MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani caught up with UFC President Dana White in the days leading up to UFC 114 and asked him some thought-provoking questions concerning the perceived racial tension between main eventers Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Rashad Evans.
Helwani made comparisons between the Jackson-Evans meeting and the Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali fight that saw Ali throw racially charged comments at Frazier that the fighter later publicly admitted deeply hurt his feelings. When asked if Evans’ assertion that “Rampage” is an “Uncle Tom” made at the pre-fight press conference went too far, White had this to say: “No, not at all. Listen, when two guys of the same race start calling each other names…Nobody had ever heard that or seen that really in the public back in the Seventies when Frazier and Ali were doing it, you know what I mean? Believe me, you’ve heard a lot worse than that between two guys of the same race and I don’t think this was really a racial type fight. You know, somebody brought it up in the media today–‘Rampage’ says ‘black-on-black crime’–that’s the way ‘Rampage’ talks, that’s the way he is, it’s nothing new.”
White believes that, far from being a black mark (no pun intended) on the sport, that Evans and Jackson being the first two African American main eventers in MMA is evidence of the sport’s continually growing appeal to all racial demographics.
“I think it should be a proud moment for these guys,” said White. “I think the reality is, you’ve never seen two African Americans in this sport because of the wrestling base and martial arts–you know, most African American and Hispanic fighters come from boxing because if you were involved in boxing you came from some ‘Get-Kids-Off-The-Streets’ program–you and I growing up, there was no boxing gym down on the corner, your parents didn’t go sign you up for boxing, you know, you played soccer and all these other sports. It’s always been an urban, get-off-the-streets, rough kind of sport and right now, you’re gonna see–as Mixed Martial Arts continues to explode, not only here but all over the world–all races, all colors, all languages, you name it, everybody’s getting into this. There’s a lot of money in it and it’s available everywhere.”
Whether you agree or disagree with White’s take on the racial tone surrounding UFC 114, it is hard to argue that MMA is not one of the most diverse sports in the world. Look at most any MMA card and you will likely see a mixed bag of fighters from different nationalities, races, and backgrounds; a positively defining characteristic of MMA that few other sports can claim.