Dana White—the Ultimate Fighting Championship president who spent the last four years campaigning for former President Donald Trump on a wide range of platforms—claims to dislike political messaging in sports.
Speaking to conservative talk show host and right-wing operative Candace Owens, White bemoaned the supposed politicization of sports leagues such as the NBA and the NFL while suggesting that the UFC would never participate in anything he deems “negative.”
“When you watch sports, you’re tuning in to get away from all the crap that’s going on in your life,” White told Owens in an interview for her show, “Candace,” on The Daily Wire’s video roster. “Whether it’s personal, professional, political, whatever’s going on in the world, that’s your time where you tune in. Never once did we talk about COVID, we didn’t talk politics, we didn’t talk about anything negative that was going on. When you come in and you watch two or three hours of our fights, you’re tuning in for fights. You’re coming in to watch a sport. You want to hear all that crap, watch any other channel.”
While White claims that his mixed martial arts league is an apolitical entity, his actions tell a vastly different story. The UFC president spoke at the 2016 and 2020 Republican National Convention, campaigned for Trump in his native Las Vegas, defended Trump’s controversial policies on UFC programming, produced a propaganda documentary titled “Combatant-in-Chief,” and hosted the former president at UFC events in the past. Despite White’s and the UFC’s overt relationship with Trump and his administration, White insisted that the UFC would not be pressured by the current political dynamics in the United States. Instead, he blamed so-called woke culture and cancel culture for the issues facing sports leagues.
“It’s like we live in this world right now where nobody’s allowed to have their own opinion,” White added. “These are all grown men and women that fight for us. They all have their own beliefs, their own politics or whatever it is. They can say whatever they want to say, to a point. I mean, there’s some times that some things cross the line, but at the end of the day, too, this is the fight business. Guess what? They say really mean things to each other.”
White’s interview with Owens took place a day before his MMA organization hosted the UFC 261 showcase event in Jacksonville, Florida. The event brought in a capacity crowd of 15,000 people amid a surge of COVD-19 variants in the United States. The UFC was welcomed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who called Florida an “oasis of freedom” during the pre-event press conference. (Author’s Note: Read Right Wing Watch’s in-depth feature on DeSantis here.)
“This is going to be the first [indoor] full-throttle sports event since COVID hit anywhere in the United States, and I think it’s fitting,” DeSantis said during the April 22 press conference. “This event is good for Florida. It is going to be great for fans on TV to see the fans back.”
White’s decision to partner with DeSantis for a packed UFC show in Florida was hailed by right-wing outlets such as The Gateway Pundit and TheBlaze, along with far-right extremists such as Steve Bannon and adherents of the QAnon conspiracy movement. “F*** baseball,” one adherent wrote on a QAnon Telegram channel with more than 20,000 subscribers. “Watch UFC.”
Despite the UFC’s growing popularity among conservatives and the far right, as well as its longstanding affiliation with Republican politicians, White insists that his organization will never be involved in politics.
“It’s America,” White told Owens. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be. And you shouldn’t have to go to work and listen to that shit.”