Flapping lips raising Volkmann's profile
More attention has been paid to Jacob Volkmann during the past week and a half than at any time in his mixed martial arts career. But it's what Volkmann did to attract the attention that has infuriated a large number of people.
After a less-than-memorable split decision on Jan. 1 over Antonio McKee in a lightweight bout that kicked off UFC 125, Volkmann decided to have some fun. During a postfight interview, the White Bear Lake, Minn.-based chiropractor expressed his disagreement with President Barack Obama's health care bill.
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That's all well and good; Volkmann has every right to disagree with presidential policy. But he took it a step further -- Volkmann stated his desire to get President Obama in the cage and "knock some sense into that idiot."
That comment rubbed many people the wrong way.
Volkmann told ESPN.com that he stands by his views on health care, but beating up the president?
"I was just joking around when I said that, but I'm sticking to what I said about his policies," said Volkmann, who is 12-2-0. "Anybody who watched the video could see that I was laughing at the time I said it. I don't know how people could actually take it seriously -- that I was actually going to try to harm him."
But in these tense political times, many people don't take kindly to threats against the president of the United States, even if it's only a joke.
Life after the joke hasn't been a laughing matter for Volkmann. He has received numerous threats.
"I've been getting a lot of hate e-mails and a lot of hate phone calls," Volkmann said. "It's kind of irritating. I try not to think about it too much. But there's been a lot of negative response."
Unfortunately, the backlash against him doesn't end there. Volkmann is a wrestling coach at White Bear Lake High School. But since making his statement, school officials have instructed him to stay away for a while.
And then there's also the recent visit from a U.S. Secret Service agent. It's been a trying time for Volkmann.
"They put me on paid administrative leave because of my comment," Volkmann said. "They said I represented the school in a bad way. I'm kind of irritated about that whole thing. So I can't coach because I have an opinion? That really irritates me.
"And not to mention the Secret Service [agent]; that didn't bother me, he was a really nice guy.
Despite the negative responses, Volkmann has his supporters. His training partners at Minnesota Martial Arts Academy poke fun at the mild-mannered wrestler. Their good-natured ribbing has helped Volkmann weather the negative e-mails and phone calls, which have been pouring in -- and he can't avoid the calls since his chiropractic business number is available to the public in phone books and online.
While at times it might seem like the entire world is against him, sans his family, friends and training partners, Volkmann does have other supporters. Strikeforce heavyweight Josh Barnett is among them.
"At the end of the day, Jacob Volkmann was willing to stand up for what he believed in," Barnett told ESPN.com. "Good for Jacob Volkmann. I guess it's sad that you have to make that kind of statement to get that kind of notice. Besides, you're not going to illicit any change by beating up Barack Obama."
No one knows this better than Volkmann. He was just telling a joke -- not a very good joke, it turns out -- but a joke nonetheless.
The bottom line is, Jacob Volkmann does not want to do physical harm to the president of the United States. And if he were put in a similar situation today, especially after the recent shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, Volkmann would choose his words more carefully.
"I wouldn't call [President Obama] an idiot," Volkmann said. "That was a little much. He's definitely not an idiot.
I would not make the same comment if the Arizona thing happened first; I'm not that dumb.” -- Jacob Volkmann, on his comments toward U.S. President Barack Obama
"Now the shooting in Arizona is really making me look like a turd. I would not make the same comment if the Arizona thing happened first; I'm not that dumb."
But Volkmann would not refrain from saying something to garner attention; that's something he would be willing to do again.
Remaining in UFC these days is a major concern for many fighters, but it is a more stressful issue for lightweights. Just winning is no longer enough to secure a roster spot.
"I was told by my manager [Monte Cox] that they are trying to cut 60-plus people from the UFC, and 155 is one of the biggest weight classes they're cutting," said Volkmann, who doesn't have an opponent or fight date at this time. "To know that they're not going to cut me feels great."
Keeping his UFC roster spot was the primary reason for "the joke." Volkmann figured he'd become a valuable asset to the promotion by becoming a known entity.
Time will tell if his plan pays off. And yes, "the joke" was planned.
"Yeah, I planned it a little bit," Volkmann said. "My fight against Antonio McKee was a boring fight. I had to get the attention off that boring fight. Now there will be a lot of people watching me in my next UFC fight. They will be against me, really against me, and some will be for me. But a lot more people will be watching me because of this.
"It was a real good move on my part. There is a lot of hype around this. Hopefully, the UFC utilizes it, because there will be a lot more people watching the fights."
Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.
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