Commentary

Resident Yvel: Is controversial striker fit to fight?

While there's no questioning Gilbert Yvel's fighting ability, his stability and judgment are a whole other matter. Is Affliction making the wrong decision by allowing the Hurricane to campaign in their ring? Sherdog thinks so.

Originally Published: December 8, 2008
By Jake Rossen | Sherdog.com

In a sport in which an evening of hyperextensions and blood-faucet noses is considered getting off lightly, it should come as little surprise that some real savages occasionally enter the ring. You've got to have a misplaced synapse or two to eat pain for a living.

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sherdog.comGilbert Yvel, left, has had issues with playing by the rules inside the cage.
Ironically, despite the endless opportunities for mayhem in a freestyle arena, no MMA figure has really come close to the kind of brazen, prehistoric behavior of a Mike Tyson, showcasing a deficit of self-control comparable only to that of an upended turtle.

No one except Gilbert Yvel.

Yvel, a Dutch striker who seems to suffer from the same lack of proper judgment that afflicted Tyson, Andrew Golota and Shonie Carter's tailor, has perpetuated some of the most classless, shameful and potentially damaging infractions of any combat athlete in the modern era.

Put another way: When John McCain coined the phrase "human cockfighting" in the 1990s, he would've been ecstatic to get some footage of Yvel.

The rap sheet:

• vs. Karimula Barkalaev in 1998: Yvel was disqualified for biting his opponent.

• vs. Dan Henderson in 2000: Yvel landed a calculated elbow directly behind Henderson's ear while Henderson was working for a takedown.

• vs. Don Frye in 2001: Yvel repeatedly gouged Frye's eyes, was eventually disqualified and placed his hands on the referee.

• vs. Atte Backman in 2004: Yvel assaulted the referee by knocking him to the ground and then kicking his hapless frame into unconsciousness.

• vs. the Nevada State Athletic Commission in 2007: Yvel was denied a fighter's license in the state after commissioners evaluated his prior behavior.

That Yvel should be exiled from professional athletics would seem to be a foregone conclusion. Instead, he's slated to appear before the California State Athletic Commission in order to facilitate a new three-fight U.S. deal courtesy of Affliction, the world's premier distributor of dragon-skeleton hoodies and questionable prizefights.

Like a criminal trial, it's hopeful CSAC members will be required to view footage of Yvel's sickening indiscretions before rendering judgment on whether or not to offer him the privilege of a fighter's license. This is a man clearly too emotional for the heat of the ring, a fact he's proven beyond a shadow of a doubt on numerous occasions.

A fighter's license is really not far removed from paperwork securing your right to a firearm. In both cases, a sanctioning body is determining your ability to wield a weapon -- gun or flying knee -- that can do serious bodily harm.

Examined in that light, Yvel's immaturity is shocking: It's akin to a 5-year-old brandishing a knife. He has the tools to hurt you seriously, but lacks the self-discipline to be entrusted with them.

It's a testament to Affliction's promotional arm that he'd even be contacted. Yvel's striking is formidable and exciting, granted, but that's a fact that would be long forgotten after a trademark tantrum. He is unranked on any reputable list of heavyweight contenders; he's also a virtual unknown in America, buzzed about only in online circles as "Mr. Yellow Card," a scalding reference to his foul-plagued days in Pride.

Employing Yvel is the ultimate low-reward, high-risk approach that common sense warns us against. Affliction, obviously well aware of his résumé, would have no spin to rely on in the event he has a meltdown.

Everyone has a right to earn a living. While Phil Baroni's love tap on referee Larry Landless earned him a well-deserved suspension back in 2003, he was eventually free to pursue his career and was mature enough to acknowledge his error. He hasn't repeated the mistake. Fair enough.

Yvel, in contrast, never endured similar punishment: With the offenses taking place overseas, he was docked a few Ws off of his record and some dollars out of his pocket, nothing more. He's never really been penalized for endangering Frye's eyesight, or that referee's health, or costing Barkalaev a (presumed) series of rabies shots.

Is what amounts to time served really a satisfying penalty for those incidents?

That Affliction is willing to wire him a healthy salary and provide U.S. exposure smacks of short-term thinking -- gotta fill this fight card! -- and an indifference to the sport's reputation. (Mainstream reporters, ever eager for "The Story," will quickly latch on to Yvel's inglorious history and use it as an angle. Promise.)

Affliction stumbled here, plain and simple. The heavyweight class is notoriously the least substantial, and the UFC has locked up the majority of promising talent. But in a world where I haven't seen Roger Gracie compete on television in two years, where Jerome LeBanner is still itching for an MMA fight and where Jeff Monson and Ricco Rodriguez are available, I'm dazed by the appearance of Yvel on a prominent card.

And if all this is too long-winded to digest, you need to remember only one thing: In a 1990s feud with a kickboxer named "Dirty" Bob Schrijber, Yvel was still considered the bad guy.

If that doesn't sum it up, I don't know what will.

Jake Rossen is a contributor to Sherdog.com.

Jake Rossen is a contributor to ESPN.com. His byline has appeared in the New York Times, Wired.com, and numerous other outlets. He began covering mixed martial arts in 1998.