While at the M-1: Breakthrough fights in Kansas City on Friday, I watched fighters from Poland, France, Holland, Brazil, Russia, Armenia, Japan and the United States. They didn't share a common language or culture, but they could all meet on a common ground because of fighting. It wasn't exactly a "Kumbaya" moment because they were punching each other in the face, but after the fights, every fighter was a perfect sportsman.
That is what makes disturbing the news that Toni Valtonen -- who has fought in the M-1 Global Challenge, most recently in July -- sports a Nazi tattoo. You can see it on his upper arm in the picture at right. M-1 requires that it is covered during fights, but the patch has fallen off in some. Valtonen issued this statement about the tattoo through M-1:
"I had a crazy and rebellious youth, I made some faults in my past and I am not proud of these marks. I regret that I ever had these tattoos made. Nowadays I am a dedicated family man and professional athlete, and I am not involved in any politics whatsoever."
That isn't exactly a denouncement of what the tattoo represents, and fans of MMA who hadn't heard this statement would have no idea that Valtonen no longer espouses Nazi views. He isn't the only fighter to sport a Nazi tattoo. King of the Cage fighter Melvin Costa also wears a neo-Nazi tattoo, but he considers himself a "white nationalist," and has not backed down from his views. He also has not fought since December of 2007.
M-1 said that it does not support the views of anyone in particular, but is that enough? If they, along with their television partner HDNet truly wanted to make a statement against the hate espoused by Valtonen's tattoos, they would do more than just ask him to cover it up. They would not let him on television until the tattoo is gone.
Strikeforce and Showtime recently agreed to a partnership with M-1 in order for Strikeforce to pick up top heavyweight fighter, Fedor Emelianenko. Is it in their best interest to work with a company that won't take a stronger stand?
If Valtonen was serious in denouncing the hateful views that the swastika represents, he would either have the tattoo removed or covered up. Otherwise, the symbol can break apart the international camaraderie that MMA makes happen.