–Kenny Rice

A spat over spit. Is that really how we want to remember UFC 127? Outside of the B.J. Penn – Jon Fitch draw, the second time in the last three major UFC events where headliners were judged dead even, spit is the buzz.

While in this age of instantaneous social networking everyone can have an opinion and even hide behind screen names as to who is having it, this makes for web crazy conspiracy fodder.

Whether Michael Bisping’s saliva salvo was intended for Jorge Rivera’s corner or not, it’s a messy situation for the UFC and all of MMA.

It was the projection of the sputum that was apparent, another sloppy shot of disrespect for Rivera after beating him with a 2nd round TKO in UFC 127, after Bisping had been penalized delivering a knee to the head in the first round.

Of course Rivera had gone viral with his trash talk prior  to his almost monk- like press conference showdown with the flamboyant Brit who jabbed the air with his usual confidence. That Bisping backed up his pre-fight hype in the Octagon should’ve been enough.

In a sport where two men are trying to beat the other with punches, kicks and submissions, one expects the decorum to be vastly different from Tiger Woods being fined for spitting on the 12th green at the Dubai Desert Classic.

Golf it ain’t. And smack talk is encouraged, a rite of passage that stems from boxing history. Build up the bout. Feign disgust and disrespect for your opponent.  As we’ve discussed on an Inside MMA show where ironically Rivera was a guest, if two fighters are equal in talent the promoter will usually go with the more vociferous one in order to sell tickets.

Sports fans expect the talk. Colorful characters get ink, air time. New York Jets coach, not coincidentally an MMA fan, Rex Ryan is a media darling for his braggadocios press conferences. And Tito Ortiz, Ken Shamrock, Brock Lesnar have all gained followings rooting for or against them based on their antics as well as their talents.

But there are limits as when a sport is teetering on becoming a WWE spectacle. Granted it can be fun, somewhat entertaining, but being real and being an act is a fine balance if MMA is to keep growing.

Does anyone find it interesting that CBS hasn’t shown an MMA event since the Strikeforce post fight debacle in Nashville last year? Notice even loyal followers of the brash, controversial Shinya Aoki drifted some from his camp after not only breaking his opponent’s arm but then flipping him off as he writhed in pain?

Bisping is now the villain in the UFC. And that will be more attention for his next fight. But what about those who are just coming into the sport, the fan who bought his first pay-per-view?  If nothing else germaphobes cringed over the lack of hygiene displayed.

Cocksure and talented can work. But if the best a fighter can offer is his spit, it’s the worst use of his mouth, the sure signal he is mocking not his opponent but the sport that still needs a broader audience.

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