Liberal and moderate voters need to pay closer attention to Ultimate Fighting Championship CEO Dana White, argues MSNBC columnist Ja’han Jones, who writes for Joy-Ann Reid’s The ReidOut Blog. Jones warned that the UFC head is “among the most influential forces in conservative media” and is targeting young people through the company’s partnership with “Power Slap,” which streams on conservative video platform Rumble. It’s a collaboration that progressive outlet Media Matters has called a “far-right gateway.”
“Power Slap,” which is owned by White himself, isn’t a far-right gateway on its own. But as Media Matters’ Justin Horowitz explained, “Rumble knows that kids and Gen Z are huge fans of UFC and fighting sports. ‘Power Slap’ gives them an easy way to lure those viewers into the right-wing fever swamp.”
Once young people are on Rumble to watch “Power Slap,” they’re exposed to content from white nationalists, QAnon conspiracists and, of course, Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.
White has been known as a controversial figure for some time. As a longtime supporter of Donald Trump (the UFC head supported Trump in both 2016 and 2020), he told the Pivot Podcast in 2021 that he aligned with Trump because the businessman had previously helped UFC out (so all that racism and misogyny was a fair trade).
“This brand was so bad, venues didn’t even want us. Arenas didn’t want us,” White said. “We had a hard time finding venues. Trump literally called us. He said ‘Come to my place, do the event here. We’ll have you at the Trump Taj Mahal.’ We get there, greatest setup for us. Showed up at the first fight and he was there until the last fight, both times we went there.”
White added, “He’s always been a solid guy with me. So then he calls me and says he’s running for president. He said ‘If you don’t want to do this, I completely understand, but I would be honored if you would speak at the National Republican Convention for me.’ Everyone told me not to do it… Everything this guy’s done for me, I’m going to tell him ‘no’? That’s not me.”
White came under fire ahead of the launch of the “Power Slap” reality series on TBS when he slapped his wife on New Year’s Eve leading into 2023. A video of the incident was shared widely by TMZ. While White told reporters that “There are no excuses for it” and “It’s something I’m going to have to deal with and live with for the rest of my life,” White also admitted that he would receive no further punishment for the act.
Several former UFC fighters took issue with White’s exception for himself. Ramsey Nijem, who was suspended in 2019 after he tested positive for marijuana, semi-arcastically tweeted, “When I was suspended for 9 months for weed, I think the better punishment would have been [being] known as a weed user. That’s the punishment commissioners, being known as a weed user, I have to live with that the rest of my life.”
When I was suspended for 9 months for weed I think the better punishment would have been known as a weed user. That’s the punishment commissioners being known as a weed user, I have to live with that the rest of my life.
— Ramsey Nijem (@RamseyNijem) January 12, 2023
White also raised eyebrows when he remained at the head of UFC following the company’s merger with World Wrestling Entertainment in April 2023 to form TKO Group Holdings under agency Endeavor and CEO Ari Emanuel.
In November 2023, White removed all the Peloton bikes from the UFC gym after comedian Theo Von told him that the company demanded the comic delete an interview on his podcast with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. In a rant riddled with profanity, White said, “My guys are going to take the Pelotons out of the gym today.” He later followed up to show that they were gone.
In January, White defended Sean Strickland after the fighter spewed homophobia through a UFC mic following a fight. Despite Strickland’s vile three-minute rant against the LGBTQ+ community, White insisted free speech was the most important element.
White said, “Yeah, guys can say what they want. We have free speech. I don’t agree with what Sean said, but I’m not going to get in the way of people saying what they want, even when I disagree with them.”
Dana White to a Canadian Reporter: “A leash?…I don't f*cking tell any other human being what to say, what to think. And there's no leashes on any of them…Free speech brother. People can say whatever they want and they can believe whatever they want”
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) January 21, 2024
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