The fight between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather has swept through every trending section of every news outlet. During their May-Mac press conference in Los Angeles, McGregor’s called Mayweather “boy,” which ignited a debate among fight fans about Conor’s racism. Luckily, McGregor responded in his own words about why he isn’t racist.
McGregor explained that he wasn’t racist, and the anti-Black “jokes” he made in Brooklyn fell flat.
I believe McGregor when he says he’s just having fun onstage. The truth of the matter is, McGregor will forget about this, like all of the other racist things he has said in the past. The press tour was an opportunity for both fighters to hype up the crowd, hash out their best one-liners, and get everyone excited enough to pay for the fight. Racism, unfortunately, has been a critical tool in McGregor’s utility belt used to sell this fight.
While McGregor pokes fun at Black women and makes Black dick jokes, the reality is, these issues of race fuel the already racist MMA community.
Racism In The Ring, Xenophobia In The Restaurant
UFC 202 was an enormous event, drawing millions of viewers eager to watch the rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz. Seated in a packed Buffalo Wild Wings in west Michigan, I had my mind on the undercard (the fights before the main event.) It was American fighter Cody Garbrandt vs Japanese fighter Takeya Mizugaki. Forty-eight seconds into the fight, Garbrandt beat Mizugaki via TKO after hitting him with a hard right. As soon as Takeya dropped, I heard a loud pop behind me followed by deafening “USA!” chants. I looked behind me and to no surprise, they were all White folks. I was taken by surprise as I thought “USA” chants were for professional wrestling. I looked up at the screen because I didn’t want to make eye contact.
Maybe it was just a one-time thing.
Two fights later and Michigan native Mike Perry stood against South Korean fighter Hyun Gyu Lim. Fuck. Perry beat Lim via TKO and, as if on cue, the “USA” chants happened again. The small consolation was that the bar was so loud I didn’t hear what Mike Perry’s corner man said about Lim.
Then came the co-main event, African American fighter Anthony “Rumble” Johnson vs Glover Teixiera from Brazil. In thirteen seconds Rumble delivered an uppercut so brutal it knocked out Teixiera’s tooth and created this meme:
Johnson was awarded “Performance of the Night” but was not awarded any “USA” chants in that packed B-Dubs. That’s because this wasn’t about solidarity with the country, it was White solidarity. Mike Perry and Cody Garbrandt’s win served as a symbol of white pride, connecting white racists like they did after Trump’s win. When you look at the blowback Tyron Woodley faced when he discussed his experiences with racism as Welterweight Champion, it’s clear that the majority of UFC fans don’t care about racism, much like the majority of white folks in America.
With a rising resentment towards multiculturalism, part of what led to Trump’s victory was the pushback against what was perceived as liberals being overly sensitive about race and quick to critique Whiteness. Interestingly enough, the same UFC fans and pundits opposed to discussions of race have been quick to debate about the rising tensions between McGregor and Mayweather from a racialized lens. “Is McGregor a racist?” “Does Floyd’s use of homophobic slurs make him worse?” “If X amount of articles don’t call out Floyd but Y amount of articles bash Conor, does that mean the leftist media is winning?” McGregor and Mayweather showboating in a clusterfuck of press conferences didn’t unsettle me, but being in a room full of White people chanting USA for only the White fighters does.
When the fight is over, win or lose, McGregor will go back to his home with an estimated 100 million dollars in his pocket, and turn off his circus show of racism and anti-Blackness. The UFC fans who watch him, however, will not forget his racism. Instead, they will gather their racist fuel and continue to harass MMA fans of color, repeating lines like “Dance for me, boy” or “I’m half-Black from the waist down!”
It’s easy to think of the Mayweather-McGregor fight as an isolated event with no applicability to the real world. But then I remember what it was like at UFC 202 in that crowded Buffalo Wild Wings, I can hear the USA chants again, and I’m reminded that White people will take any opportunity to express white pride. The Floyd and Conor show has just begun, and we’ve only seen the first round of this racist shit show.