UFC 297 was spicy on its own merits when Dricus du Plessis defeated Sean Strickland by split decision to wrest away the title of Middleweight Champion, but UFC president Dana White made the event in Toronto even more intense afterwards.
But when asked about Strickland’s comments leading up to the fight, and the “long leash” that Strickland has when it comes to what he is allowed to say, Dana White was quick to correct the reporter:
Dana White to a Canadian Reporter: “A leash?…I don't f*cking tell any other human being what to say, what to think. And there's no leashes on any of them…Free speech brother. People can say whatever they want and they can believe whatever they want”
I suppose to some degree White is correct here. Technically speaking, you can say whatever you want. Any American will deliver that line, and most of the time, folks are going to be on board with it no matter their political allegiances.
Ignore the “this is why judges robbed Sean Strickland” part of the tweet below, and break out your favorite pair of earmuffs if need be:
Not to get too in the weeds about all this from a legal standpoint, but the issue of hate speech as it relates to the First Amendment went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2017’s Matal v. Tam case here in America. A unanimous verdict concluded, in essence, that one’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech would be violated if an exception was made on account of hate speech. Not to mention, you still have the deal with the public consequences of your words.
So yeah, while what Sean Strickland said may be abominable to some, but there’s nothing the assembled crowd of reporters can do about it. Dana White was more or less aware of all this (or so I’d assume), and stuck up for his fighter. What else was he going to do?
Because Strickland went after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his profanity-laced tirade, chants of “F*CK TRUDEAU!” could be heard at UFC 297.
This is the type of hot-button issue that’s going to be good for business regardless of how much “bad press” it gets. All the hard-line ilk of people who think like Strickland will become more emboldened, outspoken and add fuel to the fire. Those who oppose that type of mindset will have a strong, visceral reaction to it and give it more attention by default.
That’s like water off a duck’s back for White and his company, though. He doesn’t give a f*ck. Couldn’t give less of one.
UFC is more popular than ever, continues to explode everywhere, and as long as millions of people support the mixed martial arts monolith, business will continue to boom. Those who are sensitive about what Strickland said don’t have to like it, nor support UFC at all. As long as White is in charge, this type of sh*t will continue to fly, for better or worse (for worse if you ask me, but whatever).
PS: I would’ve said there’s no way UFC will be allowed back any time soon, if ever, by our neighbors north of the border. But check out Strickland’s salute to the crowd last night after his loss, which was met with enthusiastic applause.