Those opposed to locking down in response to COVID-19 are praising the UFC for its decision to host an event with a full capacity crowd.
Steve Bannon—the former White House chief political strategist and far-right nationalist—celebrated the UFC’s decision on a Telegram channel associated with his “War Room Pandemic” show, calling UFC President Dana White a “great patriotic supporter of President Donald Trump.”
“MMA is one of the last patriotic sports left,” read the message on the Telegram channel linked to Bannon’s show.
The leading MMA organization is scheduled to hold its UFC 261 showcase event on April 24 in Jacksonville, Florida, where a capacity crowd of 15,000 are expected to be in attendance. This marks the first time since UFC 248 in March 2020 that the promotion will host an event with a full capacity crowd.
The event will feature a trio of title fights, including a welterweight title fight between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal, as well as a women’s strawweight championship bout between Zhang Weili and former champ Rose Namajunas. Valentina Shevchenko will also defend her flyweight title against Jessica Andrade.
The news was also celebrated by the QAnon conspiracy movement, with adherents praising the UFC’s decision to include 15,000 fans despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“F*** baseball,” one adherent wrote on a QAnon Telegram channel with more than 20,000 subscribers. “Watch UFC.”
Other QAnon adherents questioned whether former president Donald Trump would be in attendance, or if he would at least make time to watch the event. Others shared their support for MMA fighters they considered “patriots,” including Colby Covington and Tim Kennedy.
The Gateway Pundit, a notorious far-right outlet, also reported on the upcoming UFC 261 event. One article written by the site’s associate editor referred to an MMA journalist as a “soy boy” while applauding White’s nonchalance towards media criticism.
The UFC has long presented itself as a haven for Trump supporters and far-right athletes, as well as a platform for Trump’s ideology. White spoke on Trump’s behalf at the 2016 and 2020 Republican National Conventions, and campaigned for the former president on several occasions. Throughout the 2020 election cycle, the Trump campaign also enlisted UFC fighters to help spread misinformation about his opponent, Joe Biden, including ‘Fighters Against Socialism’ bus tour orchestrated by Donald Trump Jr. Given the UFC’s longstanding affiliation with Trump and his MAGA fanbase, it comes as no surprise that far-right activists and extremists continue to celebrate the promotion.