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8 Oct, 2023 18:03

‘If any flags hurt your feelings, too f***ing bad’: UFC head lifts Russian ban

MMA fighters, including Russians, will once again be able to display their national flag in the Octagon
‘If any flags hurt your feelings, too f***ing bad’: UFC head lifts Russian ban

Dana White, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), told reporters in Las Vegas late on Saturday that fighters will once again be permitted to display their national flags in the Octagon, ending a ban imposed last year.

White, who has headed the UFC since 2003, said in May 2022 that fighters of any nationality would be barred from carrying their country’s flag with them to the cage, a decision made in parallel to similar measures imposed in other sports on the heels of Moscow’s military action in Ukraine.

At the time, White refused to be drawn on the reason for the ban other than to tell reporters: “You guys know why, let’s not even play that f***ing game.”

But on Saturday night in the organization’s Apex facility on the outskirts of Las Vegas, and after American fighter Joe Pyfer held aloft the United States’ flag following a victory, White confirmed to the assembled media that the flag ban was over.

“Flags are back,” White said. “I was on vacation during the Mexican Independence Day [UFC event], and the no-flag thing drove me crazy. So, I was like, ‘Yeah, f*** that. We’re bringing flags back.’ It drove me crazy.”

Soon after the onset of Moscow’s military action in Ukraine last year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued a recommendation that Russia and its ally Belarus be suspended from major international sporting events. The proposal was adopted by most major sports federations.

In some instances, Russians and Belarusians have been permitted to participate in events as neutral athletes, but only without the display of national symbols, such as a flag or anthem.

But, while White admitted on Saturday that “sometimes things are done for the intentions of the right reasons,” the UFC boss said that people shouldn’t dispute an athlete’s right to carry their own flag with them into sporting competition.

“Everybody’s too soft, everybody’s too sensitive about everything,” White said. “When the decision was made to do this, I was like, ‘Eh, what’s the big deal if they don’t have flags?’

“Mexican Independence Day flipped the switch and I was like, ‘That’s enough of the no-flags thing.’ Flags are back. If any flags hurt your feelings, too f***ing bad.”