It’s rare, if not unprecedented, for an MMA fighter to be accused of domestic abuse in the middle of a fight.
It happened to Albuquerque’s Jordan Espinosa on Saturday.
After that, for Espinosa, things only got worse.
Near the end of the second round of Espinosa’s UFC 259 prelim fight on Saturday against Tim Elliott in Las Vegas, Nevada, Elliott – while belaboring Espinosa en route to a win by lopsided, unanimous decision – began a startling conversation.
“You choked a girl in 2018. So you’re a woman beater? You’re a (bleeping) woman beater?” Elliott said.
“You don’t know the whole story,” Espinosa replied.
“I know enough,” Elliott responded.
“You don’t know (bleep),” Espinosa said.
Later, in a post-fight interview, Elliott said he’d seen a Facebook post from a woman who claimed to have been choked unconscious by Espinosa in December 2018.
“I don’t know the whole story and it wasn’t something I wanted the whole world to hear,” Elliott said. “… That was supposed to be between him and I. I didn’t know the mic was gonna pick up on it. But it was kind of disturbing, the whole thing.”
In response, Bryan Hamper, Espinosa’s manager, issued the following statement to mmajunkie.com:
“We will not be commenting on Tim Elliott’s accusations. It is extremely unfortunate that an athlete who has no information of the situation is given a platform to recklessly slander another athlete with no credible information other than a (Facebook) message. It sets a dangerous precedence allowing this type of behavior to make headlines. Words matter.”
Later, Amy Kaplan, a photographer/reporter for fansidedmma.com, re-posted a Feb. 26 Facebook post from an Albuquerque woman named Manda Gonzales.
In the post, Gonzales accuses Espinosa of manhandling her physically and then choking her unconscious in her apartment early on the morning of Dec. 22, 2018.
Gonzales did not say she’d been sexually penetrated, nor did she call the police.
A phone message left for Espinosa on Sunday was not returned.
She and Espinosa had been high school classmates, longtime friends and had dated briefly in the past, Gonzales wrote.
On the night of Dec. 21, 2018, she wrote, Espinosa had joined her for pizza and drinks at the brewery where she worked. He then insisted on accompanying her to her new apartment, though, she wrote, she didn’t want him to.
Once at the apartment, she wrote, she tried to get Espinosa to leave, even calling a rideshare for that purpose.
Eventually, Gonzales wrote, she tried to leave and use the rideshare herself.
At that point, she wrote, Espinosa blocked her path, took her to the floor and choked her into unconsciousness. When she came to, she wrote, he was gone.
Gonzales attached to her Facebook post two Snapchat posts, purportedly from Espinosa, blaming her for the altercation,
“I now realize u don’t respect me as a person or a friend so I’m gonna leave u be,” the first Snapchat post read. “Hope you’re ok. Goodbye. …. You literally started attacking me. I’m not gonna go through that (expletive) with you. …”
The second read, “Bye Manda. That (expletive)’s not cool at all and I’m sad as (expletive) right now.”
During Saturday’s fight, it appeared Elliott – it’s stipulated here that MMA is a brutal sport – went out of his way to brutalize Espinosa.
Several times, Elliott pressed his forehead on Espinosa’s face and moved his head back and forth.
In the third and final round, an Espinosa elbow opened a cut at Elliott’s hairline. At the urging of his corner, Elliott rubbed his blood into Espinosa’s face and eyes.
In his postfight interview, Elliott again acknowledged he didn’t know if Gonzales’ accusations were true – which is why, he said, he didn’t intend his words during the fight to be heard by the commentators or by the UFC Fight Pass audience.
“I know people lie,” he said. “But it was pretty disturbing, the things that I was messaged and the pictures that I received.
“This is the only fight out of all the fights I’ve had that was personal.”