Despite José Aldo’s homophobic trash talk towards Conor McGregor and his “queer” Irish fans, Rob Buchanan thinks he is not a homophobe.
For all its testosterone-fuelled talk, the UFC appears to be a refreshingly un-homophobic sport, says Rob Buchanan.
Perhaps it’s the celebration of individuality and the feeling that despite the recent mass media spotlight, MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is still seen as not quite mainstream.
Personally, I think the homophobia is impotent because the real talk is done in the octagon. Even the most heated, most personal slagging matches rarely get beyond name-calling and even that is often tongue and cheek. And that’s how the McGregor and Aldo playground bitchfest started out in the run up to the ill-fated fight that never was. McGregor’s notorious showboating was met in equal measure by José Aldo’s own ostentatious talk. But somewhere along the way, things took a sour turn. Perhaps it was a cultural thing, but the Brazilian kid from the wrong side of the tracks was starting to show cracks in his cool persona. Things came to a head after a meltdown over a MMA press conference in Dublin and then when Aldo’s injury forced him to pull out of the fight last weekend at short notice McGregor milked it for all it was worth, questioning Aldo’s manhood and accusing him of cowardice. With McGregor going on to beat Aldo’s hastily-chosen but admirable replacement Chad Mendes, it seemed Aldo had almost been doubly offended. So in an interview with an extremely popular Brazilian soccer programme (hosted by Rock Bola of FC Regatas do Flamengo) the weeks of festering hatred finally reached critical mass and exploded in a homophobic, anti-Irish rant. Conducting the interview in Portuguese the translation of Aldos most controversial comments ran as follows:
“I am going to break the jaw of this pussy son of a bitch in three parts. The queer fans of that pussy and the UFC will regret putting that fucktard with me in the octagon because I am going to put an end to his rise. I won’t even bother dodging McGregor’s little punches and his ballerina kicks: I am going to walk straight towards him and take away his manhood. Take his pride. Humiliate him. Swell up those balls-sucking lips of his. But the most delightful thing of all will be when I see the look on the faces of his racist Irish fans. Look at their faces after I have turned their national hero into a faggot.”
It would be the easiest thing in the world to brand Aldo a homophobe, but despite the disgusting slurs I sincerely don’t believe he is, or at least not exceptionally so. Aldo had a rather tough upbringing. The 28 year-old Brazilian grew up in grinding poverty in his native city of Manaus and often went without food during his first years in his adopted Rio where he started to carve out a name for himself in mixed martial arts. It’s important to understand the cultural attitude towards gays in Brazil with a fairly multi-layered attitude in Rio in particular. Outwardly you would imagine that with the carnival atmosphere and overt sexuality on display that people are tolerant of gays… but it’s not that simple. Perhaps ancient Rome would be a useful comparison. To have sex with a man was not a big issue, but to be the receptive homosexual partner was perceived as a huge taboo and great shame.
The sad reality is that to large amounts of people on this planet, there is nothing worse you could be accused of being than a submissive gay man. This gets to the very core of raw homophobia . And it is not about a fear of homosexuals; it’s a fear of “appearing” homosexual oneself due to showing sympathy or mutual understanding.
In the pissing contest of MMA, establishing your dominance in the pecking order is critical. By labelling McGregor as gay, and implying that he performs fellatio, he is calling him his “bitch”. The delicious irony of course is that all this tough talk about humiliating McGregor and making him his bitch and “turning ” him of the “ball sucking lips” in to a “faggot” is so utterly homoerotic that it could have come straight from a Grindr profile.
Aldo, despite being a consummate professional, seemed quite unprepared for the onslaught of mind games that the cocky Irish fighter and his fans brought to run up of the aborted match. It’s shocking how some straight men will allow some of the most heinous accusations and character slurs roll off them like proverbial water off a duck’s back, yet will turn murderous with rage at the accusation of homosexuality. The crude stereotypes of queer as inferior, weak or deviant loom large. It tells us so much about how far we have to go with removing the cancer of latent homophobia in people. Aldo losing his composure and going full ‘gay bash’ would have won him few fight fans though. It merely telegraphed his ignorance as well as his inability to cope with heat. Win or lose the scrap in January, Aldo has lost the psychological war by retreating in to childish bigotry. Respect, self-control and the duty to protect those you perceive as weaker than you are the signs of real manhood. McGregor is an absolute master at provocation, and his trademark arrogance is enough to make even his devoted fans cringe and laugh in equal measure. He may be many things, but one thing he absolutely isn’t is a homophobe or a misogynist. He has thrown his weight and significant credibility with young straight Irish men behind the Marriage Equality referendum and LGBT youth initiatives.
Self-belief is not only a good thing; it’s an absolute necessity for success. But when the cockiness turns to delusional hubris that I start to worry. Not for the potential disappointment for the Irish fans, but for McGregor himself, because for a man whose entire bedrock is a psyche of invulnerability. We have a saying in our family ,the branch that’s seldom bent is easily broken. McGregor hasn’t yet learned how to lose and rise again. I don’t think Aldo is going to be the man to teach Notorious how to lose, and along with all the rest of the” queer fans of that pussy” I look forward to seeing him in the ring with Aldo for the unification bout in January.
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