First it was the sponsors, then it was the uniforms, now it’s the flags. Nobody may be ‘about free speech’ more than the UFC, but that mantra stops hard the moment fighters enter the Octagon.
Lately, fans may have noticed that fewer and fewer fighters are getting to walk out with their nation’s flag of choice. Whether it’s having graphics removed from broadcast profiles or Chito Vera telling digital media outlet D’ Rabona that he wouldn’t be bringing the Ecuadorian flag with him to the cage for his April 30th fight against Rob Font, or—most recently—Randy Brown shouting out Jamaica in his post fight interview because, “they didn’t let us get the flag.”
As one of the last obvious forms of individual expression fighters kept following the UFC uniform deal and insistence against creative walkouts, an explanation for the removal of flags seems like a statement worth making. But apparently Dana White feels the issue speaks for itself.
“You guys know why,” White told reporters when asked about the decision at the UFC 274 post-fight presser. “Let’s not even play that f—king game.”
In his recent interview, Vera pinned the likely issue on the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“No one can use flags, on the entire billboard,” Vera explained, adding that he wasn’t told why. “I imagine it is because of what is happening between Russia and Ukraine (war), although Ecuador has nothing to do with it. But we were crushed by that dick (problem).”
It hasn’t been easy to miss the recent increase in fans booing Russian fighters inside the Octagon. Although foreign fighters getting booed away from home is certainly nothing new for the world’s largest MMA promotion. But, if that’s what the UFC is looking to counter and curtail it seems like an easy enough message to say out loud.
If it’s all just about the war, will the UFC be bringing back flags once a cease-fire is in place? Or will a seemingly temporary measure become permanent? If the UFC is all set to take a stand on an issue, it’d be nice to find out exactly what the stand they’re taking is.
In the meantime, UFC events will get a little less colorful, and a little less individualistic, but that’s nothing new.
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