Everyone remembers Bully Beatdown right? The MTV-produced reality show focused on a young person that was being bullied in some manner. The person’s tormentor was challenged to step into the cage with a professional fighter and duke it out in what was generally a mildly amusing and wild spectacle. Afterward, we were treated to a bullying is bad after-school special type promo and then everyone went their separate ways. Although the show has been off the air for years, former UFC welterweight Josh Neer recently brought the concept back for a one-night-only private engagement.
For several months, Neer had been bullied online by fellow Iowan Patrick Martin. While Martin had some level of training, his skill level could best be described as amateur. Despite a lack of skill, or a professional fighting record, Martin continued to harass Neer any chance he got. In an incident similar to the one involving undefeated WBC world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder and his internet tormentor, Neer invited Martin to his gym to settle their differences. Martin accepted.
In the YouTube video later posted by Neer himself, the UFC veteran is shown delivering multiple elbows to the head of what appears to be a semi-conscious Martin before being restrained by teammates. Neer finally lands one last kick to the head of a now unconscious Martin as he is being pulled away. Did the bully receive an appropriate level of beatdown? Or was Neer, as a veteran of over 50 professional MMA bouts, responsible to know his tormentor’s skill level and hold back accordingly?
In our internet-driven society, cyberbullying has become commonplace regardless of age, sex, profession, race or religion. Professional fighters, who rank among the most dangerous group of people on the planet, are not immune to this. Fighters, male or female, black or white, champion or challenger, are not immune to cyberbullying. They are constantly told by anonymous fans on the internet and in person how terrible they are, how much talent they lack, or whether or not they will ever be successful. And, make no mistake, that was a pleasant way of describing the vitriol fighters consistently receive. Does that give a professional fighter the right to perhaps endanger the life of his internet bully? How much are fighters, who have been trained to cause bodily harm in the most devastating manner possible, supposed to listen to the old adage about sticks and stones?
On the surface, a bully receiving his comeuppance has a very strong appeal. It was at the core of the popularity of the MTV show, but the television show featured barely trained neophytes wearing all types of practice gear and padding. Patrick Martin squared off with a professional veteran while wearing only gloves, and he was mercilessly pounded until Neer’s own teammates pulled him off the unconscious Martin. Even then, Neer cannot seem to resist one last kick to the head of his downed opponent — something that’s illegal in most of the MMA world, by the way.
While it might be common practice in MMA gyms for such brutal beatings to establish some sort of “Lord of the Flies” dominance, Neer simply went too far in the video. Yes, Martin disrespected Neer and his sport. Yes, Martin is much larger and probably stronger than Neer. However, while Martin was obviously in need of a lesson in manners, he did not deserve the level of brutality delivered by Neer. In the aforementioned Deontay Wilder video, Wilder landed only a few blows, enough to convey his anger and his point, before he let up and allowed the internet bully to walk out of the gym under his own power. Neer beat Martin until even Neer’s own teammates — teammates that are supposed to have your back no matter what — thought Neer had gone too far.
However, with the circumstances that led to the beatdown and the fact that Martin has requested a rematch, Neer should not be labeled some type of monster or pariah. In similar circumstances, many of us might behave exactly the same way. However, the fact remains that Neer possesses skills that most of us simply do not, and as such is required to maintain some type of restraint when faced with an opponent of lesser skill, even if the opponent also possesses lesser class. In the span of less than a minute, Neer transformed from bullied to bully, something that could have been avoided had Neer practiced some level of restraint. There appear to be no winners in the situation — Martin certainly did not appear to learn his lesson — but hopefully other cyberbullies will take note and think twice before trying to pick on professional mixed martial artists.