UFC President Dana White, peppered with questions about comments by Colby Covington that some of his fellow fighters said were racist, said he would not “muzzle anybody” over “their own causes, things, their own beliefs.”

During a news conference Wednesday in Abu Dhabi to promote the UFC 253 card, White was asked about Covington’s comments Saturday after he defeated Tyron Woodley. During a postfight interview with welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, who was born in Nigeria, Covington asked if Usman had gotten a call from his “little tribe” and whether “smoke signals” were involved. He called Woodley, a Black fighter and Black Lives Matter supporter, “a communist,” “a Marxist” and “[someone who] stands for criminals. He hates America, and that’s why he got broke.” And he questioned the legitimacy of the BLM movement.

“These guys all have their own causes, things, their own beliefs,” White told reporters. “We don’t muzzle anybody here. We let everybody speak their mind. I don’t know what he said that was racist. I don’t know if I heard anything racist that he said.”

Asked if he believed it is wrong if one of his fighters said something racist, White replied: “Of course. Come on. I’m not going to play these games with you guys. Come on, if it’s racist? Yes. Of course.”

In a news conference after his victory Saturday night, Covington called Black Lives Matter “a complete sham. It’s a joke. They’re taking these people that are complete terrorists. They’re taking these people that are criminals. These aren’t people that are hard-working Americans, blue-collar Americans. These are bad people. They’re criminals.

“They shouldn’t be attacking police. If you’re breaking the law and you’re threatening the cops with weapons, you deserve to get what you get. Law enforcement protects us all. If we don’t have law enforcement, it’d be the wild, wild West.”

The comments by Covington, a supporter of President Trump who received a congratulatory call from the president after the fight, drew condemnation from three Black fighters, one of whom was seated next to White during the news conference and is a headliner in Saturday’s UFC 253.

“It just shows you the landscape of the media, what it is right now,” Israel Adesanya said (via ESPN). “I made a joke about dropping [Yoel] Romero like the Twin Towers and everyone lost their mind, even if I said it was a joke and it was pretty funny, but people took it as I was being offensive and like, digging — but I was making a joke.

“This guy [Covington] has directly insulted my culture, my brother and many other cultures, and no one says anything, but it just shows you a mirror. Shows you a mirror to you guys. So, yeah. I don’t really care. Kamaru Usman broke his jaw [in a fight last year], so I don’t really care.”

Sijara Eubanks, a bantamweight in UFC’s women’s division, called out the media. “Let’s be real, first and foremost,” he said. “It wasn’t ‘unfortunate.’ It was flat-out racist. It was racist. It was disgusting. It was quite frankly disappointing.”

Featherweight Hakeem Dawodu said: “It’s crazy that comments like that are causing more and more divide amongst the people. That’s how he gets down, but I’m not really with that, and I took offense to that for sure."

Although Reebok doesn’t sponsor Covington, it called him out in a statement to Bloody Elbow. “Reebok is the uniform provider for the UFC, however we do not sponsor Colby Covington. We do not agree with the sentiments he expressed, and stand firm in our belief that Black lives matter. We stand with athletes and communities who are fighting for change.”

Monster Energy and Door Dash also offered statements of support for inclusiveness and equality that did not mention Covington by name.

Covington, who is rarely without a red “Keep America Great” cap, visited the Oval Office after a 2018 victory. White and Trump have a relationship that extends back years, to Trump’s days as a New Jersey casino and hotel owner and fights in White’s fledgling sports league. White addressed the Republican convention in 2016 and 2020 and spoke at a Trump rally this month in Henderson, Nev.

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