By the time UFC President Dana White took the stage at the Republican National Convention some weeks back, the atmosphere was already saturated with the absurd, not least because of the nominee in question. Donald Trump and the depressingly large contingent of this nation that believes his BS had transformed what, in past years, had been, if nothing else, a well-oiled political spectacle whose organizers knew better than to put its anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-poor policies front and center, into a Klan rally that did just that. Scott Baio, it would seem, was home.
But Dana White was a curious presence. Not because he and Trump were in any way unacquainted with each other — Trump’s casinos had played host to a fledging UFC back when it was struggling to get PPV deals and constantly fighting the stigma of “human dogfighting,” leveled, and since redacted, by John McCain. It was for this reason, White asserted, “You’ll never hear me say a bad word about Donald Trump.”
Which is hilarious, because Donald Trump, just short of directly, has said plenty of bad words about many of the fighters on the UFC’s roster. You know, the men and women who put their bodies on the line for a living and who do the bulk of the work involved in lining Dana White’s pockets.
A sizable portion of the UFC roster consists of fighters who are not white males — Trump’s major constituency. To boot, the company enjoys a 10 percent ownership investment from Flash Entertainment, a company based in Abu Dhabi, which even Donald Trump should know is just crawling with brown people. On top of all that, the UFC has aggressively pursued global expansion of their product in the last five years, hosting events in Abu Dhabi, Mexico, Germany, Ireland, England, China and other countries.
Trump’s xenophobic rants are going to bite him, and everyone who publicly supported him, in the ass; history remembers, and history will not be kind. At some point, certain employees of the UFC are going to have to stand up and say something. It can’t be just anyone: that athlete must possess a special combination of company clout, public notoriety and financial stability to take such a risk. With that in mind, here are the five most likely to do that.
5. Demetrious Johnson — Flyweight Champion
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is the UFC’s reigning flyweight champion, and its only flyweight champion ever. He won the inaugural belt in a four-man tournament by defeating then-favorites Ian McCall and Joseph Benavidez. He’s a dominant champion in the vein of prime-era Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva; no one, outside of John Dodson in their first matchup, came anywhere close to dethroning him.
Johnson is not the most lucrative fighter on the roster; being the smallest male champion and lacking a penchant for trash talk will do that. Still, Johnson — a black man — is the current longest-reigning champion in the most prominent professional fighting organization in the world. His words would carry a good deal of weight.
Relevant Trump quote: “Laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s nothing that they can control.”
(Full disclosure: that quote is pulled from a book by a former Trump employee from the 1990s. It’s unverified, but let’s keep in mind that Trump also condoned the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his rallies, okay?)
4. Cain Velasquez — Former Two-Time Heavyweight Champion
Once upon a time, Cain Velasquez was thought to be on the road to the Greatest of All Time mantle. He’d demolished the competition en route to a heavyweight title shot against Brock Lesnar, who he annihilated, before losing the belt via KO to Junior dos Santos. He’d later defeat dos Santos in two subsequent fights before losing the title again to Fabricio Werdum.
Those losses took a bit of shine off Velasquez, but he’s still relatively young and has since won two more fights. He’s likely the next challenger for current champ Stipe Miocic. Not only that, Velasquez is still the UFC’s greatest in-road to the Mexican community and, subsequently, to that market. His words and actions carry a good deal of clout, and will carry even more if he manages to regain the belt and hold onto it for a few defenses.
Relevant Trump quote: “I will say that people following me are very passionate.” — Trump’s response to a question about his supporters beating a homeless Latino man
Bonus Trump quote: “The best taco bowls are made at the Trump Tower Grill! I love Hispanics!”
3. Nate Diaz
It’s difficult to say whether or not Nate Diaz is out of f***s to give, because I’m not certain he ever had any to begin with. I’ve covered Nate and his brother Nick ad hominem in this space before but, suffice to say, they’re the two most popular fighters in the UFC to never hold a title belt, despite having fought for them on more than one occasion. Nate’s star in particular has never been higher after splitting two lucrative high-profile bouts with megastar Connor MacGregor.
It’s impossible to overstate how much of an impact Nate Diaz could have if he spoke up; hell, if he just told his Twitter followers to go out and vote, he’d make a dent. He and his brother enjoy a passionate, near-cult following and, especially following the MacGregor fights, Diaz’ voice has never carried so much weight.
Relevant Trump quote: See “taco bowl” above.
2. Tyrone Woodley — Current Welterweight Champion
Nobody gave Woodley much more than an outside chance of dethroning a resurgent Robbie Lawler in their title fight a few weeks back. But, just a couple of minutes into the first round, Woodley unleashed a bazooka of a right hand that flattened Lawler and lifted his title belt. With the victory, Woodley finds himself in quite the position.
The full force of the UFC marketing machine hasn’t gotten behind Woodley yet but, if he manages to defeat his first challenger in Stephen Thompson this November, you can bet it will: Woodley is young, athletic, outspoken and carries ferocious finishing power.
Woodley is also from Flint, Michigan — they of the Water that Looks Like Pee. When that controversy was at the height of its publicity, Woodley was very outspoken about it on social media, and in the actual media. The man is socially conscious, proud of where he comes from, and ready to defend it.
Relevant Trump Quote: In addition to everything above? Okay: “I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.” If you need me to explain why Trump’s use of the article “the” in that statement is insanely offensive, you’re going to need to take that white hood off first so you can hear me.
1. Amanda Nunes — Current Women’s Bantamweight Champion
I’m betting that, out of all these fighters, Amanda Nunes is the one you’ve heard the least about. It’s understandable: women’s MMA, especially post-Ronda Rousey, is still struggling to nab mainstream notoriety, and Pena is fresh off of her title-winning victory over Miesha Tate, so she hasn’t had a lot of time to establish herself to a wider audience yet. So why am I putting her at No. 1?
Because she embodies the three things that Trump and the current GOP are working tirelessly to marginalized and oppress:
First: Nunes is a woman. Duh. And the Republican Party freaking hates women. Of course they’ve worked around the clock to block equal pay measures and pro-choice legislation, but they really doubled down on it recently. In a bill that would have approved billions of dollars to help fight the zika virus — which, y’know, only threatens babies and pregnant women — GOP lawmakers attached legislation to shut down Planned Parenthood, because of course they did, forcing the Democrats to kill the bill.
Second: Nunes is a foreigner. Oh, she’s lived in the United States — New Jersey and Florida — for a number of years, but she was born in Brazil… or, as Trump calls it, “Mexico, but the women aren’t as ugly.” For Trump’s views on everyone who isn’t white, just go read the quotes I already listed. Don’t make me type them again.
Third: Nunes is gay. She is, in fact, the UFC’s first openly gay champion, having been in a committed relationship with fellow UFC fighter, straw-weight contender Nina Ansaroff, for the past four years.
Relevant Trump quote: “It’s like in golf. A lot of people — I don’t want this to sound trivial — but a lot of people are switching to these really long putters, very unattractive. It’s weird. You see these great players with these really long putters, because they can’t sink three-footers anymore. And, I hate it. I’m a traditionalist. I have many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.”
It’s unclear whether Trump was attempting to draw a parallel between the world’s third-dumbest sport and opposition to a basic human right, or if long putters just weird him out because “Ewwwwww penises.” Either way, enough already.