Trading Blows Over Plagiarism in MMA

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Feb 8, 2016 9:38:36 AM

As a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) competitor, Kenny Florian faced a wide variety of opponents. A runner-up in The Ultimate Fighter season 1 and a title contender in two different weight classes, Florian had a lengthy and successful career as a fighter.
Now retired from the ring, Florian transitioned to a career as an MMA commentator for FOX Sports, where he both makes on camera appearances and writes columns for their site, FOXSports.com.

However, it’s in one of those columns that Florian may have found an opponent that could potentially bring his new career to an end: Plagiarism.

The trouble for Florian began on Jan 11 with a column he posted to the FOXSports.com detailing his break down of the then-upcoming fight between Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight title holder T.J. Dillashaw and his challenger Dominick Cruz.

As part of the article, Florian posted an in-depth analysis of Dillashaw’s footwork. However, much of that analysis came near-verbatim from a December 2015 YouTube video posted by boxing analyst Lee Wylis, who was himself describing the 1940s boxer Willie Pep.

Once the similarities were spotted, the story began making waves throughout the MMA community, especially on Twitter where it started.

Florian quickly issued an apology, saying that he failed to place a credit where one should have been. He also said he reached out to Lee and apologized to him personally. Though Wylis was initially upset at the infraction, Lee, after speaking with Florian, stood up for him against his detractors.

Still, with the controversy becoming a media storm, FOX Sports still felt compelled to take action and suspended Florian for the plagiarism. However, the announcement referred to the plagiarism as an “oversight” and noted that Florian had apologized for the error.

FOXSports.com also first altered the piece in question, adding in the attribution, but then opted to remove the work, leaving just an Editor’s note about the issue.

But even though FOX Sports and Florian may be keen to move past the ordeal, the MMA community doesn’t seem likely to let him forget it.

Not only have fans been posting memes and jokes about Florian’s scrape with plagiarism, but Dominick Cruz, after winning the title in the fight Florian was covering, took time to dig at Florian in his victory speech. There he said, “Kenny Florian, stop copying and pasting, man.”

While Cruz says the comment was a joke and in good fun, it hints at just how hard it will be for Florian to move past this. Florian had become one of the better-known MMA commentators, even expanding his presence to a commentator spot on the ABC show BattleBots.

Florian didn’t only plagiarize, but he did so from a well-respected member of the combat sports community who is not paid for his work. The act clearly struck a nerve in the community, with many believing that Florian’s problems go much deeper than this single incident.

But that is exactly what FOX Sports and others who work with Florian need to find out, if this was a one-off misstep, or just a part of a much larger problem. If there is a deeper issue, there’s likely little hope for Florian’s career given the backlash that he’s already seen.

However, even if it is a one-off incident, there are still struggles ahead. Many MMA fans are angered by what’s already come to light and likely will be slow to accept him back. In the end, a suspension may be the best thing for his career right now as it allows time to not only learn the complete truth, but for tempers to calm.

Since Florian has already apologized, there is not much more he can do right now. A break might be exactly what his career needs.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today, and do not reflect the opinions of iThenticate.




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