Perhaps the most focused on storyline heading into last weekend’s UFC 121 heavyweight title fight between Cain Velasquez and Brock Lesnar was that of Velasquez’s Mexican heritage and what it would mean for the Mexican-American to become the “first Mexican heavyweight champion in combat sports history.” The UFC took some criticism for its perceived heavy-handed and possibly exploitative focus on Velasquez’s Mexican heritage. UFC President Dana White fought that criticism in speaking with MMAJunkie.com, and said that the UFC only works with what is already there in promoting fights.
“What we do is we take a storyline in what a guy’s life is,” White said.
White responded incredulously to the idea that the UFC fabricated or played up Velasquez’s ties to his heritage.
“There were some idiots out there that said, ‘They have to play the Mexican thing with him because that’s all they’ve got,'” White said. “‘This guy’s got nothing else and whatever.’ If one of you idiots here said that, you’re a [expletive] moron, No. 1. But No. 2, the guy’s Mexican. His parents came here from Mexico (and) came over the border. … Do you think we had him tattoo ‘Brown Pride’ on his chest? What the [expletive]?”
Though the UFC did not make up Velasquez’s Mexican pride or roots, they do recognize a solid marketing opportunity when they see one and White told MMAJunkie that he believes Velasquez’s hispanic following will open up new doors for the fighter, the promotion and the sport overall.
“I think it’s big deal,” he said. “Anybody who was at the weigh-ins [on Friday] saw that he had a huge following. Here [at UFC 121] you saw that he had a huge following. (He became) a huge star overnight, and he went out and looked incredible.”