clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Editorial: Don’t mistake the UFC’s cowardice for bravery

“Terrorist” comment should have drawn a rebuke from Dana White — instead he made weak excuses

Dana White speaks during the UFC 267 press conference.
Dana White failed to act on “terrorist” comment
Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

In a stunning example of using luck as a reason for inaction, UFC president Dana White said the UFC would not dole out any punishment to Oron Kahlon. Kahlon called his opponent Javid Basharat, who is originally from Afghanistan, a “terrorist” during their staredown for the most recent edition of the Dana White Contender Series.

Basharat defeated Kahlon via third-round submission. Somehow White used Basharat’s win to decide Kahlon had been punished enough for calling Basharat a “terrorist.”

“Are we gonna do anything? It got done tonight,” White said at the post-fight press conference. “You know what I mean? It’s the beautiful thing about this sport. I say it all the time: This is not a nice sport. This is a very rough sport. We say a lot of mean things to each other, you know, and justice gets served at the end of the day.

“Listen, when you have a situation like that, the best way to solve the problem is you fight, and you fight legally. You get paid to do it, and that’s what happened tonight.”

Which, okay, but what if Kahlon would have won? Then what does White say? Is the response the same? Would White have somehow blamed Basharat for not winning the fight? Justice might have been served in some way on Tuesday, but Kahlon still got paid, still got to fight, and he still fought for a possible UFC contract had he put on a stunning performance.

White, by allowing Kahlon to fight, told everyone who was paying attention that calling another fighter a “terrorist” was acceptable trash talk.

This isn’t the first time White and the UFC has allowed egregious and bigoted trash talk to go unchecked.

Conor McGregor told Floyd Mayweather, “Dance for me, boy!” McGregor said of Jose Aldo, “What I really want to do is to turn his favela into a Reebok sweatshop” and that he wanted to “invade his favela on horseback and would kill anyone who wasn’t fit to work.” McGregor made tasteless remarks about Khabib Nurmagomedov’s dead father, and called his Muslim wife a “towel” and “cousin wife.” McGregor called Dennis Siver, a Russian-born German, a “nazi.” Colby Covington has said things that left UFC fighters Sijara Eubanks, Leon Edwards and Hakeem Dawodu calling him racist, and Chael Sonnen was called out for “race baiting.

The list goes on and on, and the UFC did nothing about any of that. It’s come to a point that had White done anything about Kahlon’s remark, it would have been a shock. That White did nothing, but try to act like justice was served by the submission loss, was in character for the UFC boss.

White actually had the temerity to try to make his inaction come across as a stance against politically correct culture.

“In this insanely politically correct world we’re living in, this is one place that it’s not,” White said.

White is not displaying bravery. In fact, he’s doing quite the opposite. He’s being the boss who, when confronted with a tough decision, hides his head, crosses his fingers and hopes it all goes away. Basharat bailed him out on Tuesday, and the UFC got lucky — again.

That luck will run out. This is not the UFC of the past. This is the UFC that has partnerships with ESPN and Disney. The UFC that has an ownership group made up of people other than White’s pals. This is the UFC that has stockholders and sponsors who might not be okay with some of the things that get said by these mean fighters. White answers to many people these days, and eventually some of those people are going to want to know what the hell kind of shop they’re running out there in the desert. That’s when the company is going to come face to face with years of inaction and have to answer some tough questions.

Until then, the fighters, fans and media will sit and wait and see if there is a line that someone can cross that will get the UFC to step up. So far, White claims there isn’t one.

“No,” White said when asked if there is a line that fighters can’t cross. “Not in this business, I don’t.”