UFC bantamweight fighter Tony Kelley found himself the center of controversy back in mid-May after he was caught on tape making xenophobic remarks about his girlfriend Andrea Lee’s Brazilian opponent, Viviane Araujo. The incident was captured during UFC Vegas 54, between rounds, after Lee complained that she had been fouled
“That’s what they’re going to do,” Kelley said after Lee complained of an eye poke, “they’re dirty f-cking Brazilians. They’re gonna f-cking cheat like that.”
“People feel like I’m blaming cancel culture or whatever,” Kelley explained. “No, ultimately, I’m talking shit about cancel culture because my job is to relay information in the corner, and I’m really not focused on if I offend somebody or not.
“That’s the last thing on my mind. If you go back and you actually watch the fight, everyone’s like ‘Aww, you’re a dumbass. Why would you say that on international television?’ Well, I didn’t.
“If you watch the fight, you’ll never hear it air. It was not aired. So somebody clipped that out and sent it off into the Twitterverse just to get at me.”
The Louisiana native also attempted to shift the narrative around his words, explaining that he doesn’t dislike Brazilians any more than anyone else.
“Actually I dislike everyone equally, I’ll put it that way. So I think pretty much I’ve answered all that, much love to my Brazilian fans and friends. If you don’t like what I said, I don’t know what to tell you on that, sorry. Sorry if you got your feelings hurt,” he said.
“I think everyone who knows me, knows the diverse group of friends and the circle I’m in. They obviously know that racist is, like, the stupidest thing to say. There’s real racism going on in the world.”
Ultimately, the 35-year-old was willing to admit that he may have misspoken, but that he felt his comments were perfectly reasonable given the stressful circumstances of the moment—and the relationship he has with the fighter he was cornering.
“Perhaps I may have misspoke in the minute that I have with my girlfriend, who I’m highly invested in, [who] in a fight tells me in the corner ‘Hey I got gouged in the eye, I’m having trouble seeing.’ I’m thinking ‘that’s dirty, that’s some dirty shit,’” Kelley said.
“Maybe I misspoke, we’re facing Brazilians, what do you want? I don’t know. Throw him some money, I don’t care, I’m getting my hand raised either way.”
Kelley (8-2) is on a two-fight win streak after a TKO victory over Randy Costa at UFC 269 in December. He is slated to face Adrian Yanez this weekend at UFC Austin.
Unfortunately for Andrea Lee, this isn’t the first time she’s had a significant other involved in such a controversy. In 2018, “KGB’s” then-husband and coach Donny Aaron apologized for having Nazi tattoos. Aaron later went on the run from police after reportedly attacking Lee. The couple divorced shortly afterwards.