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Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those
of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of
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Evolve Media.
* * *



Ultimate Fighting Championship
President Dana
White
two weeks ago spoke at the Republic National Convention
in support of President Donald Trump, who, on Nov. 3, will either
be punted from office or re-elected in another paradigm-shifting
upset.

It was the second time that MMA’s most recognizable executive was
featured at the RNC. His first appearance, in 2016, saw an
obviously nervous White speak in equal parts fawning and bombastic
terms of Trump’s early support for the fledgling UFC circa 2000-01,
his business instincts and work ethic and his loyalty and
friendship. On this second occasion, White offered a full-throated
endorsement of the Trump administration’s record, punctuated by

outrageous falsehoods
and humble-brags about the UFC’s ability
to continue putting on events despite the COVID-19 crisis.

“Before the pandemic, President Trump built the greatest economy in
our nation’s history and created opportunities for all Americans
like no one before him,” White bellowed to begin the five-minute
pre-recorded speech. “Financial markets hit all-time highs,
unemployment was at an all-time low, and we weren’t facing the
lawless destruction that now is occurring in a few of our great
cities.

“He did it once and I’m telling you right now, he will do it
again,” White added later, “and remember, President Trump may be
the only president in modern times who has actually done everything
he said he would do during his campaign.”

White’s speech has been the source of both bemusement and
controversy inside and outside the sports world. In addition to the
many
glaring inaccuracies
peppered throughout and White’s
unmistakably shouty style of performative masculinity, the UFC
front man has been accused of continuing to facilitate Trump’s
efforts to “sports-wash” his administration and prop up the
Commander and Chief’s personal brand.

Evidence of this sports-washing effort since Trump won office four
years ago is not difficult to find and has been
studiously catalogued and deconstructed on this site
and

others
. White has variously overstated Trump’s impact on the
UFC’s trajectory circa 2001, when the UFC held consecutive events
at the Trump Taj Mahal. He also posed for photos alongside Trump in
the Oval Office with then-interim welterweight champion Colby
Covington
in tow, released a full-blown propaganda documentary
on UFC Fight Pass titled “Combatant in Chief” and integrated
presidential appearances into both UFC 244, which Trump attended in
person, and UFC 249, where a video of Trump was included in the
pay-per-view broadcast.

However, White’s second RNC speech went beyond the bounds of simply
propping up Trump’s credentials as a combat sports aficionado,
business man and leader. Rather, his latest appearance represented
a total co-signing of the Trump administration’s record over the
past four years and
Trump’s all-caps positioning of himself as a law-and-order
candidate
.

While that distinction may seem unimportant—Trump’s 2016 campaign
was after all largely built upon anti-immigrant rhetoric, and one
of his first actions as president was to sign Executive
Order 13769
(known colloquially as the “Muslim ban”), which had
serious implications for the
UFC’s international roster
—it’s important to remember that
White has historically presented himself as a friend and supporter
of the President, rather than a surrogate for his agenda. This
pivot to specifically calling out and amplifying Trump’s
authoritarian rhetoric and the absurd suggestion that the Black
Lives Matter organization has fire departments in its crosshairs,
is something altogether more odious.

White
feigned confusion
in June when asked whether the UFC would
follow the lead of other sports leagues and put out a statement in
support of the George Floyd-BLM protests taking place across
America and abroad, implying it was not the UFC’s position to take
a stance on social issues. Not only was that statement disingenuous
in light of White’s vocal support for the president, who has

repeatedly denied the existence of systemic racism
, but it also
stands in opposition to MMA’s historically progressive record in
promoting women and people of color.

Indeed, White and the UFC have rightfully celebrated the platform
that the company has given female athletes, which is an altogether
rare example of an even playing field in sports, and MMA itself as
nothing but a melting pot of different peoples and cultures.
Angela
Hill
on Saturday will become the first black female headliner
of a UFC event when she faces off against Asian-American Michelle
Waterson
at
UFC Fight Night 177
. The surrounding weeks are anchored by
Brazilians, Europeans and Nigerian-born-Kiwis rubbing shoulders,
with only one white American in the headlining spot in the month of
September. All of this should make the historically inclusive
architecture of MMA uniquely ill-suited to promote
Trump’s White Grievance politics
, and indeed many of its most

prominent voices have spoken out in support of the BLM
movement
.

White, whose name is both synonymous with the UFC brand and
conspicuously splashed across numerous UFC properties, may have
taken a gamble on Trump in 2016—a move many interpreted as
I’ll-scratch-my-back-if-you-scratch-mine pragmatism
. However,
there’s a fundamental difference between currying favor for the
sake of favorable treatment—say, in relation to the trust-busting
Ali Expansion Bill or the enforcement of the National Labor
Relations Act—and the wholesale integration of and amplification of
a right-wing demagogue’s worldview.

In this latest move, White has taken the UFC to a place from which
it will not be easy to come back.

Jacob Debets is a lawyer and writer from Melbourne, Australia.
He is currently writing a book analyzing the economics and politics
of the MMA industry. You can view more of his writing at jacobdebets.com.


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