Bellator's Doug Marshall Gives Ammunition to MMA Detractors
As Jon Snowden once detailed, there has always been, and perhaps always will be, a tragically accurate link between MMA and racism. You will find few people who love MMA more than I do, but this is an unfortunate fact that most are aware of, fan of the sport or not.
While we MMA writers only discuss it when it bubbles to the surface, be it when a clothing line gets banned or a fighter's seedy past comes to light, it's no real secret. While some of the calls of widespread racism are ludicrous, such as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson's allegations about his fight with Forrest Griffin or Floyd Mayweather being Floyd Mayweather, there is no getting around this ugly fact.
With that in mind, Bellator MMA, one of the largest promotions in the world, could end up in a very, very sticky situation with one of its top fighters.
Doug Marshall is an above-average middleweight, and he was an above-average light heavyweight before that. He was, in fact, one of the WEC's staple fighters.
Few remember him getting a doctor stoppage over Lavar Johnson at WEC 9. Few remember that he was the longest reigning light heavyweight champion in the promotion's history (he eventually lost the belt to Brian Stann).
What people remember about Doug “The Rhino” Marshall is the Iron Cross tattooed on his chest.
It's worth stating that the symbol existed long before Nazism's rise in Germany. It's also worth stating that Marshall is by no means alone in donning the symbol. Metallica singer/guitarist James Hetfield's most famous guitar is a 1973 Gibson Les Paul with the Cross bolted on and WWE wrestler Triple H uses it as his logo.
More importantly, it's worth stating that after thorough research, there is no evidence suggesting Marshall is in any way associated with Neo-Nazism, or holds any of the same beliefs.
Unfortunately for him, far and away the most famous person to be associated with the Iron Cross is Adolf Hitler. He, too, was rarely seen without it on his chest. It also certainly doesn't help Marshall's case that he has a shaved head and a slogan that reads “activate the hate.”
While the topic has never really been an issue for Marshall, he is en route to getting far more exposure than he is used to. After beating out Sultan Aliev in a toss-up of a decision, he is going to face Brett Cooper in the finals of the current Bellator middleweight tournament. If he wins that fight, he will be lined up for a title shot with Alexander Shlemenko.
While Bellator and its president, Bjorn Rebney, have never really called attention to Marshall's tattoos or persona, they (or somebody in the promotion's marketing department) know it's a problem. Whenever they release promotional material regarding Marshall, the Iron Cross is obscured. Sometimes it's a well-placed light, sometimes it's a side angle.
Ultimately, they may end up needing to confront this issue head-on. MMA has too many detractors for a man with a shaved head, early twentieth century German symbols inked onto his body, a motto based around hatred and a major promotion's belt around his waist to go unnoticed. Whether or not Marshall himself fits the bill for the stereotypical skinhead MMA freak, he certainly looks the part down to the smallest detail.
Again, Marshall has never said or done anything on the record to indicate that he is anything more than a fighter who needs to get riled up before a fight.
A picture, though, is still worth a thousand words. If those thousand words come in front of the New York state senate, or in a 20/20 Special Report, it could do major damage to the sport.
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