Gay UFC champ issues response to Sean Strickland’s homophobic and transphobic tirade

But Dana White said the UFC's gay fighters don't care.

By: Tim Bissell | 4 weeks
Gay UFC champ issues response to Sean Strickland’s homophobic and transphobic tirade
Sean Strickland at UFC 293. | DAN HIMBRECHTS / AAP, IMAGO

Sean Strickland brought his trash act to UFC 297

At UFC 297 Sean Strickland lost his UFC middleweight title to Dricus Du Plessis. However, much of what happened in the cage on Saturday night was overshadowed by what went down a few days prior.

During a pre-fight press event, MMA Fighting‘s Alex K. Lee stepped up to the microphone to test Strickland on the hateful views he espouses online, many of which target queer folks (especially those who are transgender). Full disclosure: Lee is a close personal friend of mine.

Strickland responded with an insulting, nonsensical and fear-mongering rant aimed at the vulnerable communities mentioned above, as well as Lee himself. In doing so Strickland succeeded in padding his ‘Fighter owns feminist’ highlight reels, which will be fawned over by brainwashed Andrew Tate saluting teens and elder white racists who wish things could just stay the way they are, or better yet, rewind to when they and their pals could just kill whomever they didn’t like the look of.

Strickland was emboldened to go on his rant because he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, there would be zero repercussions. He knew Dana White, a darling of MAGAmerica, would pat him on the back (now that this kind of crap earns more than it costs).

Strickland also likely assumed that Endeavor or ESPN would be silent, too — after all, they were fine with White flat-out slapping his wife in public. Strickland probably didn’t know, or care, that the UFC’s new Canadian broadcast partner, Rogers Sportsnet, would also be silent on the issue.

Canadian press outlets carried think pieces tearing into what Strickland said, as well as the platform he was given on which to say those things. But Sportsnet showed themselves to be chicken-s**t, in failing to admonish the behaviour. They didn’t even report on it, instead going with headlines like “Sean Strickland puts on a show” and “Sean Strickland arrives as advertised”.

Rogers Sportsnet headlines from UFC 297.


Dana White responds for gay UFC fighters

Dana White was asked about Sean Strickland’s rant after the event. White, who is now a lion of free speech apparently, made it clear that he and the UFC won’t police what fighter’s say or what views they want to express (unless those views might risk them losing precious capital, I guess).

White also said that he felt Strickland was baited into his long tirade.

“We had two gay women who fought in the co-main event,” remarked Slap Boss (per Yahoo!). “They sat on the stage with Sean Strickland (at the press conference). They could give a s**t what Sean Strickland says or what his beliefs are or what his opinions are.”

Raquel Pennington responds

Those women’s names are Raquel Pennington and Mayra Bueno Silva, by the way. Pennington has since shared her opinion on what went on with Strickland ahead of her crowning glory in the co-main of UFC 297.

“Honestly, for people like that, it hurts my heart,” Pennington said. “To pass so much judgment? At the end of the day, the things he says doesn’t impact my life, and it’s never gonna impact my life. It’s not gonna change what I’m doing and how happy I am and how full my heart is.

“But, things that are said like that, and the judgment that’s passed? It really impacts people. Stuff like that is not okay.”

“That’s on him, it’s not on me…” Pennington continued. “But that fact that he can pass so much judgment and make disgusting comments just shows what kind of person he is.”

In response to the UFC’s passive stance on the issue, Pennington added.

“I mean, they’re about ‘freedom of speech.’ That’s fine, everybody’s allowed that. You’re allowed your opinion and you’re allowed to feel the way that you feel. I just feel that’s why the world is the way it is. So many people have to make so many other comments about people’s lives or the way that they live or gender or race. It stems from there. It’s like, I can learn so much from you, you can learn so much from me, if you’re just willing to sit there and listen and learn as people.”

Pennington’s nuanced, and heart-felt, take on tolerance and understanding will likely not make it to the ears of Sean Strickland, nor those who think he’s awesome. If it does, it’s even less likely to permeate their thoughts and counter-act whatever macho bull***t kool-aid they’ve been drinking to soothe their white-fright and gay panic. But that shouldn’t take away from Pennington’s courage in saying something contrary to what her bosses and, sadly, many of her colleagues, are saying out in public.

This obviously won’t be the last time Strickland, or anyone else in the company, says something egregious (something which has the power to adversely affect the lives of individuals who already live under threat). And when it happens White, and the other powers that be, will find ways to ignore and excuse it. When that happens, hopefully there’s someone else who can speak back to it (who’s ready?).

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About the author
Tim Bissell
Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015, but has been watching since the early 2000s. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim's specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

Tim is also BE's lead (only) sumo reporter. He blogs about that sport here and on his own substack, Sumo Stomp!

Tim is currently a social worker in training.

Email me at [email protected]. Nice messages will get a response.

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