Most professional sports organizations are cautious about their athletes using Twitter to communicate with fans. Both the NFL and NBA, for example, have issued fines to athletes for online conduct, terrified that they'll lose control of their brands. Back in fall 2010 Chad Ochocinco got fined for $25,000 by the NFL for tweeting during a game. And the New York Knicks’ J.R. Smith got shaken down for the same amount after posting a picture of model Tahiry Jose in a thong earlier this year. But these organizations are dinosaurs and have a lot of past to contend with, so their management strategies, standards, and expectations were forged in a way different world than the one we're living in.
Not so for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The organization is brand new by comparison, and instead of being afraid of their athletes generating fanfare through crazy tweets, they encourage it. They even offer quarterly cash bonuses for Twitter usage. That’s right, MMA fighters are living the dream that you thought only existed in Facebook sidebar ads: They get paid to say dumb things on the Internet.
There are a few categories the UFC offers bonuses in. Most are numerically quantifiable (and dull), like “Highest Percentage of Followers Gained” and that sort of thing, but they also offer a bonus for “Most Creative,” which has some potential. That category is judged by UFC President Dana White, and, honestly, I don’t really envy him the job. I don’t know how many athletes you follow on Twitter, but in my experience it’s not exactly all highlights.
That said, it’s not all retweets from Xyience energy drinks or Warrior clothing. Every once in a while, a little light does shine through the fog. I recently sifted through the Twitter feeds of the four recipients of this quarter’s “Most Creative” bonuses and did my very best to discover what makes these fighters interesting to follow.
Jason "Mayhem" Miller
If you aren’t aware, recently fired UFC welterweight Jason “Mayhem” Miller is an actual crazy person. He was charged back in September with misdemeanor vandalism following an incident that apparently arose from a “misunderstanding" between Miller and the pastor of a church in Mission Viejo, California. The pastor, it seems, misunderstood why Miller was ransacking his church naked. Still, Miller seems like a pretty good guy, so we’ll forgive that his tweets are packed with crass sex-related one liners, armchair leetspeak, DJ Steve Aoki retweets, and shout-outs to dubstep.
A cerebral fighter makes for a cerebral tweeter, at least in theory, and longtime UFC fighter and current TV analyst Kenny Florian’s tweets frequently make good on that promise. While most of his jokes fall pretty firmly in the “dad humor” category, I think Florian’s the leader of the pack as far as fighters who quip. Florian also uses Twitter to express his love for Tom Ford suits, which means he's doing god’s work by trying to liberate fighter fashion after years of TapOut and Affliction oppression. For that, our hat is tipped.
Ronda Rousey is a godsend to the UFC. As the face of women’s MMA, she's a beautiful, dynamic blonde with visible abs who won a bronze medal in Olympic judo, who likes to talk shit to her opponents, and who fills her Instagram account with beach lifestyle pics and shots of herself walking her dogs. Inside the cage she wins quickly and decisively, utilizing judo trips that masterfully transition into vicious armbars (she fixed Miesha Tate’s elbow so that it bends both ways). On Twitter, she retweets too much fan praise for my taste, but male MMA fighters don’t have the onslaught of clamoring saps to contend with that she does, so it probably comes with the territory. She’s worth the follow, if only for the occasional photo of her as a budding menace in a judo gi.
So, basically what I'd hoped for from this project was a glimpse into some weird tic or eccentricity a fighter just wouldn’t be able to stop himself from sharing if he was handed a communication device, a huge audience, and 140 characters to play with. By and large, I came up short. But when I discovered that welterweight brawler Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy undertakes a large Lego project whenever he wins a fight and live tweets it until he’s done, debating as he goes whether or not there is a proper way to pluralize the word “LEGO,” I knew I had gotten what I came for. Thanks Dan.
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