Lessons from ex-UFC fighter Will Chope: What you do today will follow you tomorrow

Will Chope

I love sports stories. For better or worse, the tales of athletes serve as good metaphors for the job search or communications work.

This is on the opposite end of the for better scale.

(Former) UFC fighter Will Chope found himself on the unemployment line just hours before his preliminary card fight against Diego Brandao on UFC Fight Night 38: Shogun vs. Hendo 2 card. Chope didn’t fail a drug test. He didn’t get arrested the night before.

He was shown the door for being discharged from the Air Force for assaulting his ex-wife — five years ago.

Bleacher Report writer Jeremy Botter broke the story last night in a solid piece of reporting. The details are quite disturbing.

UFC parent company, Zuffa, LLC, went quickly into damage control mode, releasing the following statement:

Tonight’s featherweight bout between Will Chope and Diego Brandao has been canceled after UFC officials were made aware of Chope’s previous military conviction. The UFC does not condone behavior of this nature whatsoever and Chope has been released from his contract.

Brandao will receive both his show and win money for the bout.


Honestly, I’m not sure there’s a takeaway for the Will Chope’s of the world. Most jobs that involve interaction with the public require disclosure of convictions, and while said disclosure doesn’t automatically bar you from employment, it certainly doesn’t help.

The only thing the UFC can be faulted for is not doing a (thorough?) background check on Chope. Once the embarrassing information came to light, Zuffa’s public relations team (whom I’ve worked with before) did the only sensible thing it could do: give Chope the boot.

There’s simply no way to come back from embarrassing your employer, a lesson numerous people learned the hard way.

This is both a textbook example of good crisis communications and a cautionary tale for job seekers. In today’s information age, it’s hard to keep secrets buried. The best  thing is not to do anything you’ll need to apologize for later.


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