Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) recently decided to enforce a flag ban in the Octagon, meaning fighters aren’t allowed to proudly display their country’s standard while competing for the combat sports organization.
This all came about during heightened world tensions. Russia recently invaded Ukraine, and China continues to make aggressive statements toward countries (Taiwan) it feels aren’t really sovereign. Easier to just say no more flags instead of potentially upsetting political tyrants willing to mess with UFC’s business.
Well, maybe not that easy.
At UFC Long Island last night (Sat., July 16, 2022), Chinese fighter Li Jingliang got back into the win column with a bonus-worthy knockout of Muslim Salikhov on the ABC-televised main card. The Tacheng, Xinjiang, native managed to smuggle in a national flag of the People’s Republic of China into UBS Arena for some post-fight photos, only to have a UFC employee yank it away from Li and escape out a cage door.
The moment was caught by a fan in the crowd:
But, not before Jingliang got to show off his national pride!
UFC’s flag ban came into effect at UFC 274 in May 2022. Fighters are no longer allowed to carry flags during their walkouts or represent any flags inside the Octagon. Post-fight portraits, once full of fighters proudly draped in their nation’s flag, were also nixed.
But, as we just saw at UFC Long Island, some fighters are willing to break the rules. Will Jingliang face punishment from UFC brass? And what will happen when some of the bigger (and more patriotic) stars in UFC decide to pull a “Leech” and force the flag issue? Will Conor McGregor really let UFC stop him from flying the Irish flag?
Now that fighters know to watch out for grabby UFC employees, we can see it becoming increasingly difficult for incidents like this to escape unnoticed on UFC broadcasts. And hey, we’re here for it. UFC shouldn’t be trying to stop fighters from expressing themselves however they see fit. After all, who’s more free speech than they are?
The sooner the organization gives up this (like it gave up on the UFC Code of Conduct), the better.
For complete UFC Long Island results and coverage click here.