On Friday, Bloody Elbow published an article on the criminal history of recent UFC signing Cody East, a 12-1 heavyweight out of New Mexico. The former high school wrestling champion was signed following a 40 second knockout win at Legacy FC 51, which was filmed by the “Lookin’ For a Fight” crew, with UFC president Dana White in attendance. East was acquitted of a 2005 rape as a minor (while still in high school), but was sentenced to 3 years in prison and 5 years probation after a jury found him guilty of 3 counts of third-degree felony child abuse and 1 count of misdemeanor battery stemming from a 2007 underage drinking party at his home.
Jason House, Cody East’s manager, responded to the article, saying that “the UFC conducted an extensive background check on Cody before offering him the opportunity to compete in the UFC.”
Bloody Elbow contacted the UFC on Thursday, receiving a response on Friday with a full statement, including details on their independent investigation into East and their decision to sign him.
“From the beginning, Mr. East was very upfront with UFC regarding his past. In light of Mr. East’s history, UFC had an independent investigation conducted into his past and current behavior. Included in the investigation was a response from East’s former probation officer supporting his opportunity to compete in UFC and commenting that he would in fact be a good candidate. As a result of the investigation, and with the understanding that Mr. East had successfully completed many months of rehabilitation and counseling, UFC felt comfortable offering Mr. East the opportunity to compete in UFC.”
One notable fighter who was denied a UFC contract for criminal history is Devin Cole, whose planned 2012 signing to fight Travis Browne was nixed due to a 2008 guilty plea for fourth-degree assault and sexual harassment charges. More recently, the UFC released featherweight Will Chope one day before a 2014 fight vs. Diego Brandao after a Bleacher Report investigation revealed he’d received a bad conduct discharge from Air Force in 2009 for domestic violence against his ex-wife. Dana White later noted that while the UFC “will give guys second chances”, sponsorship and television partners may not see it the same way.
On the flip side, the UFC signed Abel Trujillo in 2012 despite twice pleading guilty to domestic abuse charges several years prior to his signing. Light heavyweight contender Anthony Johnson pleaded no contest to a 2009 misdemeanor domestic violence charge while under UFC contract in 2010, and was indefinitely suspended pending the result of a civil case against him in 2014 for domestic violence, but the suspension was lifted after the case was dismissed.
Cody East, whose probation ended in March 2015, is expected to make his Octagon debut on April 23rd against Walt Harris on the UFC 197 preliminary card.
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