Last month, the Final Preventing Championship, the main promotion in combined martial arts, discovered itself concerned in a far-right conspiracy scandal after one in every of its officers was noticed sporting QAnon markings on their official apparel.
Don Home, a long-time UFC cutman and buddy of the group’s president, Dana White, appeared on the UFC on ESPN 11 broadcast sporting a Q image on his chest and a WWG1WGA marking on the left arm of his shirt, which stands for “The place we go one we go all” and is a well-liked slogan amongst QAnon conspiracy theorists and supporters. The markings have been seen on his clothes throughout the primary occasion between Curtis Blaydes and Alexander Volkov.
QAnon is a far-right conspiracy principle which propagates the concept that the alleged “deep state” is waging an invisible conflict towards US president Donald Trump and his supporters by a secret plot. The speculation, which was birthed out of an nameless 4chan submit by an individual figuring out as “Q Clearance Patriot” – an alleged authorities official – is rooted within the perception that many liberal Hollywood actors, Democratic politicians and different high-ranking officers are a part of an international cabal of pedophiles operating a global little one intercourse trafficking ring, and that Trump is making an attempt to dismantle the elitist group.
Regardless of the dearth of proof supporting their baseless and unhinged claims, the perimeter web conspiracy principle has continued to realize supporters. In 2019, QAnon was labelled a “potential home terrorism menace” by the Federal Bureau of Investigations as a result of its potential to “lead particular person extremists to hold out prison or violent acts”.
Home’s resolution to show symbols in assist of a home terrorism menace was lauded by QAnon supporters on the web and criticized by pundits, which led to the UFC launching an investigation into Home’s actions. The group claimed to have been unaware of Home’s resolution to put on the markings, and said that the cutman had not sought permission to put on the symbols.
“This was a violation of our employees occasion outfitting coverage and the matter might be totally investigated,” the UFC stated in an announcement to ESPN.
Home later admitted that he regretted his resolution to put on the markings due to the embarrassment it precipitated White, whom he known as a “buddy of mine”. Nevertheless, he additionally defended QAnon by agreeing with among the principle’s key ideas, together with their supposed intention to show a baby intercourse trafficking ring. “They’re making an attempt to show that, “ Home advised MMAFighting.com.
The patches worn by Home aren’t the primary time that QAnon has permeated the MMA house. Earlier in June, Albuquerque metropolis councillor Pat Davis tweeted a photograph of a flag with the letter Q perched on the roof of the Jackson Wink Academy, a famend MMA health club that’s house to previous and current UFC champions equivalent to Holly Holm and Jon Jones. The academy launched an announcement by which it claimed that the flag was planted by an “unknown particular person” and was eliminated “as quickly because it got here to our consideration”.
Distinguished UFC fighters have additionally been responsible of utilizing QAnon-related hashtags on social media, together with UFC welterweight Jorge Masvidal, who used a QAnon hashtag when he posted a false quote by Kurt Cobain in reference to Donald Trump. The president beforehand attended one in every of Masvidal’s fights at UFC 244 and praised the fighter on social media after Masvidal known as Trump a “dangerous motherfucker”.
Given the pattern of distinguished QAnon assist rising throughout the MMA panorama, there seems to be an overlap between a subset of MMA followers and the perimeter conspiracy. Based on a VOX evaluation of the QAnon subreddit /r/greatawakening, lots of the informal posters additionally frequent different subreddits such MMA, health and Joe Rogan. They’re additionally avid posters in a wide range of Trump-related subreddits.
But it’s the assist for Trump that helps clarify why QAnon and different conspiracy theories seem to thrive inside fight sports activities. The UFC brass is unabashedly pro-Trump and has used the promotion as a platform for the president’s ideology, even going as far as to provide a propaganda documentary about Trump known as ‘Combatant in Chief’. White, who spoke on the 2016 Republican nationwide conference, has been unapologetic about his assist for Trump and has even claimed he doesn’t care if that assist alienates followers.
“I don’t give a shit,” White stated. “If you happen to don’t like me as a result of I’m mates with this man, that’s your downside not mine.”
The UFC’s public assist for Trump might have value the promotion a portion of its progressive and ethnically various fanbase, but it surely has helped safe its conservative fandom, lots of whom voted for Trump or have right-leaning tendencies. Because the 2016 election, the UFC has even seen the rise of fighters sporting MAGA gimmicks equivalent to Colby Covington, who even visited the Oval Workplace when he was interim champion. And as extra conservative followers flock to the game they view as MAGA-friendly, there was a noticeable rise in pretend information, fringe conspiracy theories and right-wing extremism.
Former UFC champion Tito Ortiz – a vocal Trump supporter – has flooded his social media timelines with unhinged conspiracy theories, together with his most up-to-date declare that George Floyd’s killing by the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer was a false flag and political stunt aimed to trigger chaos forward of the upcoming presidential election.
UFC featherweight Bryce Mitchell – who as soon as requested Donald Trump to name him if he “wants assist whooping some politician” – believes that the coronavirus is a bioweapon “made by authorities” as a way to “attempt to take our weapons”.
Former UFC title challenger and Particular Forces Inexperienced Beret Tim Kennedy shared an Instagram submit of himself sporting a Hawaiian shirt beneath a bulletproof vest whereas holding a rifle. The Hawaiian shirt alludes to the Boogaloo Boys, a far-right extremist motion that’s making ready for a second American civil conflict which they name the “boogaloo”. Contributors typically put on Hawaiian shirts together with navy fatigues to determine themselves at protests.
Kennedy posted the aforementioned image in June 2020 together with the caption: “Simply don’t be an asshole…when you select to be an asshole…I picked out a shirt for the event…”
Kennedy has since knowledgeable the Guardian that he doesn’t assist the Boogaloo motion however will proceed to put on Hawaiian shirts as a result of he enjoys them.
“I’m from California. I fucking love Hawaiian shirts. I’m not gonna let any extremist group no matter what their affiliation is declare one thing that’s superior,” Kennedy advised the Guardian by way of electronic mail. “I additionally like do European swimsuit a.okay.a. the speedo. If some bitch ass motherfucker says that factor is just for an alt proper/left, I’ll nonetheless put on that banana hammock with delight. I don’t subscribe to any this bullshit. I simply do the shit I love to do.”
There has even been a case the place an MMA fighter’s picture was used to unfold pretend information about protestors at a Black Lives Matter occasion. The submit, which confirmed a cropped model of a girl’s bruised face, claimed that the individual was “overwhelmed and raped” at a BLM protest. The picture connected to the submit was really an image of Russian MMA fighter Anastasia Yankova following her bout at Bellator 161 in September 2016.
Whereas MMA has lengthy been a distinct segment sport that attracted attention-grabbing and considerably various segments of society, there was an obvious improve in conservative fandom throughout the sport. Because the UFC continues to develop right into a protected haven for MAGA supporters to rally round Trump and his far-right ideology, MMA will proceed to be dirty with conspiracy peddlers and dangerous religion actors who view the game as a platform for his or her harmful worldview.