After a 0-1-1 start in the UFC, flyweight fighter Cody Durden finally earned his first victory in the Octagon, a close decision win over “Mongolian Murderer” Qileng Aori. Like most fights on the objectively terrible UFC Vegas 43 card, it was not a very compelling or conclusive fight. Few would have remembered it long after it happened if it wasn’t for what Durden then said on the mic to Daniel Cormier after the win.
“I knew he was going to be tough, but I had to send him back to China where he came from,” Durden declared to an awkward reaction from the small UFC APEX crowd and an uncomfortable silence from the commentators.
“Statement made, I guess,” play-by-play man Brendan Fitzgerald finally said.
"I had to send him back to China where he came from" -Cody Durden ... Daniel Cormier didn't know what to say so there was an awkward pause for like 5 seconds LMAO! pic.twitter.com/Au4p2qeCA2— ✯✯✯✯✯ (@FTBVids_YT) November 20, 2021
For an afternoon event with little star power, MMA Twitter got pretty active following that with many declaring the comment textbook anti-Asian racism. We’re right there with that assessment: there’s not a lot of things you can say that are more racism 101 than ‘go back where you came from,’ and Durden tweaking it to proudly declare he ‘sent him back to China where he came from’ is worse, not better.
Durden defended the comments during the UFC Vegas 43 post-fight press conference.
“No,” he said when asked if he’d take the words back. “If they don’t like it, y’know, do something. Sign the contract, it doesn’t matter to me. I said what I said and it is what it is. And yeah, emotions were high. It’s the fight business, you know? He’s punching me in the face and I’m punching him in the face. It’s his family or mine and tonight my family eats.”
When asked if there were any ‘racial connotations’ to the comment, Durden said “Nah man, it’s all good.”
After he took to Twitter and apologized ‘if I offended anyone.’
Listen, the guy was disrespectful, and wouldn’t shake my hand at the weigh ins. After beating him, I simply meant he could go home wherever that may have been. I apologize if I offended anyone, that certainly was not my intention!! I love you all! See you at the top. @ufc— Cody Durden (@Cody_Durden) November 20, 2021
“Listen, the guy was disrespectful, and wouldn’t shake my hand at the weigh ins,” Durden wrote. “After beating him, I simply meant he could go home wherever that may have been. I apologize if I offended anyone, that certainly was not my intention!! I love you all! See you at the top.”
People on Twitter weren’t too impressed, especially after some of them had delved into Cody’s past social media postings to find more trashy statements.
explain these then Cody pic.twitter.com/vmjFxYIk7t— The Patrick McCorry Sports Show (@Patrick_McCorry) November 21, 2021
And y’all was mad at Sean Strickland for being a FORMER nazi… pic.twitter.com/iuUqIBzUjP— JustGinaMMA (@JustGinaMMA) November 21, 2021
Yeah his intent is pretty clear: pic.twitter.com/9l5RZnujze— Mookie Alexander (@mookiealexander) November 20, 2021
There was a time back before the UFC’s sale to Endeavor and ESPN contract that the UFC was hellbent on stamping out this kind of embarrassing behavior. It got to the point where an ‘Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ rape joke on Twitter got former bantamweight champion Miguel Torres cut from the UFC.
But these days — now that mainstream acceptance has been won — the UFC has taken a completely hands off policy best embodied by UFC president Dana White after a fighter on his Contender Series called his Afghani opponent a terrorist at weigh-ins.
“No, not in this business I don’t [worry that it’s too far],” White said during a media scrum. “If you look, you can add that to the pile of some pretty nasty things that have been said in this sport. And not just this sport – boxing, I’m sure muay Thai, kickboxing, you name it. Mean things are said. In this insanely politically correct world that we’re living in, this is one place that is not.”
And you can see that comment being internalized by all the fighters down the roster: It’s the fight business! Say what you want. You don’t even have to code it or use dog whistles now. Conor McGregor was the opposite of a rising tide lifting all boats. We’re now firmly in the gutter where the trash may smell but also generates clicks and pay-per-view buys, and therefore is considered a net positive.