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Donald Trump And The UFC: A Strange And Long-Standing Relationship

Donald Trump And The UFC: A Strange And Long-Standing Relationship
By Jack Cahill
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Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton will contest the first Presidential Debate on September 26th and while picking between the two is like trying to decide which deadly disease you'd prefer to contract, pick is what the American public must do. 

One man who is having no issues with his choice is UFC President Dana White. Many were surprised when White agreed to speak for Donald Trump at a Republican Convention last month, but the two actually go back a long way. The ferocity of White's delivery attests to the high level of esteem with which White regards him.

Speaking at the Trump rally, Dana White said:

"I think that sense of loyalty and commitment will translate into how he will run this country. And let's be honest folks, we need somebody who believes in this country, we need somebody who's proud of this country and who will fight for this country."

"Let me tell you something, I've been in the fight business my whole life. I know fighters. Ladies and gentleman, Donald Trump is a fighter and I know he will fight for this country."


Now you may wonder why White is so vehement in his support for Trump. But Donald Trump and the UFC go back to the early days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, before McGregor loaded the bandwagon but more importantly, before it was accepted as a mainstream sport.


First of all, Donald Trump was inducted into the New Jersey State Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2013. The inductees all have titles such as MMA Trainer, Ring Announcer, or Promoter beside their name. Beside the name of Donald J. Trump it says Visionary. Curiouser and curiouser.

When his name is clicked, a grinning Trump is presented with the lines: "The sport of MMA found its first lavish, established and credible home due to Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump’s involvement and acceptance of the sport greatly assisted the growth of MMA." So where did this all start?

The UFC was greeted with suspicion and scorn in the early days. The first ever UFC event in 1993 saw a victory of technique over brawn as Royce Gracie ran through the competition with high level Brazilian jiu-jitsu, submitting a cartoon-esqe Ken Shamrock in the final fight. The very first fight of the night saw a tooth knocked into the crowd after a brutal kick to the face of a downed opponent.


The early UFC events were seen as no more that 'street fights' in a cage with no rules and nothing to stop people being fatally injured. Marketing that to mainstream America would prove to be an issue and the organisation struggled to find the venues which would meet their ambition. Enter Donald J Trump.


Before Trump stepped in, bad press and general condemnation pushed the UFC away from the fight capitals where boxing had seen it's name in lights for so long. There was something in the UFC that Trump recognised as marketable and in 2000, seven years after UFC 1, Trump allowed the UFC to use the Trump Taj-Mahal Casino in Atlantic City as a venue.

The event brought the UFC to the east coast and one step closer to legitimacy in the minds of the American public, something which Dana White credits to Donald Trump.


Donald championed the UFC before it was popular, before it grew into a successful business and I will always be grateful to him for standing with us in those early days. So tonight, I stand with Donald Trump.

To those of delicate sensibilities, and even moderate ones to be honest, MMA will forever remain encumbered with rhetoric like 'cage fighting' and 'barbarians'. My mother might say it's thugs in a cage battering seven shades out of each other and in many ways she isn't wrong, but Trump did do a lot to legitimize the image of MMA and the UFC.

In 2001, Trump once again opened the doors of his casino for UFC 30 and 31. By now the sport of MMA was finding its feet and establishing itself as a legitimate sport. UFC 32 was moved to the larger Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey after the success of the previous two events. The following event was held in Las Vegas, the fight capital of the world. The rest as they say, is history. Whoever they are.


White says that, "for over 15 years Donald Trump has been a loyal and supportive friend." Well that may not be necessarily true.

In 2008 Trump bought a significant share of Affliction Entertainment. Affliction was designed to be competition for the UFC and for a while it certainly was. It boasted big names such as Fedor Emelianenko, Andre Arlovski and Vitor Belfort. It also paid it's fighters considerably more than the UFC were paying their fighters. Incidentally, that was to be their eventual downfall, as by the end of 2009 Affliction was broke.

Before that, Trump had even planned an MMA reality show to rial the UFC's 'Ultimate Fighter'. 'Fighting Fedor' was to be a show in which a group of heavyweights would fight for the right to face off with Fedor Emelianenko. Sound familiar? Yeah, it was very close to the UFC's version in which their guys would fight for a UFC contract or a shot at a title.


White may say that Trump is loyal, but above all else he is a businessman, an extensively self-professed one at that. He definitely gave the UFC a helping hand in the early days but it would be naive to believe he did it out of any sense of loyalty. It was a forward thinking business move which was followed by a less-forward thinking one at Affliction.

So, at the end of all of that, does Donald Trump have the support of the MMA community? Well, given Trump's immigration "policies", a hefty amount of fighters wouldn't be able to fight on US soil and that probably wouldn't go down too well with the fans. Who knows, maybe Mr. Trump would make an exception. After all he did say that Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan could enter the U.S even though he's Muslim. Nice guy.


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