Earlier this week, EA revealed that Mike Tyson will be a playable character EA Sports UFC 2. The former heavyweight boxer would join the game as a pre-order bonus (alongside other bonus characters Bas Rutten and Kazushi Sakuraba), available as Iron Mike Tyson (a younger version of him) and Legacy Mike Tyson which features his face tattoo.
However, there has been a substantial amount of backlash to the announcement and not just because many fight fans would prefer a new Fight Night game instead of a boxer as DLC, or because they aren’t fond of pre-order bonuses. The controversy stems from Tyson’s criminal history, with some saying that it makes him unfit to star in the game.
EA Sports UFC 2 Mike Tyson Controversy
Those against Tyson’s inclusion in the game have pointed to the former boxer’s 1992 rape conviction. Tyson served three years of a six year sentence, something which saw him banned from the UK. The former heavyweight boxer also has convictions for assault, drug possession and driving under the influence.
In addition to this, though, some have also pointed to Tyson’s own admission of domestic violence. In a 1988 interview that Tyson and (his ex-wife) Robin Givens did with Barbara Walters about their relationship (quoted on Oprah.com), the fighter revealed that “I have socked [Robin] before, and she socked me before, as well” and that “it was just that kind of relationship”. While neither parties’ behaviour is acceptable – if they have both “socked” each other, as Tyson put it – his words are still troubling.
That said, Tyson won’t be the only playable character in EA Sports UFC 2 with a history of domestic abuse allegations or convictions. A recent HBO documentary noted that the rate of domestic violence within MMA is 750 arrests per 100,000 men, which is higher than the rate of the NFL (210) and over twice that of the (United States’) national rate (360).
UFC fighter Anthony Johnson is amongst that number, as in 2009 he was sentenced to three years probation, community service and domestic violence counselling. Johnson still fights under the UFC banner, though he agreed to attend more counselling and he also made a donation to a women’s charity following an incident last year (the fighter apologised and the UFC said that they were “extremely disappointed” with him).
Even the UFC’s highest paid fighter (and EA Sports UFC 2 cover star) Ronda Rousey is not immune from allegations. A story in the bantamweight fighter’s autobiography (in which she beat up her ex-boyfriend) also raised eyebrows.
Some will want to take this up with the UFC organisation, asking whether the UFC’s domestic violence policy needs an overhaul. However, Mike Tyson, someone who never fought in the UFC during his fighting career, most likely wouldn’t fall under its scope.
With that said, there are still frustrations with EA’s decision to add Tyson to EA Sports UFC 2. Many argue that it suggests that it shows that there are no (or there are few) repercussions for a sexual assault conviction and that, following a jail term, those convicted are still supported, heralded and invited to feature as one of the star attractions of a mass marketed video game.
Is Tyson a suitable character for the game, based on his criminal convictions? EA’s answer to that question is clear, but it’s also understandable why so many fans and would-be EA Sports UFC 2 players are outraged at the company’s choice.
EA Sports UFC 2 will be released March 15 (North America), March 17 (worldwide) on PS4 and Xbox One.