Yet Another MMA Fighter Falls Before the So-Called 'EA Sports Curse'

Every single 'EA Sports UFC' cover star has now suffered a highly publicized defeat or career-stalling incident.

Mar 6 2016, 7:00pm

Image: Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC

On a blood-spattered mat in Las Vegas last night, Nate Diaz put the seemingly unstoppable Irish mixed martial arts fighter and current Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight champion Conor McGregor into a rear naked choke and forced a tapout. McGregor didn't lose any titles, but it marked the first time the Dublin native had lost a professional fight since 2008. Some commentators say McGregor simply wasn't cut out for such welterweight matches. Others point out that he wasn't playing at the top of his game. But perhaps there's a simpler reason for his fall: perhaps he never should have agreed to be featured on the cover of the MMA video game EA Sports UFC 2 in the wake of his victory over José Aldo last December.

Yes, yes, correlation doesn't imply causation, but it's hard not to at least smirk at the extreme coincidence, the way McGregor's loss fits so neatly into what's known in gaming circles as the "Madden Curse," which has now affected all cover stars for EA's UFC games as well. Simply put, almost every athlete who gets chosen for the cover of one of EA's Madden or UFC games ends up having shitty seasons or suffering injuries or other severe setbacks shortly afterward. It's been around since Madden NFLin 1999, when Garrison Hearst suffered a shattered ankle shortly after getting chosen for one of the cover variations. He missed two whole seasons as a result. It's so consistent, in fact, that gamblers often take it into account when placing their bets.

Image: EA

McGregor shares the current cover with Ronda Rousey, the previously undefeated 135-pound women's champion who endured a well-publicized defeat last November at the hands of Holly Holm. Mere hours before, EA had announced she'd be a cover athlete for EA Sports UFC 2. Before that, Alexander Gustafsson was announced as a cover athlete for the first EA Sports UFC game, but lost to Anthony Johnson and Daniel Cormier shortly afterward. His fellow cover star Jon Jones didn't lose any fights, but months after EA Sports UFC's official release, Jones failed a test for cocaine and was involved in a hit-and-run accident with a pregnant woman and fled the scene. The UFC stripped him of his title and suspended him for six months.

The variable fighting styles of MMA fighters means they're more likely to have a bumpy win-versus-loss record than their friends in boxing. Indeed, last night also saw Holly Holm in a choke hold until she fell unconscious at the hands of Miesha Tate. So much for her UFC bantamweight title, and she'd never been on the cover of any video game.

Still, if suits representing the world's largest video game publisher ever walk up and offer to slap your likeness on the cover of their next big sports game, you'd probably be wise to tell them to shove off.

EA Sports UFC 2 will launch for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on March 15.