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Right-wing media are defending UFC fighter Sean Strickland's anti-LGBTQ remarks

Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight Sean Strickland recently described being transgender as a “mental fucking illness.” Now, right-wing media is cheering him on, joining a larger trend of right-wing media platforming UFC fighters and figures who spread hateful rhetoric and conspiracy theories.

  • Strickland launched into an anti-LGBTQ tirade after being asked about hateful comments he made in the past

    • During a pre-match press conference on January 18, Sean Strickland launched into an anti-trans rant after a reporter asked him about his history of bigoted anti-LGBTQ comments. Strickland described being transgender as “a mental fucking illness” and called the reporter asking the question “an infection” and “the enemy.” [Bloody Elbow, 1/20/24]
    • Strickland has a well-documented history of making bigoted and sexist remarks. The former UFC champion has said that “society should never accept” trans people, that “the collective man group” needs to “elect somebody who is gonna put women back in the kitchen,” and that he would have “failed as a man” if he reared a gay son. [Twitter/X, 12/27/21, 10/26/23, 6/28/23
    • UFC President Dana White defended Strickland at the post-match press conference, saying, “If you get your feelings hurt that bad, you probably shouldn’t ask." He also said the fighter was “baited in that question.” Asked if he gives “a long leash” to fighters to say what they want, White responded, “I don’t fucking tell any other human being what to say, what to think. … Free speech, brother. People can say whatever they want and believe whatever they want.” [MMAJunkie, 1/21/24]
  • Right-wing media defended Strickland’s comments and praised the UFC for letting him openly espouse virulently anti-LGBTQ views

    • Fox’s OutKick host Charly Arnolt defended Strickland, saying he was not attacking the LGBTQ community, but rather “voicing his beliefs as it concerns the LGBT community.” Arnolt then pivoted to attacking the “completely idiotic” reporter who asked Strickland about his history of bigoted remarks, saying he “deserved the answer that he got.” [OutKick, OutKick The Morning, 1/22/24]
    • Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones defended Strickland, called the LGBTQ community a “sick cult,” and encouraged former President Donald Trump to choose the UFC fighter “as his VP.” “I want him on the show,” Jones said of Strickland, before ranting, “Our families are under attack. It isn’t about gay marriage — they want to control our lives. It’s a fact. It’s a cult. ‘We’re going to recruit your children,’ ‘we’re going to get your children.’ This is a sick cult. So I think President Trump should pick Sean Strickland, UFC middleweight champion, as his VP.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 1/18/24]
    • Fox News contributor and former GOP Senate candidate Tudor Dixon blamed the reporter for asking about Strickland’s prior anti-LGBTQ comments. Dixon accused the reporter of creating a controversy, saying, “I think it’s so funny, because they’re trying – they’re like, ‘they’re bringing this homophobia up.’ I’m like, no, you’re bringing it up.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 1/24/24
    • Fox host Pete Hegseth praised the UFC for not condemning Strickland's comments, arguing that “it’s good First Amendment and it’s good business.” Hegseth also speculated that journalists who ask athletes like Strickland tough questions do so out of jealousy. “A lot of sports reporters actually hate the sports they cover,” Hegseth said. “And so they want to find a wedge to get at these athletes who are smarter than them and faster than them and bigger than them and have hotter girlfriends than they do. And so they're angry about it, and so they try to ask ‘gotcha’ questions and throw them under the bus.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 1/22/24
    • Clay Travis, the founder of Fox's OutKick, did not acknowledge Strickland’s anti-trans comments and praised him for going after the reporter. Travis added, “I think you should go directly after the reporters who you believe are going to write stories that are very negative to you and own them face to face in that interaction.” [OutKick, OutKick The Show, 1/18/24]
    • Travis said he agreed “1 billion percent” with Dana White's refusal to condemn Strickland and suggested that corporate America should take a cue from UFC. Travis fantasized about a world in which “every CEO in America adopted the position Dana White took there,” adding, ”We don’t need to be in the position of every single corporation in America having an official opinion on everything under the sun." [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 1/24/24]
    • During an appearance on One America News Network, far-right podcaster Jess Weber defended Strickland’s comments, saying, “The gay community just wants to be in every little thing because they want everyone to be gay.” He continued, “Us white guys can’t be proud. But guess what? I’m proud to be white.” Host Alison Steinberg also praised Strickland for his “healthy masculine energy,” saying, “it’s important for these strong men to continue to demonstrate the importance of not backing down from a fight.” [One America News, In Focus, 1/18/24
    • Right-wing YouTuber Tim Pool called Strickland’s rant “spectacular” and described the reporter as “weak.” One of Pool’s guests, right-wing podcast host Breanna Morello, said Strickland’s comments were “refreshing” and added that “the UFC is really the only sport division that will do any of this.” [YouTube, 1/18/24
    • Donald Trump Jr. praised Strickland for his “courage,” saying that “the world would be a better place overnight” if more men spoke like Strickland. [Rumble, Triggered, 1/22/24]
  • Right-wing media have platformed and praised other UFC fighters who have spread hate and misinformation

    • Right-wing media figures defended UFC star Conor McGregor after his anti-immigrant commentary on Twitter/X came under investigation by Irish authorities for potentially inciting a riot in Dublin. Right-wing media figures were quick to defend McGregor after the riot; Alex Jones’ Infowars claimed McGregor was being pursued for “thought crimes,” Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik called the investigation evidence that Ireland was “falling,” and white nationalist Nick Fuentes told McGregor to “rise up” because “it’s either going to be the Irish or it’s going to be the blacks.” [The Guardian, 12/5/23; Sports Politika, 11/30/23]
    • Former Fox host Tucker Carlson praised UFC fighter Bryce Mitchell for his “honest” political commentary about Ukraine just a month after Mitchell claimed the U.S. government stages mass shootings as a ploy to seize guns. Carlson and other right-wing commentators like Glenn Greenwald praised Mitchell for his anti-Biden commentary but did not mention his comments that “they set up mass shootings and then blame the AR-15s. … I would die before I hand these guns over to my government.” [The Washington Post, 3/9/22; Media Matters, 2/21/22]
    • Daily Wire host Candace Owens praised Dana White for “keeping the UFC apolitical” after he refused to punish fighter Colby Covington for directing racist barbs at Black opponents. During a post-fight exchange, Covington, an outspoken supporter of former President Trump, asked his Nigerian opponent if he had received “smoke signals” from his “little tribe.” He also described a different Black fighter as “standing up for lifelong criminals” because of his open support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Owens described White’s defense of Covington as “a breath of fresh air.” [The Daily Wire, Candace, 4/25/21; ESPN, 9/24/20]
    • Right-wing media have repeatedly boosted retired UFC fighter Jorge Masvidal for his pro-Trump rhetoric. Masvidal has a history of promoting COVID-19 and QAnon conspiracy theories, campaigned for Trump in 2020, and has received frequent coverage from right-wing media as a result. [Politico, 10/29/20; Bloody Elbow, 7/24/20; Fox News, 4/23/23; The Blaze, 3/31/23]