As soon as I saw the lightning bolts and "88" tatted on Brandon Saling's trapezoid, it was obvious that someone at Strikeforce had dropped the ball.
"I can't believe this," I said to myself. "They actually brought in a dude with white power tattoos to fight." It was surreal.
"88" stands for the eighth letter of the alphabet twice, a.k.a. "Heil Hitler."
Adding further evidence to the conclusion -- just in case Saling happened to be drunk and in the midst of a History Channel binge when he got those particular tats -- he also had "White Steel" in big lettering across his stomach. That particular one wasn't filled in. Perhaps that's why he was willing to brawl with Roger Bowling on last-minute notice on Strikeforce's card last night (Sat., March 3, 2012) in Columbus, Ohio.
Inking can be very expensive.
Either way, the libertarian streak in me would rather allow someone with politically unpalatable views to fight then to keep them from making a living. It's part of being a democratic society, and tolerance goes both ways. I'm not saying the UFC or Strikeforce or anyone has an obligation to allow anyone to compete; but I think it's better to allow them to do so to they don't get to wear a martyr label, especially when most guys in white power and Nazi-themed tattoos eventually get their asses kicked anyway. It's certainly a rallying point for the rest of the sane fan base.
Saling gave Bowling one helluva brawl before succumbing. But the final blow against Saling being plugged in was the fact that he's listed as a high-risk sex offender in Ohio.
That's simply too much. I've seen promoters desperate to fill last-minute cards do unbelievably shady things, but whether they were ignorant or simply decided to hope this slot would be filled and the rest of the world would look the other way, that's simply not happening.
Somebody at Strikeforce dropped the ball on bringing in Saling as a last-minute substitute Saturday night.
Just imagine if he'd won. Non-MMA media would potentially have a field day with it, causing irrevocable damage to our sport's brand and image. When the UFC rightfully decided to jettison the controversial Hoelzer Reich sponsor in 2009, it averted a mushrooming public relations problem it could ill-afford to sustain.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker announced that they will be doing an "investigation" of Saling's situation. This is nonsense. It would have taken a seventh grader with a vague knowledge of World War II and access to The Google about two minutes to "investigate" what the potential problems were with giving Saling a slot on the card. Shame on you, Strikeforce, for putting the sport, its fans and everyone involved in what could have been a colossally horrific public relations nightmare. And we all ought to thank Roger Bowling for nipping it in the bud with his win.
Jason Probst can be reached at Jason@jasonprobst.com or twitter.com/jasonprobst.