Will Chope Speaks Out About the Incident Which Led to Cancellation of Fight and UFC Release

April 1, 2014
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Will ChopeWhat should have been the biggest fight of Will Chope’s life was taken away from him at a few hours notice when his UFC Fight Night 38 bout was pulled from the card following revelations about an incident which occurred when the American featherweight was serving with the US Air Force.

Court documents which were dug up and published the day before the scheduled bout with Diego Brandao detailed how Chope had repeatedly assaulted his then wife in 2009 and received a sentence of five months confinement and a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force.

According to the court documents, Chope hit her with a knife handle and attempted to smother her with a pillow or blanket during a dispute over a credit card. Despite having previously declared the conviction to the UFC and served his sentence, the 23-year-old was immediately taken off the UFC Fight Night 38 card and cut from the organization when the story broke.

Chope, who has since remarried, is currently in Florida visiting his ex-wife and their daughter in a trip which he had always intended to make after his fight in Brazil. The two of them had the following to say about the original incident which led to him being dismissed from the Air Force, and the timing of the recent reports about it.

Chope’s ex-wife, Ashley, made it clear that her ex-husband never did her any serious harm during the incident depicted in the court documents.

“I was never put in the hospital and I’m not trying to downgrade the seriousness of the situation because it was a really tumultuous time for both of us, but I wasn’t seriously hurt,” she said in a video posted jointly with the former UFC fighter. “I had a couple of bruises and a couple of scrapes, but it wasn’t something that was physically traumatic. It was more emotionally painful than physically painful.”

She said that the description laid out in the court documents does not reflect what actually happened in 2009.

“With the Air Force documents, we didn’t get too see them until after we went to court,” she explained. “They were mailed to me and when me and Will were going over our copies of our original statements and comparing them to the Air Force documents, they are completely different. It wasn’t similar to my testimony or Will’s.”

According to Chope, he was faced with a choice between pleading guilty and accepting a five-month sentence or contesting the charges and running the risk of being imprisoned for much longer and chose the former option.

“They had all these different things that they wanted to say I did, and a lot of that was extremely exaggerated and some if it wasn’t even true,” Chope said. “If I argued one of the details, if I said ‘I did this but I didn’t do this’ to try and get a lesser sentence, the prosecutor could fight much harder and try and give me a longer sentence. We made a deal that I would plead guilty and in return the trial would be shortened and I would serve only five months in jail because if I fought against them there was a very good chance I would get a one- to two-year sentence, so I took the deal.”

Chope also reiterated that he had made the UFC aware of the court case and subsequent sentence when he was first signed and that at the time it hadn’t been seen as an issue.

“I didn’t plead guilty to a felony and I wasn’t convicted of a felony,” he said. “The crime is classified as simple assault. It’s a misdemeanor and I put that on my UFC contract and my application.”

Ashley said that seeing this story dug up by the MMA media five years later came as a complete surprise.

“They happened five years ago in 2009 and I was really shocked and surprised that this came up again,” she revealed. “We moved past it so long ago and are really good friends now. It really upsets me that all of this is causing so many issues for Will at the moment and I just want us to be able to let it go and move on.”

Chope also wanted to emphasize that this was an episode that they both believed belonged in their past.

“I’m 23 years old. This happened when I was 18 years old. A lot of things have changed since then and I’ve changed a lot,” the fighter explained.

No one can condone a domestic assault, no matter how minor the injuries, and in many respects the UFC’s stance is admirable. The question is whether this same set of standards will be applied consistently across the board as there will inevitably be fighters on the roster, either now or in the future, who have committed more serious offenses than Chope’s.

The UFC paid both Brandao and Chope with the former getting his win bonus and the latter getting the same financial compensation he would have received if he had lost the fight. Given the timing of the articles, which came out less than 24 hours before UFC Fight Night 38, the organization was forced to make a snap call.

Perhaps if there had been an opportunity for Chope’s former wife to talk to UFC officials and clarify exactly what happened, the organization might have softened its stance and allowed the bout with Brandao to go ahead before releasing him if he suffered what would have been a second successive loss, but that is just conjecture.

For the time being Chope is focused on doing what he did to get signed to the UFC in the first place, fighting as frequently as possible on any promotion which will pay him. His UFC purses dwarf the money he was earning previously but there is at least a silver lining to the cloud: he was able to use some of his earnings from the UFC Fight Night 38 non appearance to pay for a trip to Disneyland with his ex-wife and daughter.

You can watch Chope’s and his ex-wife’s full video statement below.

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  • Shartnado2, the Sloppy One

    Dana loves to take these kind of opportunities to make himself look tough and loveable

    • mmalive

      So called Uncle Dana is a CLOWN. All facts were disclosed to UFC before. This kid made a mistake just like the REST of US at one time or another. Sonnen ( money laundering fraud), Jones( DUI), Ortiz( Demestic Violence), Mendes( Assault), Overeem ( Assault), Rampage( Assault) are PRIME EXAMPLES. And 3 of them are still with UFC. Dana is GREEDY. He only keeps fighters that can make the MOST MONEY for him.

