The sport of mixed martial arts has made tremendous strides into becoming a legitimate sport. As the visibility of the sport that was once labeled “human cockfighting,” by members of the U.S. Congress continues, mainly behind the efforts of the Ultimate Fighting Championships, there are instances that contain the sport to a sideshow class.
Tom Aspinall, the UFC’s interim heavyweight title holder, recently sparked controversy during an interview with MMA content creator Nina-Marie Daniele. Known for his impressive performance in the Octagon, Aspinall unexpectedly deviated from the usual sports discourse by posing a not-suitable-for-work (NSFW) question to Daniele.
The question, “Have you ever been f**gered by an MMA fighter before,” caught Daniele and the fans completely off guard.
Although Daniele is known by her audience for her distinctive interviewing style involving contentious and unconventional questions, she found herself unprepared for Aspinall’s bold query. The interaction quickly became a talking point in the UFC community, highlighting the often unpredictable interactions between MMA athletes and media personalities.
Some fans on social media suggested that the incident might have been a misunderstanding, interpreting Aspinall’s question as an inquiry about whether any MMA fighter had ever shown Nina the middle finger as an insult. However, Daniele responded to this speculation on her YouTube channel, reflecting on the incident with humor and attributing it to a difference in cultural humor.
“I absolutely love Tom Aspinall’s humor!” Daniele’s X caption said. “The reason he asked me that crazy question is because we follow each other on IG and sees all the crazy weird questions my followers ask me. @AspinallMMA is funny AF and he didn’t offend me AT ALL! He was trying to get a reaction out of me.”
She continued the discussion in the video posted to her social media.
“Part of me was like, Is it a language barrier?” Daniele said. “But then I realized we both spoke English. LMFAO all jokes, though. Tom’s a funny guy! I think people aren’t used to British humor.”
Aspinall is a UFC heavyweight from the U.K.
Long Way To Go
This incident underscores the complexities and nuances of athlete-reporter interactions in the high-stakes world of professional sports, where the lines between professionalism and personality often blur.
During a live UFC press conference on June 28, current UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland expressed his belief that the decision to grant women the right to vote was an error and suggested that women should be placed “back in the kitchen.”
“We need to go back to taking women out of the workforce,” Strickland said. “Maybe that is where we f**k up, you guys, we let women vote, no offense. … Think about America prior to women voting. So what you did, man, you let these women come [into] the workforce, now we make less money, we got kids raising themselves on fing TikTok. … We need to put women back in the kitchen… only one man needs to be working.”
For a business looking to scale by aligning unofficially with the scripted athleticism of the WWE through their mutual owners at Endeavor, the UFC has a long way to go for more significant corporate sponsor acceptance and increased pop culture visibility.