Politics of Race in the UFC

It’s almost difficult to believe after so many UFC events featuring so many different permutations of guys making mean faces on the fight posters, but UFC 114 marks the first time a modern UFC pay-per-view card is headlined by two African-American fighters.

Whether that means anything to you personally or not, it’s significant, and a little surprising. For a sport with so much international appeal, and one that pits Japanese, Brazilian, British, Canadian, French, and American fighters against each other, often all on the same card, MMA has still struggled somewhat with the African-American demographic.

That’s all the more reason why the “Rampage” Jackson-Rashad Evans fight is a delicate matter for the UFC and its fans. The clip of Jackson promising “black-on-black crime” after Evans confronted him following UFC 96, for instance, is a prime example of how the pre-fight hype can send the wrong message in this case.

On one hand, it’s an indelible moment that provides valuable marketing material for the UFC. On the other, it probably appeals primarily to a certain segment of the white UFC audience that the rest of us should be embarrassed by.

In a recent interview, Evans repeatedly singled Jackson out for playing to the prejudices of White MMA fans, saying, “All that ‘black-on-black crime’ stuff, acting like a dog, who do you think that’s for? It’s not for [African-American fans], and you know it.”

At the same time, even if you take for granted that Jackson is playing a character to some extent when the camera comes on, since when is a fighter responsible for representing his entire race while hyping a fight?

No one criticizes Brock Lesnar for playing to negative stereotypes of white Midwestern farm boys with his ornery attitude, or B.J. Penn for evoking an image of a blood-licking Polynesian savage with his post-fight celebrations.

There’s an inherent unfairness to designating someone as the appointed representative for an entire group of people, especially if he never asked to carry that burden. If every other fighter speaks only for himself, why should Jackson be any different?

Evans isn’t the first African-American fighter to point to a predominately white fan base as the reason why he hears boos whenever their names are announced. Mo Lawal vehemently insists that the hate mail he receives is primarily racially motivated, and on a recent radio appearance Evans chalked up his struggle with MMA fans to a “color tax” that all African-American fighters have to pay.

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0 Comments

  • Tone

    Reply Reply May 26, 2010

    Yeah, I saw this all transpire. I really don’t think Rampage thought it through that far. He’s not that sophisticated. I think its just a comment that came out and people are running with it. Its insensitive, but MMA is an insensitive sport. Not unlike NasCar. Rampage is a character as well as a supremely talented fighter, but he’s not marketing guru.

    He definitely doesn’t represent the Black community, he’s never attempted. He strikes me as too self-absorbed to consider the notion, actually. Looking forward to the fight though. Evans by unanimous decision. Rampage will make too many mistakes.

  • ufc girls

    Reply Reply June 11, 2010

    Actually considering that their feud in UFC 107 in December, there have been numerous occasions, in which it was believed that Evans and Jackson might collide next to one an additional. On the other hand, Jackson announced a retirement, which did not final for lengthy, but placed the match on hold. Now, with the star announcing a return, fairly a lot a short while ago, the feud has been reignited. Each of them will get an chance to settle their differences as soon as and for all when they go head-to-head towards one particular a different in UFC 114 on May well 29.

  • Young Corfman

    Reply Reply June 24, 2010

    Hey, thanks for posting.. I enjoyed reading it.

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