Ontario’s Michael Imperato has UFC contract canceled following botched vetting process

In less than 24 hours, Canada's Michael Imperato went from a being a regional fighter, to a UFC fighter, then back again. The Woodbridge,…

By: Karim Zidan | 9 years ago
Ontario’s Michael Imperato has UFC contract canceled following botched vetting process
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

In less than 24 hours, Canada’s Michael Imperato went from a being a regional fighter, to a UFC fighter, then back again.

The Woodbridge, Ontario native signed with the UFC on Saturday as a replacement for Frankie Saenz against Aljamain Sterling at the UFC Fight Night event in Sydney next month, and while many in the region were aware of the red flags in his past, it appeared as though it did not impact his chances getting into the UFC.

Imperato was responsible for several on-camera racist and homophobic slurs during the filming of the fifth episode of ‘Fight Xchange,’ a documentary series that aired in Canada. Following an earlier confrontation, Imperato referred to fellow contestant Nate Stark as a “n****” and a “f****t.” He also suggested that, due to Stark’s race, he was capable of stealing from him.

Six months following the release of the video, Imperato decided to offer an apology for his racist, sexist, and homophobic comments. Although he resides in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, Imperato attributed his mistakes to a harsh and ignorant upbringing.

“I have used racist words when I was mad, not to be racist just to make people mad in an argument or heat of the moment. I never realized how stupid I sounded or how much I effected others,” said Imperato in a written apology. “I have recently realized where these words have come from and I regret using them. I also apologize to any one who was hurt by my comments.

“The world is changing fast and can be pretty crazy. Laws are being changed and some people agree and others don’t. I believe that everyone should be able to live in what ever way makes them happy. I am not against any religion or any gay male or female.”

However, it appears as though his apology was unable to save him becoming a PR nightmare for the UFC. Hours after the controversial fighter was quietly signed to a contract, several other Canadian fighters and conscientious fans directly tweeted Dana White, Sean Shelby, and the UFC to inform them about their grievous signing. This led to Imperato’s immediate release from the organization after possibly the shortest tenure in UFC history.

Imperato confirmed his abrupt release on Sunday evening:

Thank you to everyone for their support and interest in my career. Unfortunately I have made some decisions in life years ago that are now affecting me. Thanks to a reality show that I was in where I made some stupid comments and of course people being jealous, I have just got my contract to the UFC cancelled.

To everyone that knows me personally I have nothing to explain, I have always been open hearted and would do anything to help anyone. I have never had weapons, drugs, never raped anyone, never killed anyone I bent over backwards for more people then I can count.

At the end of the day, when people are jealous or are hating on you for your success they will do anything to bring you down. I spent 9 years working on my dream and when it finally came to reality it blew up.

Sadly, this is not the first time that the UFC has failed to complete the necessary vetting process before signing new fighters to their roster. In the last 13 months, the promotion has been forced to release two fighters who had their questionable pasts uncovered by various media outlets; Will Chope was released once it was revealed that he had been dishonourably discharged from the Air Force in 2009 for domestic abuse. Just a few months earlier, Benjamin Brisa was handed his walking papers when his alleged links to Neo-Nazi associations were brought to light.

While the UFC was able to rectify their Imperato error at record speed, it was a mistake that could have been avoided entirely had the promotion completed the necessary background check – or even a simple Google search.

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About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

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