“I’ve got world titles and multimillions of dollars, you’ve got $20,000 to show and you teach kiddies jiu-jitsu.”
“I’m about to knock out a stuffed, fat-ass, skinny Mexican.”
“He’s dressed like a little sheik’s servant…struggling to make a few quid.”
“[He] broke his foot and his vagina in the same day.”
“He’s a quiet little hillbilly from the back arse of nowhere. His cousin is probably named Cletus!”
If Donald Trump, a leprechaun, and John Kreese from The Karate Kid had a love child, the result would be Conor McGregor. The abrasive, politically incorrect Irish nationalist is the most highly paid fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Saturday night, he will step outside the UFC’s cage and into the boxing ring with undefeated boxing champion Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. The pay-per-view bout is expected to shatter box-office records.
While most fans of mixed martial arts and boxing would say that they are against racism, sexism, and homophobia, they still stand poised to avidly support a pair of fighters who are caricatures of bigotry and intolerance. During the promotional tour for the “Money Fight,” McGregor and Mayweather manufactured a highlight reel of Trumpian quotes mixed with Jerry Springer theatrics. Mayweather called McGregor a “faggot” and threw a pile of one-dollar bills in the air, as he demanded that McGregor strip like a “bitch.” McGregor, the self-proclaimed “multicultured individual” who “doesn’t see color,” responded by upping the ante. After berating Mayweather for not knowing how to read, he shouted, “Dance for me, boy!” and then went on to compare the black boxers in Rocky III to dancing monkeys.
When called out by Mayweather for being a racist, McGregor offered an apology out of the Trump handbook. That is, instead of apologizing for his comments, he doubled down. “A lot of media seem to be saying I’m against black people. That’s absolutely fucking ridiculous. Do they not know I’m half black? I’m half black from the bellybutton down.” As if his explanation was insufficient, McGregor proceeded to dry thrust his hips into the air as a “present” for his “beautiful black female fans.”
If McGregor and Mayweather were athletes in the NBA or the MLB, their comments would be a public-relations nightmare. But in the worlds of the UFC and professional boxing, racism has always sold well. When the UFC was founded in 1993, it was originally titled “War of the Worlds.” In the first tournaments, American wrestlers battled with Muay Thai fighters from Asia, jiu-jitsu specialists from South America, and other warriors from different parts of the world to see what style of combat would survive when put to the Darwinian test. Though the tournaments had a cosmopolitan element, they were ripe with ethno-nationalism and “white hope” narratives. This entrenched racism was apparent in the very first match at UFC 1. After he stepped into the cage to fight Samoan sumo wrestler Teila Tuli, Dutch karate fighter Gerard Gordeau gave a “Heil Hitler!” salute to the audience.