As the UFC has grown, the one glaring issue that afflicts the company and the sport is still ever-present: apathy. When it comes to politically correct popular issues like support of the military or acceptance, the organization has stood up.
But when it comes to racial tolerance, the organization fails time and time again.
Conor McGregor has notoriously toed the line, especially during the lead up to his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather. Although it was not held in the Octagon, the tone of the entire event was extremely divisive and based on the racial animus that McGregor stirred in the media and online.
McGregor, now feeling himself, has no fights scheduled. Dana White and the UFC has him relatively quiet on the media front.
The UFC has a code of conduct, and one of its tenets is tolerance. However, that seems to be a subjective term that doesn’t apply to issues of race.
In 2013, former UFC fighter Matt Mitrione made a derogatory statement about transgender fighter Fallon Fox. The fighter called Fox a “lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak” who he hoped would never fight again and identified Fox as a male. Mitrione also criticized the state of Florida for licensing Fox to fight. His subsequent suspension was lifted after two weeks.
Recently, controversial UFC welterweight Colby Covington added more coal to the fire in his campaign to get a title shot against current champion, Tyron Woodley. In a recent interview with Submission Radio, Covington channeled his best Donald Trump impersonation, hitting all the talking points, from fake news to making the welterweight division great again.
He told the news site that Woodley is ducking him and had a different perspective regarding Woodley’s claim that MMA has racial issues, donning a Trump stance while doing it.
Colby Covington returns to Submission Radio to discuss life since the Boomerang throwing incident in Sydney, Australia, how the UFC and Dana White reacted to it and if it will affect his future title hopes, Rory MacDonald’s recent comments about him, if he feels he gets the credit he deserves
He lets things get to his emotions,” Covington said on the show. “Hes literally a prima donna. Thats the perfect explanation for Tyron Woodley. He tries to race bait. The people that dont like him and dont wanna watch him for or think hes boring, Oh, theyre racist. Thats his only claim now. So, hes just trapped, hes in a corner and hes defeated before anything. The fans have completely gotten in his head and everybodys under his skin. He doesnt know how to handle the position hes in now, but its okay, Im gonna take over his position as welterweight champ and you will see the division be made great again.”
Covington made negative headlines late last year after a dominating performance over Demian Maia, when he proceeded to call Brazil “a dump” and Brazilians “filthy animals” that “suck”. The brash fighter did this in front of the sold-out crowd in Ibirapuera Gymnasium during the post-fight interview with UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. The disrespect did not go unnoticed by Ricardo Liborio, who left the American Top Team gym he founded amid the scandal.
Former UFC Heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum didn’t take this disrespect lightly and actually confronted and assaulted the fighter last November during the week of UFC Fight Night: Werdum vs. Tybura.
Woodley has been the only UFC fighter to make highlighting racial insensitivity in the sport a priority. When unrest erupted in his native Ferguson, Missouri led to riots, he was on the front lines during the uproar of Mike Brown’s death by the local police department. Other black champions like Demetrious Johnson, the most successful UFC champion ever, and Jon Jones, albeit self-inflicted, have had a cantankerous relationship with Dana White and the UFC.
With the UFC having been sold for $4 billion to WME-IMG, the list of investors includes high profile celebrities of which some are of color. It the UFC doesn’t begin to start fining or punishing its athletes for racial slights or divisive actions, then how can it continue to grow and inspire a future culture of tolerance?
The answer is checking fighters like Colby Covington and Conor McGregor for building hype through racial insensitivity.