Despite suffering a broken orbital bone and coughing up blood after an alleged assault by her husband last month, UFC fighter Rachael Ostovich will compete in her scheduled fight against Paige VanZant on ESPN’s first UFC card in January. Ostovich gave an interview to KHON2 one week ago where she said that she felt she “had to” continue with the fight to proudly and publicly take a stand against domestic violence. Here is what she said:
“Although this is a very difficult time for me and my family, I felt that this fight in January was important. I felt that it was extremely important to me to follow through with it and not only for me but for my daughter and other people that might be going through similar situations. I want to take a stand against domestic violence and show others that it’s okay to come out and speak about it and not be quieted.”
The fight card that Ostovich and VanZant are on does not yet have a main event, though late last night, UFC president Dana White announced a heavyweight bout featuring a rather infamous debutant: former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy, undefeated in three pro MMA fights, will compete for the first time under the UFC banner against Allen Crowder. Hardy, of course, was arrested in May 2014 and charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder. In Nov. 2015, Deadspin published photos showing why Hardy had been arrested, the day after a North Carolina judge threw out the case against him.
Hardy should not be barred from all employment opportunities, and it’s been clear for months that White sees a promising UFC future for him. However, why the hell would you ever book Hardy on the same card as Ostovich right after she very publicly declared she was going to fight through injuries she suffered in alleged attack by her husband in order to make a stand against domestic violence? The message this sends to Ostovich is that standing up for domestic violence survivors matters less than putting on a good show.
There are two possibilities here: either the UFC didn’t even consider Ostovich’s case and subsequent stand, or they intentionally booked her alongside Hardy to stir up what they see as an appropriate level of controversy, which will promote an important card they are apparently “scrambling” to fill. The former would mean the UFC is stupid—Ostovich’s case is big news and her fight with VanZant is arguably the most prominent one on the card so far—while the latter line of thinking is plainly evil. The organization either didn’t think this one through or they made the staggeringly malicious decision to play up domestic violence as a promotional tool.
White has puffed up his chest in the past about how his organization doesn’t tolerate men who hurt women, a stance which has not exactly been upheld, and he’s cautioned that he’ll be strict with Hardy while simultaneously going all-in on a redemption narrative. Hardy has been headed for his debut in the octagon for a while now, a debut that was going to be controversial no matter the circumstances. White wants him redeemed, and he’s either prepared to ignore Ostovich’s message and her pain—or trade on it—to get his way.