It seems like you can’t get on social media these days without another brand banging you over the head with some sort of performative woke statement supporting the protests against police brutality across America.
Sure, many of these same brands have failed miserably when issues of racism and discrimination have arisen within their actual purview. Take the NFL, which pushed Colin Kaepernick out of the league for taking a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Did that stop them from putting up a post “condemning racism and the systematic oppression of Black People” ... of course not!
The UFC hasn’t made a whole lot of statements. They did show an ‘in memoriam’ card for George Floyd during last week’s ESPN card ... “It was the right thing to do,” Dana White said after the event. And in a recent interview with AZCentral, White made it clear he was mostly leaving it to his fighters to share their experiences and opinions on the matter, something we’ve seen from Jon Jones and Israel Adesanya and a number of others.
He did share this interesting perspective on what would be needed to push through real lasting change.
Do you have a special responsibility to the black community? What are your thoughts about your role and the UFC’s role in the current social justice movement?
I’ve had talks with some of my African-American fighters about this: How do we make real change? For me, personally, making real change is so much bigger than marching and protesting and all of these other things.
This might be a stupid example, but it’s the best example I can give you: I believed in the UFC. I believed in the sport of mixed-martial arts. I got together with a couple buddies of mine, and we bought the UFC, and we started to build this thing. We went out, and we hit the bricks. We went to every sports editor. Every network. You name it. We shared our vision and grew our movement.
With the current protests, there needs to be somebody to lead the charge. Somebody who can go in and make real change. By that I mean changing laws. Getting in and figuring out ‘how do we train the police department better?’ There’s so many things like that.
It’s like when I wanted to come back and have fights in the pandemic. I could have gotten all 350 of my employees, and we could have walked up and down the street and chanted “we wanna fight!” That’s not what we did. We got out and told our story in the media and worked with politicians. That’s how you make real change.
You’re saying that marching is one thing, because that gets attention. But attention for attention’s sake is not the goal. If you want to affect real change, you need a Phase 2.
Exactly. 100 percent. You’ve got to get somebody really smart and articulate who won’t back down to certain road blocks that they will hit. Because there will be road blocks and obstacles. Anything in life that’s worth fighting for, that you really wanna change, you’ve got to be able to get through the obstacles, the pressure, cut through all the bulls–t and get right to the heart of the matter where you need to start changing laws, educating people, training police officers. There’s lot of work to do.
It’s not exactly super surprising that Dana White would lean towards a ‘great man theory’ of things, which posits that most change through history has been enacted by individuals who have bent the world to their will. It’s just somewhat amusing that when asked what American race relations need, he basically said they need their own Dana White.