When I saw the first shot of Strikeforce’s Brandon Saling last night as he was about to meander down the walkway to fight Roger Bowling, they only showed his face. Just based on that, I thought to myself, “Gee, he sure does look an awful lot like the white supremacists in those MSNBC prison shows.” I convinced myself that I was being unduly harsh because there are plenty of trailer park residents out there who can’t help the way they look and were essentially born into their white trash status. Even when they showed his huge “White Steel” tattoo, I told myself, “That’s OK, it’s just his nickname… ‘Black Steel’ would be a cool, non-racist nickname for a black fighter too! Besides, is that any worse than Brown Pride?”
But evidently, my Mr.-Rogers-like attitude was a bit naive and I really should have gone with my gut on this one. Some endeavoring Sherlocks out there with HD-DVRs (or Sherdog, or weighin photos, whatever) discovered that he has an “88” shoulder tattoo surrounded by lightning bolts. For those who aren’t well-versed in neo-Nazism (most of you, I hope), Bloody Elbow has some info on these groups’ use of 88 as a pro-Hitler symbol from Wikipedia. I won’t bore you with a sociology lesson, but suffice it to say, if you have an “88” tattoo that’s not something along the lines of “RIP grandma, 1912-1988,” you’re probably a scumbag. Dana White says he’s “looking into it,” but really, it seems pretty black-and-white to me.
Also, it seems that while Zuffa/Forza was busy implementing useless pre-contract drug tests, they forgot to add criminal background checks and simple google searches into the mix as well. Oops! Saling now marks another entry in the growing list of pervs in MMA: in addition to a 2008 domestic violence issue, Saling is a registered sex offender because of a 2004 case in which he allegedly raped a child under 13 years old:
Two Noble County men are facing first-degree felony rape charges following an investigation by the Noble County Sheriff’s Office into the weekend disappearance of a 12-year-old girl and her 13-year-old sister. According to Noble County Sheriff Landon T. Smith, the girls parents had allowed them to go to an all-night birthday party at a friend’s house in Monroe County last Friday. According to reports, the girls left the party with the suspects. Brandon C. Saling, 18, Summerfield, and James T. Allen, 18, Sarahsville were each charged with rape of a person under 13 years old, a first-degree felony.
There are multiple easily-googlable perv alerts available with his mugshot on them. Zuffa/Forza didn’t take the five minutes to look those up. But at least we’ll still know if a prospective Strikeforce fighter has been smoking pot. Therefore, the REAL miscreants will still be weeded out. So how did Strikeforce General Manager Scott Coker react to getting caught with his (thankfully figurative) pants down? And where is the athletic commission in all of this? MMAJunkie has news on what will happen next:
(More after the jump)
Coker noted that Saling is licensed as a professional fighter in Ohio and several other states. “We had no knowledge about that until someone brought it up to us this evening,” Coker said of Saling’s background. “It came to our attention during the course of the fights… [The Ohio Athletic Commission is] going to launch a full investigation on Monday,” he said. “So that’s where that’s at. As far as you guys know, the policy for Strikeforce and the UFC is that kind of body art, offensive behavior, (and) offensive art is not going to be allowed. So that’s something we went to the athlete (with). He responded, and we’re going to investigate further and see what the truth is.”
Coker declined to provide details of his conversation with the fighter and said Strikeforce would inform the media of the investigation’s outcome.
OAC Executive Director Bernie Profato confirmed early Sunday that he’s contacted the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which will look into the allegations on Monday. He said Saling, who recently renewed his license, will be also notified that his license could potentially be suspended and will have the opportunity to defend himself as an individual or accompanied by legal representatives at an OAC meeting in April. “We’re not going to speculate until we have facts,” Profato said. “He’s innocent until proven guilty.”
Profato said Ohio licensees are required to disclose any criminal background but was unaware of whether Saling noted any past offenses. “If it’s on his application and we missed it, we apologize,” he said.
Even if Saling had fought two weeks prior to last night and was brought in as a late replacement, Zuffa/Strikeforce looks pretty dumb for letting this slide by, even if they try to act cute and Sarah Palin their way out of it. And the Ohio Athletic Commission is obviously going to go back through Saling’s application forms with a fine-tooth comb in order to see if they can find any way to revoke his license for lying. But if Saling did admit his criminal background in his athletic commission application, what then?
The issue of what to do with neo-Nazi fighters has been discussed recently with respect to KSW’s Niko Puhakka, who was pulled out of a title fight and basically hated out of Poland for his political leanings (sound familiar?). There are multiple schools of thought on this, and promotions can obviously not be compelled to hire any fighter who is seen as “bad for business” for any reason. But the ability to be licensed by a state to earn money at one’s chosen profession is not exactly a privilege to be granted only to people whom we like. He’s not asking to teach at an elementary school or drive an ice cream truck; he’s asking permission to get punched in the face for a living.
The prospect of Saling having his license revoked begs the question of where white supremacist, sex offending people are supposed to work. Should we force them to subsist on toxin-laden fish and live under a bridge, or should we try to reintegrate them into society, hoping that they’ll act less like sociopathic assholes in the future? Or should we bring them all to the town square and stone them to death in the name of Allah? Post your suggestions in the comments section!