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UFC fighters shared their disgust at a disgraceful turn of events at a Spanish soccer game when Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr. (full name Vinícius José Paixão de Oliveira Júnior) was once again a victim of racist attacks while playing a match in Spain. Though the event was sad and unfortunately not a first time for the rising soccer star, he found much comfort in athletes from around the world who showed their support after the game. In fact, even some well-known MMA fighters made sure to stand by the Brazilian on social media.
UFC fighters showed support for soccer star Vinicius Jr.
Among Jr’s most vocal supporters was former UFC middleweight and welterweight title challenger Demian Maia, who wrote a message for the footballer on his official Instagram account. In the post, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt emphasized the importance of teaching respect to the next generation, so sad events like the one Jr. went through cannot be repeated in the future.
“One of the most important things that the sport teach us is that our value comes from our caracter and hard work. Unfortunately what happens to Vini Jr. shows that not everybody understands it. It’s important to talk about it so the next generations will not perpetuate those kind of behaviors.” Maia posted.
Though he did not use as many words as his fellow countryman, former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo went on Twitter to show his support to Vinicius Jr.. UFC flyweight title challenger Alexandre Pantoja did the same, in his native Portuguese.
“Vinicius, you’re a giant. Never stop fighting. We are with you.” Pantoja wrote.
Vinicius Jr. has been the victim of several racist attacks in Spain
The incident involving Vinicius Jr. took place when Real Madrid played Valencia last Sunday in the Spanish championship La Liga. In the second half of the match, fans in the stands started chanting ‘mono’ (Spanish for ‘monkey’) towards the soccer star, who complained to the referee and pointed to one specific fan.
The stadium announced asked for the chants to stop so that the match would not have to be cancelled halfway through. Later on, a fight broke out in the field and Vinicius Jr. ended up expelled after punching another player in a brawl that even had Jr getting choked from behind at a certain point. Valencia ended up winning the match by 1-0.
Unfortunately, it was not the first time Vinicius Jr. found himself under racist attacks in Spain. On his personal Twitter account, the player shared his thoughts, saying La Liga does nothing to prevent racism in its matches.
“It was not the first, the second or the third time. Racism is normal in La Liga. The championship thinks it’s normal. The Federation does too and opponents encourage it. I’m really sorry. This championship used to have Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano and Messi, but it belongs to the racists now.
“A beautiful country that has welcomed me. I love it, but this country has accepted to export a racist image of itself to the world. I’m sorry for the Spaniards who don’t agree with this, but Spain is known as a racist country in Brazil these days. Unfortunately, because of everything that happens every week, I can’t defend it. I agree. I’m strong and I’ll fight the racists until the end, though. Even if far away from here.”
MMA has also seen its share of racism
Vinicius Jr. has been dealing with racism in soccer for a significant part of his career, but unfortunately for athletes and fans all around the world, this is not the only sport that deals with such issues.
MMA has seen its share of racists and xenophobic attacks, as well. Cases such as former UFC interim welterweight champion Colby Covington calling ‘Black Lives Matter’ a terrorist movement former UFC featherweight Marcelo Rojo sharing a racist meme in which he compared then flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo to a monkey are just a couple of several unfortunate examples.
When it comes to xenophobic examples, then UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk was also received with much criticism when she shared a meme mocking the country of China and title challenger Weili Zhang at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similarly, former UFC bantamweight Tony Kelley went viral for going on a xenophobic rant while cornering flyweight Andrea Lee, who fought Viviane Araujo at UFC Vegas 54, in May 2022. During the break between rounds, Lee complained about being fouled in the fight, to which Kelley replied:
“That’s what they’re going to do,” Kelley said after Lee complained of an eye poke, “they’re dirty f-cking Brazilians. They’re gonna f-cking cheat like that.”
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