Miguel Torres arrived in Las Vegas on Wednesday as just another of the millions of unemployed Americans.
He ended the day as the newest fighter in the UFC, talking his way back into the good graces of UFC president Dana White less than a month after being cut for making a joke on Twitter about rape.
White reinstated Torres after hearing Torres’ apology and learning of the ex-champion’s efforts to rectify his wrong by reaching out to victims of rape.
Torres went to five rape crisis centers in the Chicago area and met with rape victims. He did volunteer work, donated money and attended counseling.
After hearing the first-hand stories of rape victims, Torres grasped that what he wrote as an off-the-cuff joke had significant implications beyond its intent.
“I was told why what I said really hurt people and how powerful my words really were, and why it wasn’t funny,” Torres said Wednesday while sitting next to White on a makeshift stage in the lobby of the MGM Grand following the UFC 141 pre-fight news conference.
“It was one of these things where I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I was going to go in there and apologize, but I was there for about an hour, an hour-and-a-half in each center, getting full rundowns from rape victims. I got educated, really.”
Torres has a quirky sense of humor, and his Twitter timeline was full of off-the-wall jokes. But on Dec. 8, in an attempt to call attention to one of his favorite sitcoms, “Workaholics,” Torres tweeted, “If a rape van was called a surprise van, more people wouldn’t mind going for rides in them. Everyone likes surprises.”
When White learned of the post, he cut Torres immediately and without so much as talking to him about it. That prompted an outcry among fans of the former World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion, who remains a top contender in the UFC’s deep 135-lbs. weight class.
On Wednesday, White shrugged as he said, “Now I’m going to be ripped for bringing him back. But you know what? I don’t care.”
White adopted an aggressive, almost defiant tone when he said that he would not come up with a written policy for Twitter for his fighters. Instead, he said, “Let common sense prevail.”
Rape is a horrible crime that has significant and long-lasting effects on its victims. It is hardly the kind of topic to be bandied about lightly.
And while there are some who will bash White for essentially handing Torres no penalty at all – fighters only get paid when they fight, and Torres fought on Nov. 19 – White’s actions forced Torres to think, and by thinking, Torres came to the conclusion on his own that his so-called joke was in fact a major blunder.
There is no other way to put it: Torres’ words were incredibly thoughtless, hurtful and stupid.
But they weren’t the words of a man advocating or condoning rape. They were the words of a guy who hit “send” before he thought about the meaning of what he’d written, a mistake every one of us who has ever written a word on the Internet has made.
Torres made amends quickly and it is good to see the sport keep one of its top fighters.