Image Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP/Shutterstock
Over the weekend, Colby Covington defeated Tyron Woodley in a lopsided bout.
However, it was Covington’s antics after the fight that stirred an already brewing cauldron of hate speech in the UFC. After a quiet pre-fight lead up where his normal coterie of trash talk was non-existent, Covington had a lot to say after his victory.
— DIANE (@POLICEINFLA) September 20, 2020
First it was his post-fight speech where he took the opportunity to poke the bear of athletic social activism.
“I want to dedicate this fight to all the first responders, all the military out there. This world would not be safe without you guys, you keep up safe, and not these woke athletes. I’m sick of these spineless cowards like LeBron James.”
Then Covington received a phone call from President Donald Trump congratulating him on his victory. During the call, Covington credited Trump for giving him the “dragon energy” after shaking his hand at a Trump rally.
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) September 20, 2020
Trump called Covington and himself, “two of a kind”.
Next, he had the obligatory virtual face-off with current UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman who looks to possibly rematch the fighter after fighting Gilbert Burns.
Usman broke Covington’s jaw in the fifth round of their UFC 245 matchup in December and apparently Covington is still mad about it.
However, as he always does, he crossed the line from fight hype to ethnic disparagement after Kamaru Usman made a sexual reference for Covington’s love for President Donald Trump.
— GirthBrooks (@GeneralGirth) September 20, 2020
“You get a call from your little tribe? They give you some smoke signals for you? (laughs)”
This was all while donning a Make America Great Again hat and hoisting the American flag prior while still in the Octagon.
Welcome to the world of M.M.A.-G.A.
Same energy for Colby Covington for not sticking to sports or y’all real life hypocrites? pic.twitter.com/hI8EtT5uW5
— Joy Taylor (@JoyTaylorTalks) September 20, 2020
The Poster Boy
Colby Covington went from obscure training partner and lower level fighter to a UFC star by winning and using the MAGA visage to speak directly to MMA’s enraged white fans. His love for Trump is probably cursory and now transactional, just the way Trump likes it, but it has worked to keep him in the headlines with every ignorant statement he makes.
— Limp Boa (@LimpBoa) September 20, 2020
The former American Top Team member was exiled from the famed South Florida gym after the owner, Dan Lambert, found his brand of marketing against the ATT code of conduct.
Covington famously called Brazilians “filthy animals” while in Brazil for a fight against Demian Maia in October 2017 at UFC Fight Night 119.
The fight was his final on his UFC contract and he said on The Candace Owens Show” that despite being 7-1 in the organization, the UFC was on the verge of cutting him because they felt he wasn’t entertaining enough.
“So I go out there. I beat him up and leave him in a pool of his own blood in Sao Paulo, Brazil, his home city, and I shoot this promo on the Brazilians, and I say, ‘Hey, you guys are all a bunch of filthy animals, and, Brazil, you’re a dump.”
Just like that, an MMA star is born.
However, plastic Covington’s image is for likes and fan fare he does prove something about the UFC’s core audience: they are white and angry.
Covington stokes the same white rage that gained Donald Trump the 2016 election, steering right into the heartland of America with the help of Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy.
In American politics, the Southern strategy was a Republican Party electoral strategy to increase political support among white voters in the South by appealing to racism against African Americans.
— Left Right Middle (@lftrtmiddleme) September 20, 2020
For Covington, anyone can get it. Brazilians, Nigerian-Americans like Kamaru Usman and of course, Tyron Woodley who is African-American.
The fight over the weekend was less about athleticism and more about ideology. Woodley’s Black Lives Matter stance versus Covington’s Make America Great Again rants.
Although both are American and Black Lives Matter is as American as protesting gets, Covington gets support from Trump live on air to cement his pride in Covington polarizing the sport of MMA.
Aren't you the same racist piece of ahit that got his face broken, not a question we know the answer you fucking bum!! @ColbyCovMMA Fuck you and anyone that supports you bitch!! https://t.co/JWTTZw1EI1 pic.twitter.com/3Fdx7WBjX5
— Kevin Williams (@81_VeniVidiVici) September 20, 2020
But Covington is just the mouthpiece. His function must be approved by an enabler and for the culprit look no further than his boss UFC president Dana White.
Dana White has stumped for Trump not once but twice. It is the rare occasion that the face of a sports franchise openly endorses a political candidate which could be polarizing for the fans of their business.
.@benfowlkesMMA calls Colby Covington's remarks to Kamaru Usman on Saturday "gross, turning a lack of basic decency into a marketing gimmick."
— The Athletic MMA (@TheAthleticMMA) September 21, 2020
However, Dana White takes pride in it and always credits Trump’s belief in the UFC for his reason why. He never mentions the nefarious deeds and statements that Trump has made since in office resting only on the former actions to help his business thrive.
Currently, the UFC has two African born champions in Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman. However, White never condemned Trump for labeling the territories of the Motherland, “shithole countries”.
The UFC has a Code of Conduct that says:
fighters shall conduct themselves in accordance with commonly accepted standards of decency, social conventions and morals, and fighters will not commit any act or become involved in any situation or occurrence or make any statement which will reflect negatively upon or bring disrepute, contempt, scandal, ridicule, or disdain to the fighter or the UFC.
Lakers’ LeBron James on critics: “Anybody can talk from outside but if they got into the ring or got into the arena, probably 10 times out of 10, they’d s—- their pants.” pic.twitter.com/QjhIoKomyV
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) September 21, 2020
Back in 2013, former UFC heavyweight, Matt Mitrione, was suspended after he fired off a shocking statement at a transgender MMA fighter in an interview.
Mitrione referred to Fallon Fox as a “lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak” in a April 8, 2013 appearance on “The MMA Hour.”
“She’s not a he. He’s a he,” Mitrione is quoted in media reports as saying. “He’s chromosomally a man. He had a gender change, not a sex change. He’s still a man. He was a man for 31 years. Thirty-one years. That’s a couple years younger than I am. He’s a man.”
The UFC quickly denounced Mitrione’s “transphobic” remarks and moved quickly to suspend him.
The organization finds Mr. Mitrione’s comments offensive and wholly unacceptable and — as a direct result of this significant breach of the UFC’s code of conduct –- Mr. Mitrione’s UFC contract has been suspended and the incident is being investigated,” officials wrote in a statement. “The UFC is a friend and ally of the LGBT community, and expects and requires all 450 of its athletes to treat others with dignity and respect.”
Fuck you Colby Covington. Vote for who you wanna vote for. Praise who you wanna praise. That part don’t matter to me. When I hear you say “these woke athletes”. It tells me “Black athletes” or “athletes who care about the advancement of black people in this country”. Unnecessary https://t.co/SOFbl4DAMd
— Stone Cold Shea Jackson (@OsheaJacksonJr) September 20, 2020
However, when it comes to Islamophobia, as delivered by Conor McGregor to Khabib Nurmagomedov or ethnic disparagements by Colby Covington, there is radio silence.
Donald Trump’s Presidency has already been deemed a dogwhistle for right wing extremists and the alt-right and now the UFC is enabling this behavior.
With all other major sports organizations like the NFL, NBA and even NASCAR expressing their support for athletes and the tonality of the American climate for social justice, the UFC stands virtually alone in its silence.
Even outside of the UFC, inactive/retired fighters like Tito Ortiz have made statements that position Black Lives Matter supporters as “terrorist’s”. Still the UFC brass or their ownership group at Endeavor say nothing.
The culture of MMA is in store for a reckoning but will the organization risk losing its fan base of color to be forced to change?