Dear Yoel Romero, There is no more room for Jesus in the Octagon


At UFC Fight 70 Yoel Romero (10-1) laid out Lyoto Machida (22-7) via TKO and showed the world that he is a legitimate threat in the middleweight division. What he also showed the world is up to your own interpretation.

What did Yoel actually say? It started out with something like “What happened to you, USA?” Romero began. “What happened to you? What’s going on?” “Go for Jesus,” Romero followed up with what sounded something like “not for gay Jesus,” and to others it sounded like, “not forget Jesus.”

Dear Yoel Romero, There is no more room for Jesus in the Octagon

However you slice it, it sounded like Romero was criticizing the United States for recently legalizing same-sex marriage in the U.S..

At the post-fight press conference the Spanish speaking Cuban said it all was a misunderstanding. “I didn’t refer to anybody,” Romero said via translator. “What I was trying to say, (was the) United States, thank you for giving me the American dream.”

Okay maybe things were lost in translation but the majority of people still think it was a bit of a dig at the recent ruling of same sex marriage in the USA. Regardless, it got me thinking, have we jumped the shark on allowing religious speech in the Octagon?

Now I know what some of you are going to say, “We should accept free speech and freedom of religion.” Yes that’s completely true, but when would I ever be allowed to go to my work, stand in the board meeting and start thanking God for allowing me to put my cover sheet on all my TPS reports?

I grew up in a devout Christian family, went to church every Sunday and learned about the holy trinity in Sunday school. So to provide some context, although I’m no longer a “true believer,” I’m surrounded by family who still believe in Jesus and that’s fine with me.

I have no problems with religious freedom and people talking about their beliefs. Just like I have the freedom to say that religion is what is causing the issues we see around the world but I digress.

The question is, no matter what your beliefs are is it appropriate to preach it when being interviewed after a fight or at a post fight press conference?

We see athletes in different sports thank God after a win but is that a good time to be a missionary? In the UFC a fighter is a contracted out to fight but they also have to follow UFC protocol in their daily lives for example on social media.

There have been times where fighters have said inappropriate things on Twitter and the UFC has come down on them with some sort of punishment because what was written wasn’t something the UFC wanted to be associated with. So should there be a set of rules of what fighters can say when in the Octagon after a fight?

I’m not saying we need to muzzle athletes, but there should be topics that are out of bounds like politics, religion and other social issues. You know…the things we can’t talk about at the dinner table.

Should there be a ban on wearing religious attire or speaking about religion when fighting for the UFC? It’s a tough question but at some point the organization is going to have to make it very clear to their athletes that after a fight, say what you need to say about fighting and leave Jesus and other political or social issues out of the conversation. Those thoughts should be for your own personal time not on UFC time.

Some people are going to scoff at that idea but it’s no different in other work places that have those same exact policies. I once worked for a company where people would gather at lunch and have prayer meetings in the board room until someone felt that was not an appropriate place to conduct mini church. The company told the group to do that off of work grounds. So these people went to a park across the street. No harm, no foul.

So after Yoel Romero won and he put on his John 3:16 head band and started going off in religious banter that came awfully close to bigotry, was that a wakeup call that maybe Christian, Muslim, Judaism and other religions should remain outside of the cage?

With the MMA becoming more and more of a worldly sport, is it time to leave the bible in the locker room, and wear the Reebok clothing and just fight?

After a bout fans don’t want to hear how much you love Jesus and how we should all invite him to be our personal saviour. It’s 2015 and more and more people are being turned off by religion. Maybe it’s time the UFC starts telling it’s athletes that what you are doing is alienating a lot of people.

As someone who grew up in a very Christian environment, I was always taught that it was not what you said about God that proved your faith, but how you lived your life. Too many times we see guys like Jon Jones or Vitor Belfort preach before and after fights but the next day they are cheating, snorting coke, or leaving the scene of an accident. How in the hell are people supposed to take their beliefs seriously?

Jesus didn’t help you slap on a rear naked choke. Jesus didn’t TKO your opponent, and Jesus definitely didn’t help you to pick up the win. You the athlete did that with great coaches and hard work.

The UFC isn’t Fight Church, it’s a professional MMA organization and you’re on their dime. It’s about time that fighters started thanking their trainers, their opponent, and be entertaining or make it quick and go the humble route. However, leave your God out of it. If you are a religious man or woman, live your life and be an example not a cliché.

I’m not even sure I have a problem with someone quickly thanking God, but when it gets to be a diatribe of Jesus this, and Jesus that, it turns people off and for some it’s offensive.

What do you think? Should religion be kept out of the cage? Can the UFC put in policies to keep fighters from tripping all over themselves and hurting the brand? Give us your take.

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also writes an MMA Column for 24 Hours Vancouver and contributes to VanCityBuzz.com.

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