The UFC may be one of the last sports leagues to stay out of politics, but their athletes aren’t afraid to share their beliefs.
On Saturday night, UFC 262 took place at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. The main event featured the lightweight title fight between Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler. Oliveira, after nearly succumbing to a brutal onslaught from Chandler in the first round, scored a KO victory early in the second round.
While the main event certainly lived up to its billing, it was the comments by Beneil Dariush after his lightweight victory that stole the show.
After Dariush dominated Tony Ferguson in the co-main event, scoring a unanimous decision from the judges, the victorious fighter was interviewed by Joe Rogan to get his thoughts on the win. Dariush took the moment to speak out in support of victims of communism around the world.
“First things first, I want to thank my Lord and savior Jesus Christ, that’s number one,” Dariush told Rogan, and the millions of fans watching. “Number two, I want to dedicate this fight to all the people who’ve been hurt by Marxists ideologies. There are millions of you.”
“It’s just a fight, I know it’s not much, but I want you to know that I love you. I understand the pain … I don’t completely understand, but I love you. I understand your pain.”
Dariush, now a U.S. citizen, was born in Iran, living in a small village until the age of nine before moving to the United States. According to interviews, he has not returned to his native country since the age of 17 due to concerns over a mandatory military service requirement for all males over the age of 18.
He is a devout Christian and routinely discusses his faith on social media.
It’s the second time in as many UFC events where an athlete took the opportunity to speak out on the evils of communism. Rose Namajunas, of Lithuanian-American heritage, made waves on social media before her April 24 victory over Chinese champion Zhang Weili. Namajunas said that part of her motivation for beating Zhang was her opposition to communism, as reported by ESPN before the fight:
Namajunas’ family is from Lithuania, and she said she has drawn inspiration from the documentary, “The Other Dream Team.” The film focuses on the 1992 Lithuanian men’s national basketball team, which entered the Barcelona Olympics as an independent country after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Namajunas recently told a Lithuanian outlet that the movie is a reminder that “it’s better dead than red,” an anti-communist expression coined during the Cold War. She also said Zhang is “red” and that freedom is a “huge motivating factor” for why she fights.
“I have a lot to fight for in this fight,” Namajunas explained. “And what she (Weili) represents, you know, I was just, I was just trying to remind myself of all the — my background and everywhere that I come from and my family and everything like that.”
“If you’re confused about any of my opinions, you can watch the documentary and you could get a good idea as to what my family had to go through, the reason I’m in the United States today, the reason that I do mixed martial arts, all of that stuff,” Namajunas told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. “I’d probably have a really different life if it wasn’t for everything in that documentary, how Lithuanians had to struggle with communism oppression.”
Namajunas later emphasized that she did not have any personal animosity toward Zhang, saying that all of her opponents are “red.”
The UFC has famously stayed away from politics, as many other sports leagues have embraced it.
“It’s like we live in this world right now where nobody’s allowed to have their own opinion,” President of the UFC Dana White said on The Daily Wire’s Candace. “These are all grown men and women that fight for us. They all have their own beliefs, their own politics or whatever it is. They can say whatever they want to say, to a point. I mean, there’s some times that some things cross the line, but at the end of the day, too, this is the fight business. Guess what? They say really mean things to each other.”
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to email@example.com.