When Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White announced at the beginning of Thursday's UFC 155 pre-fight press conference in Las Vegas that the winner of Saturday's (Dec. 29, 2012) main event between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez would be awarded a Harley Davidson motorcycle, many were left scratching their heads.
Harley Davidson is, of course, one of the organization's main sponsors, and has been for some time now.
Recent winners of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) reality show Michael Chiesa and Colton Smith were given motorcycles for emerging victorious from their respective season of TUF, and either dos Santos or Velasquez will soon join them as the owner of a custom two-wheeler.
The problem with motorcycles, though, is the obvious danger and unpredictability that goes along with riding one. For athletes who use their bodies as a way of making money to risk their health seems completely foolish. But for White, he stands behind the decision to give away bikes to his fighters, as long as they are not using them as their main source of getting from point a to point b.
"Let me tell you what," White said to a group of reporters following the UFC 155 pre-fight press conference. "When you own a motorcycle, here's the difference, okay? You take a guy like Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, right? They've got plenty of transportation - Junior dos Santos has got a pimped out Range Rover and god knows what else he has. Cain Velasquez has a bunch of cars; you don't want it to be your means of transportation,"
There are dozens of cases of professional athletes who have been involved in motorcycle-related accidents over the years, and in mixed martial arts (MMA), the most glaring examples are the cases of Frank Mir and Jose Aldo.
Back in September 2004, Mir was the reinging UFC heavyweight champion and viewed as the next dominant force in the weight class after brutally submitting foe after foe inside the Octagon. Mir was on top of the world until one on Las Vegas night he was struck by a vehicle while riding his motorcycle, leaving him with a broken femur and torn ligaments in his knee. Moreover, Mir's recovery took so long that he was stripped of the UFC heavyweight title and did not reestablish his previous status until years later.
Aldo's incident took place just a few months ago. The current UFC featherweight champion was scheduled to fight Frankie Edgar in the main event of UFC 153 last October, but was unable to compete at the event due to damage to his foot sustained in an accident while riding a motorcycle through the streets of Brazil.
Luckily, the injury to "Scarface" only sidelined him for a short period of time, but what's more important is the fact Aldo's negligence cost the UFC a main event fight and fans who paid to watch the 26-year-old compete live had the opportunity ripped away from them.
After Aldo's incident, the UFC added a clause to fighter contracts prohibiting dangerous or potentially physically harmful activities, which would presumably include motorcycles.
It's a difficult situation for the organization when one of their main sponsors is a motorcycle company. There is obviously a risk that comes along with riding a bike and it would only seem like common sense to not give fighters, who aren't exactly known for their ability to make wise decisions in some cases, a vehicle where they can do permanent damage to their bodies.
At the end of the day, the entire situation of athletes riding motorcycles goes back to one of White's all-time favorite sayings, "Use common sense." In the eyes of the UFC President there is no harm in a fighter taking their Harley Davidson out to the back roads and cruising while the sun sets. It's the fighters like Mir and Aldo, who used bikes as their primary way of traveling from destination to destination, that catch White's ire.
"Let me tell you what, Jose Aldo has aplenty of money, okay?" White said. "He can buy a car or a bus or an SUV. He doesn't - you can't have a fighter and his main means of transportation be a motorcycle, that's crazy. But, if one of these guys wins a Harley Davidson? Harley Davidson is a bike you take out on the weekend, you cruise around, you know, completely different.
"You do not want that to be your main means of transportation."