Icon Sport President T.Jay Thompson, in a serious tone, opened the press conference with a discussion about the reputation of Icon Sport and mixed martial arts (MMA). He stressed that Icon Sport is keenly aware of its image in the community, especially with the degree to which MMA has become such a popular, mainstream sport.
He reinforced that the brand evolution/change from Super Brawl to Icon Sport was made specifically because of the widening demographics of MMA fans. He stated that a decade ago “Super Brawl” was targeted at young, male fans. As the sport has grown over the last 10 years, T.Jay said that he has seen the audience become more broad-based, now with young, old, male, and female fans. “We want to put on shows where a dad can feel comfortable bringing his wife and their 14-year old son.” The “Icon Sport” image was developed so that the organization’s events would appeal to the sport’s growing fan base.
T.Jay concluded that Icon Sport was essentially put in the unfortunate position of having to suspend Jason Miller because of the organization’s duty to be a responsible member of the community. He stated that the nature of Miller’s current legal situation “left no other alternative” and that, “it was the right thing to do.” He further stated, “we need to send the right message to the fans that members of the ‘Icon Sport Family’ will be held responsible for their actions.” T.Jay then gave details of the suspension, stating that it was “indefinite” and that Miller’s standing in Icon Sport would be evaluated over time. “With that,” T.Jay stated, “we still consider Jason part of ‘Icon Sport Family’. And although the suspension is harsh, we will continue support him, especially as he goes through such a difficult time in his life.”
T.Jay confirmed that the next event’s date would be moved one week from the 18th to the 25th of February. He later announced that Niko Vitale, former Icon Middleweight Champion, has accepted to fill Miller’s place in a non-title bout against current champion Robbie Lawler. T.Jay then asked Jason Miller to step up to make his comments.
Miller, visibly upset, then stepped in front of the row of reporters and cameras. Miller stated that he was “sorry for the entire situation and everyone who is involved.” He said, “…I understand the suspension fully and I probably deserve worse.” “It upsets me that I sent the wrong message to all the young ‘monkeys’ (Miller fans) who look up to me. I’d hate to think some young fans may see that the way I acted is acceptable behavior. Its not.” Miller went on to say, “I worked hard to earn the respect of the Hawaii fans over the last couple years. I hope after all of this passes they give me the chance to earn it back.”
Vitale was then invited by T.Jay to step forward and say a few brief words. Regarding Miller, Vitale was gracious in saying, “I forgive Jason. I hope the fans will forgive him, too.” He also stated, “I’d like to challenge Jason at this time to use this situation in a positive way and become a better person…and to learn from his mistakes.” Vitale then spoke about how excited he is to be facing Robbie Lawler once again. “The last time it was a war. I know its going to be another war, but I’m a different fighter now. I learned a lot from my last two fights. I’m still in good shape and I’m still training.” “I will be ready.”
Lawler stated earlier in the day by phone that his win over Vitale was, “the toughest win I ever had. No one ever hit me or slammed me as hard as Niko.”
Icon Sport’s February 18th tickets will be honored at the new February 25th date. Fans who have previously purchased tickets may simply show up with those same tickets.