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Court rules professional MMA fighter defamed sponsor in Facebook smack-down video

A professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter has lost a legal stoush and ordered to pay $100 in damages for using social media to trash-talk a sponsor by calling him a “petty little…weasel of a man’’ and “dill-pickle’’ worthy of public shaming. 

A Brisbane District Court judge recently ordered Michael Anthony McDaniel pay assessed damages of $100 and $465.64 in legal costs for defaming his then sponsor–Silverlake Australia Martial Arts performance fighting attire and equipment supplier David John McEwan. 

Judge Suzanne Sheridan, in her eight-page decision, said McDaniel defamed McEwan by publishing a more than five-minute long video on Facebook on October 16, 2019, during which he says: “David McEwan. You’re a weasel of a man… you’re a petty man… (and that) everyone needs to name and shame this dill pickle.’’ 

On 15 June 2020, the court ruled McEwan, who had been seeking $250,000 damages from McDaniel, had been defamed in McDaniel’s Facebook video and posting. 

Judge Sheridan said the posting came about after a disagreement between McEwan and McDaniel over the payment of travel costs for “a fighter with specials needs’’, who was at the time sponsored by McEwan, to travel from Melbourne to a fight event in Brisbane. 

The court was told McDaniel asked McEwan to pay for the other fighter’s travel costs, but McEwan declined saying: “(The fighter) was under contract to him, and that he would not support or endorse (the fighter) to attend the event.’’ 

Judge Sheridan said: “(McDaniel) subsequently created a video of himself in which he included references… (that McEwan) alleges are defamatory.’’ 

“On 16 October 2019, (McDaniel) uploaded the video with a post. The post stated that: David McEwan you’re a weasel of a man. How you can do this to someone like (fighter) Brian Morley who is the sweetest personality around just because you won’t get anything out of it.’’ 

The court was told the pair then swapped telephone text messages, one of which included McEwan telling McDaniel: “Nice Facebook posts, I forwarded copies of your videos and all the derogatory comments to my lawyers and if they’re not removed, legal proceedings shall commence.’’ 

For reasons not supported by evidence in court, Judge Sheridan said the Facebook post was removed on October 18, 2019, and at the time had been tagged by 41 other Facebook users, had received 75 likes, 90 comments and been shared by sever third party Facebook users on their own accounts. 

In awarding damages, Judge Sheridan said there was no evidence presented to the court as to McEwan’s reputation in the MMA industry nor to the extent of the harm to his reputation as a result of the defamatory video and social media post. 

“Given the absence of any evidence as to the reputation of (McEwan) or that the posts had any effect upon (his) reputation (and) that any harm to (his) reputation appears to have been caused by his own conduct not by the publication … the award of damages should be very low.” 

“Doing the best that I can, I assess damages in the sum of $100.’’ 

Read the decision here: https://archive.sclqld.org.au/qjudgment/2020/QDC20-321.pdf 

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