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Sean Strickland Pushed the Envelope Again. How Far is Too Far?

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Sean Strickland, the UFC’s lunatic fringe is at it again.

One week after taking aim at former UFC light heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz over comments regarding the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sean Strickland now finds another light heavyweight, Khalil Rountree in his crosshairs. Following his knockout victory over Karl Roberson over the weekend at UFC Vegas 49, and emotional Rountree opened up on his struggles with depression. He spoke of how he wants to make a difference in the world and inspire people through his journey from “a 300-pound kid on the brink of suicide” to coming a fixture among UFC light heavyweights.

On Monday, Rountree appeared on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss his struggles in further detail, though it would be Strickland who grabbed headlines with his comments in response to Rountree’s moment of vulnerability.

Did Sean Strickland Cross the Line?

The comments, in a vacuum, aren’t exactly surprising coming from Sean Strickland, who over the last 18 months or so has seen his star rise behind big wins in the octagon combined with an irreverent social media presence that involves him trying to brand himself as a crazed man whose only at peace when he’s locked in a cage with someone else. Some believe the ‘Sean Strickland character’ is a bit.

After all, are we really to believe the fourth-ranked middleweight in the world lives in an apartment with white walls, no furniture and no decorations? On the other hand, there are plenty of people in the space more than willing to take him at face value and believe he is every bit the asshole he’s attempting to convince the fans he is.

Whichever side you may happen to fall on is irrelevant. Nobody gained anything from Strickland’s comments, and it’s not as if Sean Strickland is angling to move a weight class to fight Rountree any time soon. If that happened to be the goal, though it wouldn’t justify the comments, it would at least paint a clearer picture of the intent, but nobody is looking Strickland’s direction today and thinking he’s any more of a tough S.O.B. than he was the day prior. If anything, the middleweight contender’s stock has dropped in the eyes of many, and if at the end of the day it was all an attempt to further the idea of Strickland being a lunatic, it will go down as a massive misfire for the middleweight riser.

There’s an old pro wrestling expression that if you haven’t gone too far, you haven’t gone far enough. However, when it comes to professional wrestling-based storytelling there is always a method to the madness; a means to an end. By calling out all things Brazilian, Chael Sonnen was able to angle for fights with Anderson Silva and Wanderlei Silva, two of the top stars in the sport while raising his profile outside the cage as someone who fights a not-so-fan friendly style. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson busted down a door on The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 to drive pay-per-view sales for his fight with Rashad Evans, and in the case of Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, a very real, deeply-rooted professional dislike took center stage that neither fighter has been able to get over to this day. In these examples, fighters either had a reason for acting out, or were not acting out and being their true, authentic selves, but even in the case of Rousey and Tate, one of the realest beefs in the history of the sport, the focus remained on the fight.

While there is no fight that can materialize between Sean Strickland and Khalil Rountree anytime soon, it is worth noting that both men presently train at Syndicate MMA, so there might be a small chance that this is a bit of a “work” and Strickland is being tongue in cheek with his comments about someone he could very well be close with for all we know. The issue is, the average MMA fan or even the average sports fan cannot be bothered to make such a connection on their own, and nor should they. Casual fans will undoubtedly look at Strickland’s comments and think it’s a representation of what the average MMA fighter is, and while fans, media members and the fighters themselves will dispute that, perception happens to sometimes become reality.

I love how open and candid Rountree has been over the past couple of days, peeling back to curtain on his own struggles to show how a passion for something like combat sports combined with a day-by-day approach can be all it takes for someone who’s struggling to pull themselves out of the darkness much in the same way Rountree did. As much as I enjoy pro wrestling and appreciate the pro wrestling elements that have begun to migrate to MMA, fighters like Rountree who portray their authentic selves seem to be the ones I gravitate towards the most. I also support fighters who aren’t afraid to speak their minds and have found Strickland’s candor to be entertaining in spots, but these comments are not it.

With Strickland’s latest Twitter tirade flunking the “so what” test, it’s a classic case of what it means to go “too far” in the world of mixed martial arts.

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