After earning one of the biggest wins of his UFC career, Beneil Dariush took the opportunity to dedicate his victory to the people of Iran currently protesting against their country’s authoritarian government.
“My people in Iran, I know you are struggling. I know you are fighting for freedom,” Darisuh said during his in-cage interview. “I want you guys to know we’re praying for you and we love you.”
The demonstrations started following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested by Iran’s morality on Sep. 13 for allegedly ignoring the government’s strict requirement to for women to wear hijabs or headscarves. She died in custody three days later after allegedly being assaulted by the officers, which sparked protests across dozens of cities and towns.
The protests, which have lasted more than a month, are viewed as a serious challenge to the Islamic Republic’s regime. Videos continue to show women defiantly setting their headscarves on fire and cutting their hair in displays of solidarity with Amini.
Most recently, antigovernment protests erupted at several universities in Tehran, while a city that was the site of a deadly crackdown last month saw a fresh wave of protests on Saturday.
Yet despite Dariush’s show of support for Iranian protesters, his post-fight interview ended on a bizarre note when the UFC lightweight contender advised Iranians to convert to Christianity.
“There is true freedom—a freedom that no one can take from you—in the name of Jesus Christ, the son of God,” Dariush said. “Don’t ever forget that. if you remember one thing I say, remember that.”