While preparing for the biggest fight of her life, UFC title contender Megan Anderson earlier this year found herself the center of attention she didn’t ask for, the focus of crude remarks by a male fighter.
Casey Kenney, responding to a question on fellow UFC bantamweight Sean O’Malley’s “The Timbo Sugar Show” podcast, cracked jokes about whether he would want to “smash” Anderson.
“I guess MMA is a line of work where you can publicly talk about whether you’d have sex with a coworker in an utterly degrading way and face zero consequences,” Anderson tweeted on Jan. 28, sharing a clip of the offensive conversation. “Disgusting behavior and it’s unfortunate that he’ll be fighting on my card in March.”
Anderson (11-4, nine finishes) — who will challenge UFC featherweight champion Amanda Nunes during the pay-per-view broadcast of UFC 259 on Saturday at UFC Apex in Las Vegas — says she is tired of the culture that gives such comments a pass. Having been a victim of bullying, Anderson said she wants “to be known as the type of person that uses my platform for good.”
“There needs to be consequences,” said Anderson, who spoke to The Post over the phone this week. “People need to understand that just because it’s social media and you don’t say it face to face doesn’t mean you should be exempt from consequences.”
In the aftermath of Kenney’s comments, Anderson received support on social media as well as from UFC. Hunter Campbell, UFC executive vice president and chief business officer, reached out to her directly. Though UFC declined a request by The Post to make Campbell available to comment on the subject, Anderson expressed appreciation for the gesture. She also is aware that because UFC fighters are technically classified as independent contractors, there are limited punitive measures available.
“It’s kind of hard, just the nature of us being subcontractors, so I knew a form of punishment or whatever, like a consequence, wasn’t going to be like it would be at a regular job,” Anderson said, ”but it was nice to hear from the UFC in that they supported me in this.”
Kenney, who remains scheduled to face former champion Dominick Cruz on Saturday night in the featured preliminary bout on ESPN, replied to her tweet the same day to apologize.
“I’m sorry this upset you,” Kenney wrote. “I will be more careful with my words. I was just answering a question and thought it was all a joking matter. I see I was wrong and I’m sorry. Best of luck with training camp and your fight.”
Anderson said Kenney later contacted her through a direct message. She did not reveal the content of the message, but said she hopes Kenney takes advantage of this “opportunity to learn.”
“I hope that he is sincere in the words he wrote, and I hope that he learns from this situation and becomes a better person from it,” Anderson said. “And that’s really it.”
It is unclear what, if any, punishment was doled out to Kenney for his offensive remarks. In 2013, when UFC released a copy of its Fighter Conduct Policy, fighters could be disciplined for “misconduct, which includes without limitation … Derogatory or offensive conduct, including without limitation insulting language, symbols, or actions about a person’s ethnic background, heritage, color, race, national origin, age, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation.”
UFC did not confirm whether such a policy remains in place.
Anderson, a native of the Gold Coast, Australia, faces a fight of a different sort this weekend when she gets her first crack at UFC gold. Nunes (20-4, 16 finishes), who is also the reigning bantamweight (135-pound) champion, has a strong claim to being considered the greatest woman in the brief history of MMA. She claimed the 145-pound featherweight crown from Cris “Cyborg” Justino, the other woman in the GOAT conversation, with a 51-second KO at the end of 2018.
A year prior, it was supposed to be Anderson challenging Cyborg’s supremacy in women’s MMA in what would have been Anderson’s UFC debut. Anderson pulled out of the July 29, 2017, bout for personal reasons and a makeup never materialized. Still, as Anderson noted, she has prepared for a fight of this magnitude before. She said she doesn’t think Nunes and Cyborg are drastically different opponents.
“We’ve been preparing for this style of fighter because Amanda and Cris, although they are different in some ways, they are very similar in a lot,” Anderson said. “I’ve been preparing for this type of fighter for a very long time.
“I think Amanda uses her range a little bit better, whereas Cris is very much a get-on-the-inside-and-box type of fighter. Amanda uses straight punches a little bit better.”
Anderson, 30, is a a bona fide 145-pound striker who stands 6-feet tall. She is expected to have advantages of four inches in height and three inches in reach, making her a unique challenge for Nunes. The double-champ defended her featherweight crown for the first time last June against Felicia Spencer, having competed for the vast majority of her career at 135 pounds.
“I use my range in all my fights. It’s no secret,” Anderson said. “It’s something that I have, actually, so why not use it?”