      And YES, Uncle Dana takes stand to make him an ENFORCER for UFC. JOKE!!!

  • battle ready

    If the UFC had all this info disclosed to them by Chope before the media picked it up and were ok with it, why then were they so severe with him? I could understand canceling the fight and declaring they were going to “investigate” the situation further, and even put Chope on probation until more clarification was made. I, as an employer, have had an employee with a criminal past that I hired sort of as a “second chance”. I knew all about his past before hand and actually had to explain to some colleagues and customers the situation. I certainly wasn’t going to fire him when people found out about him. I’m sure I don’t have all the facts, but it seems dishonorable to tell a guy “we know your past, but come work for us anyway”, and then fire him when the media finds out what the UFC already knew. There’s way too many companies and organizations who cower before the media. It appears the UFC may be one also.

  • Darin

    The UFC is hypocritical and incredibly inconsistant in handling fighters. If you’re the champ you can drink and drive, you can have racist tatoos, etc. If you’re a noob, watch your back!
    As stated above, the UFC was already aware of Chope’s past, they didn’t seem to care until it became public. So, morality has nothing to do with it, just PR.

  • Liam O’Keefe

    You can’t condone domestic violence, but you must allow people to pay for their actions and move on. Dana didn’t do that, Chope was punished all over again for something he did 5 years ago and paid for. He released the incident to the UFC and they knew full well what happened. they are a BS organization with double standards and BS judgments from Dana. He paid for his crime, he should be allowed to live his life and that includes professionally fighting, and if that means making a good living, good for him.

    How many UFC fighter have committed crimes and still were active over the course of Zuffa owning the organization? Mendez, Overeem, Rampage, Ortiz (domestic violence), Jones. I am sure there a lot of those guys have history we do not know about. How Chope was treated was not equal.

    • Lawdog1521

      Boo ****ing hoo.

      • Liam O’Keefe

        WOW, that’s a zinger. You must be pushing the boundaries of your vocabulary.

  • Empty Bag of chips

    of course his EX wife is going to downplay the beatings, its called child support money

    • Liam O’Keefe

      Child support is ordered by the court. Learn about the subject before you comment on something you obviously know nothing about.

      • Sir_Roy

        Sure it is. But if the guy has no viable income for said courts to “order”, then she is sh!t out of luck. Her child support goes up exponentially if her ex is actually bringing in more substantial coin – which he would be fighting in the UFC. C’mon man, think about it.

        • Liam O’Keefe

          Your right, but she can’t keep going back to the well as it were, I think it is no more than once a year unless a significant change takes place. She has to have a valid reason, one or two fights and getting paid is different than having a steady income. His purses and a provable income is a must for any court or state agency to validate an increase. It’s also based on yearly income (well, at least what I pay it is, I don’t know about FL). And a kicker, I was out of work and a judge still ordered me to pay based on a previous year income.

  • MikeMcK

    There’s a part of me that is wondering if this was a fox request, and they wanted him pushed off that card,and the UFC has decided to take the hit.

    • Shartnado2, the Sloppy One

      theres a part of you thats stupid

  • Sir_Roy

    If we don’t let people heal from past mistakes, learn from them, then move on … we will all ultimately fail as a society. We learn from f’n up. There’s no secret there. (The kid was 18 years old!!). And I’m sorry, but no one (with normal mental health) just “loses” it for no reason. Not a justification, but abuse takes all forms – not just physical and in that sense, some women (and men) get away with murder.

    Some people need multiple lessons before they figure things out … but the quickest way to learning and to change/growth is being surrounded by people who believe in you, who lend a helping hand, who serve by example (and not just scathing judgment and condescension). Terrible the UFC’s treatment of this kid.

    • Honeybadger2009

      Wow, I’d like to see how tolerant all of you apologists are if a man convicted of child abuse/rape moved in on your street 5 years years after being convicted. Go talk to your neighbors and convince them he got his life back on track and it was 5 whole years ago! Then let your kids play in his yard, no big deal, he paid his his dues right?

      • green giant

        Come on,obviously different circumstances. Use your head. The point is we ALL make mistakes even you do. Maybe you didn’t get caught in the past for doing something wrong who knows. No one is perfect. Everyone has their secrets.

      • Sir_Roy

        The problem is our system fails in its two mandates; to reform and to protect society. We refuse to see this and it is kept from us because the system as it stands actually generates money for the powers that be.

        If we had an intelligent, and more so, compassionate, system in place that, first of all, acknowledged abnormal sexual behavior as a real illness in need of treatment, and not just a “violent act deserving of extreme punishment” we might learn to treat the mental disorder for what it is and, yes, reform individuals to the extent they can safely rejoin society and even prove themselves beneficial to said society to the extent they could begin to make amends for past transgressions.

        As is, we are still too short sighted and have too narrow a view as to what life is about and its true value to even posit this (i.e. true reform and forgiveness) as a possibility as of yet. Until then, off with his head I guess. Sigh.