensus nearly impossible. Hence the lack, after nearly 25 years of professional MMA in America, of a fighter's union, of a push toward collective bargaining, of any real sense of communal destiny. Aside from the occasional all-expenses-paid, booze-fueled weekend party/brand-integration seminar in Las Vegas, you'd be hard pressed to find anything for fighters to rally around.

So, cheers to Angela Magana for pulling off the impossible. Somehow, in the past four days, the until-now little-known UFC women's strawweight has managed to pull off what Reebok, the UFC, and any number of fledgling fighters' associations never have: creating something like consensus in MMA.

It all began Sunday, you'll recall, when footage was released of women's featherweight Cris Cyborg punching Magana on the street during the UFC's first-ever Athlete Retreat in Las Vegas. Magana, a known social-media agitator, had been tormenting Cyborg for months, primarily about her looks and alleged steroid use, and apparently the featherweight had finally had enough. Magana responded to the punch by pressing charges. The cops responded by citing Cyborg for misdemeanor battery—a crime punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1000 fine. Cyborg responded by posting an elegantly worded statement on Facebook about the power of UFC executives and stars like Dana White, Joe Rogan, and Ronda Rousey to normalize bullying and embolden cruel behavior from lesser lights like Magana (a phenomenon seen yesterday in the assault of a journalist by Republican congressional candidate and Donald "The Media Is the Enemy of the American People" Trump mini-me Greg Gianforte, who, to bring things full circle, was, like Cyborg, cited for misdemeanor assault and faces six months in prison). And Angela Magana responded by going right back to social media and tormenting Cris Cyborg.

Which is when that elusive MMA consensus started to form. Almost immediately UFC fighters past and present came out of every corner to condemn Magana's social media attacks on Cyborg and her decision to press charges.

"It's bullying," UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping said on his podcast two days after the incident. "Angela Magana chats shit, gets banged, and then goes to the police."

"Don't be a bully," Magana fellow women's strawweight Paige VanZant tweeted, as did former bantamweight champion Miesha Tate. Ashlee Evans-Smith called out Magana for her online behavior. Tara LaRosa and Kailin Curran did as well. And several fighters, including strawweight contender Jessica Andrade and Rizin star Gabi Garcia, volunteered to fight Magana.

Hell, even long-lost UFC pioneers made surprise appearances. Former heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia tweeted, "You can only poke the bear so many times before it attacks you. You get what you deserve." And former UFC contender Phil Baroni responded to Magana's decision to press charges by tweeting, "Where I come from snitches get stitches," this after making an unfortunate and apparently unironic and un-self-aware reference to Magana's "nice ass." It seems like everyone in MMA has an opinion about the Cyborg/Magana dustup, and that opinion is remarkably consistent: 1) Magana is an online bully who reaped what she sowed, and 2) fighters don't call cops when they get punched.

For her part, Magana hasn't backed down an inch, issuing challenges to Cyborg, threatening her with legal action over her "roid rage," and generally attacking anyone attacking her—calling out Tim Sylvia for his own past steroid use, Gabi Garcia for her questionable fights in Japan against opponents of advanced age, Michael Bisping for being soft and unloved, and Tara LaRosa for being, well, "grosa."

All said, this one moment of chaos followed by four days of social-media madness have brought a remarkable and rare amount of clarity to the MMA world, not to mention that ever-elusive consensus. Maybe the best thing pro-union advocates could hope for at this point would be for Angela Magana to start tweeting out her opposition to organized labor. Surely then a union would be in the bag.