Over the last few years, social media has become a huge deal in MMA. The sport’s biggest stars – as well as its biggest promoter, the UFC – regularly use social media accounts on platforms like Twitter and Instagram to interact with their millions of fans. However, over time, we’ve also seen that social media can be a double-edged sword.
It has been reported today that MMA pioneer Gina Carano is the latest star to land in hot water due to a controversial social media post, but she isn’t the first to do so.
Five MMA stars who have got into hot water for their social media posts:
Over the years, we’ve seen a number of MMA stars, inside and outside the UFC, get themselves into major trouble due to questionable or offensive social media comments.
On that note, here are five of the most notorious incidents involving MMA fighters and controversial social media posts.
#1 Gina Carano (2021)
Despite never fighting in the UFC, Gina Carano is widely considered a legend and a pioneer of female MMA. Back in 2007, Carano fought Julie Kedzie in what was the first women’s MMA fight to air on live national television in the US under the now-defunct Elite XC banner.
While Carano largely retired from MMA after her loss to Cris Cyborg in 2009, she was able to parlay her fame in the world of MMA into a successful acting career.
Over the years, Carano has starred in movies such as Haywire, Fast & Furious 6 and Deadpool, as well as the popular Star Wars-inspired series, The Mandalorian. However, after her recent behaviour on social media, it looks like Carano’s acting career may now be dead in the water.
Late 2020 saw the hashtag #FireGinaCarano trend on Twitter after the former MMA star made a number of inflammatory posts that questioned the validity of Joe Biden’s victory in the US Presidential election.
After causing more controversy with anti-mask and transphobic posts, Carano recently made a controversial Instagram post comparing the treatment of Republican supporters in the US to that of Holocaust victims in Nazi Germany.
The post was enough for LucasFilm to distance itself entirely from the former MMA star, condemning her views as 'abhorrent' in the process. And it's now been confirmed that she won't be returning to The Mandalorian.
Whether Carano can recover from this controversy is a major question mark, but it’s unlikely that even a return to MMA could help her regain her popularity now.
#2 Tyler Manawaroa (UFC, 2014)
Back in 2014, it looked like Australian prospect Tyler Manawaroa was about to make it to the big time. After putting together an unbeaten 10-0 record on the Australian MMA scene, the ‘Wild Thing’ was signed by the UFC and went onto star as part of the TUF: Nations cast.
Manawaroa didn’t win the series, but he clearly impressed enough to be given another shot in the UFC. Unfortunately, before he was given the chance, a controversial social media post from his past reared its head.
It was discovered by his fellow TUF castmate Kajan Johnson that Manawaroa had made a racist Instagram post in 2012, sharing a highly offensive joke and dropping the n-word in the process.
While Manawaroa did apologise for the post – describing it as a bad joke – it wasn’t enough to save his UFC career.
Once the promotion was alerted to the post, they quickly apologised for not picking up on it during a background check and stated that the Australian would not be offered a UFC contract.
While some observers felt that that was harsh – Manawaroa was just 17 years old when he made the post – the message was clear: the UFC simply doesn’t tolerate racism on social media.
The incident also triggered the end of Manawaroa’s MMA career, and he has not fought since.
#3 Miguel Torres (UFC, 2011)
When the UFC absorbed its sister promotion, the WEC, in 2011, one fighter who was destined for stardom was Miguel Torres.
Torres – who had toiled in the MMA’s smaller shows for years – was one of the WEC’s poster-boys as the promotion’s Bantamweight champion.While he lost that title in 2009, it felt like UFC success was there for his taking. But that was before he made the error of making a highly offensive social media post in late 2011.
Torres found himself in hot water after making a Twitter post that joked about rape, with the joke reportedly a quote from the sitcom Workaholics.
Just days later, after he had been alerted to the offensive post, UFC President Dana White told Sports Illustrated that Torres was cut from the UFC – explaining that the former was 'disturbed' by the fact that the Bantamweight had found the joke funny.
Surprisingly enough, however, a few weeks later, Torres was re-signed by the UFC. White’s explanation was that he apologised for his mistake and 'handled himself like a man'.
However, the stench of the incident would hang over the former WEC champion for the remainder of his UFC career; following a loss in early 2012, he was released by the promotion again.
#4 Conor McGregor (UFC, 2019)
MMA’s biggest superstar, Conor McGregor is unfortunately no stranger to social media controversy. Whether it’s igniting feuds with his fellow UFC stars or promoting his Proper Twelve whisky brand, McGregor’s social media presence is a huge one that helps to drive his popularity.
However, ‘The Notorious One’ was also involved in a pretty controversial social media incident during his feud with UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
When responding to a verbal jab from ‘The Eagle’ that compared him to a 'jealous wife', McGregor made a seemingly bigoted Instagram post, and then deleted it just 15 minutes later.
However, by that point the post – and its offensive content – had been spotted by MMA fans across the world. The post showed a photo of Nurmagomedov and his wife on their wedding day, with McGregor labelling the Russian's wife 'a towel'.
Naturally, the post didn’t go down well at all. McGregor was widely condemned and accused of bigotry towards the Muslim Nurmagomedov and his family. Khabib Nurmagomedov and his manager Ali Abdelaziz, in turn, fired inflammatory social media posts of their own back at the Irishman.
While McGregor was not officially reprimanded by the UFC, Dana White did state that the promotion was taking 'necessary steps' to address the issue. Thankfully, nothing quite as offensive has been produced by the ongoing feud since.
#5 War Machine (Bellator MMA, 2013)
One of the most controversial MMA fighters of all time, War Machine – originally known as Jon Koppenhaver – is currently serving a life sentence in prison for kidnapping and sexual assault.
Thus it should come as no surprise that the former UFC and Bellator MMA star found himself in trouble on a number of occasions due to his offensive social media posts.
Perhaps the most infamous – and disturbing – incident came in 2013, when War Machine was part of the Bellator MMA roster.
War Machine made two offensive Twitter posts that referenced rape. When he was called out for that by his followers, he claimed men were as oppressed as Jews in Nazi Germany or black slaves in 'early America'.
Incredibly, despite condemning War Machine’s posts, then-Bellator MMA CEO Bjorn Rebney stood by his fighter, saying that he'd apologised and would learn from his mistake.
War Machine would go on to fight two more times under the Bellator MMA banner, and was only released by the promotion in 2014 – when his sexual assault and kidnapping case came to light - making his Twitter references to rape even more disturbing.
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