A day after the election, UFC 205 fighters split on Donald Trump becoming president
NEW YORK – UFC president Dana White was on the Donald Trump bandwagon early on, speaking on behalf of his friend and soon-to-be-president at the Republican National Convention in July. It was to pay back Trump’s own generosity and accepting the UFC to Atlantic City back when nobody else would.
And a day after Trump was elected into office, the UFC hit the ground running at Madison Square Garden in New York to kick off festivities for UFC 205. On Wednesday, the six fighters from the three title fights at the top of the card all worked out for the public on the New York Knicks home court, and afterwards an Ultimate Media day was set up for the rest of the fighters on the card.
It was an odd feeling in the very blue city of New York, with the shock of Trump’s victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton still fresh on people’s minds. It was doubly weird that a progressive city like New York was now just three days away from hosting a major MMA event — a sport outlawed for over 20 years — to get in lockstep with the times and the rest of America.
As for the fighters? A dozen hours after Trump received his concession call from Clinton, some were still puzzling over the results. Some were happy, and some sad. And some, like Raquel Pennington, wouldn’t touch the topic of politics with a 10-foot pole.
Her fellow bantamweight Liz Carmouche did, though. Asked what it was like for her — an openly gay female fighter with a military background — what was going through her mind when actually letting it sink in that Trump was the president, she shook her head.
“That it’s a crazy world that we live in, that you can almost buy your way to the top,” she said. “That’s not something you want to teach kids growing up, that you can buy anything that you want. I’m going to hope to the side of optimism.”
Carmouche fights Katlyn Chookagian to kick off UFC 205 on Saturday night, marking the historical event. She said she had heard people expressing their anger and fear over Trump winning the election, that she understood those emotions. She said fear went through her mind too.
“Yeah of course,” she said. “But I always know that I have enough money where I can buy a ticket and move, so we’re good.”
One of the more noteworthy Trump supporters on hand was Donald Cerrone, who posted a picture of him, fellow Albuquerque-based fighter Tim Kennedy and the new president a few weeks back when Trump was in New Mexico doing a rally. He said he had evolved throughout his campaign, from a skeptic to a believer.
“So when he first started with it all, I was like no way,” he said. “No way. This guy is outlandish. Then, as it started going on I started following him and listening to what he had to say, and I was like this dude might do it. He might do it. Then the last couple of months, just getting involved with it, and I was like, he’s going to do it. We knew if he got Illinois and he got Florida, he’d have won. Then Illinois went democrat, Florida went republican, I was like oh man. Then he got [Pennsylvania], and I was like, oh shit, there it is.”
Cerrone said he was happy for Trump, and that he stayed up in Times Square until 2:30 a.m. ET watching the electoral votes come in.
The New Jersey-born Brazilian fighter Vicente Luque echoed what so many other Americans said in the wake of the news that Trump had improbably pulled through — that he was taken by complete surprise.
“I don’t know, it was kind of unexpected,” he said. “Everybody, everywhere you watched, said it wasn’t going to happen. I don’t have much to say as to whether it’s good or bad. I think at this point we’ve got to go with it and hope for the best. When I heard I did think, t his is crazy, but it is what it is. I think it can go a positive way, and let’s see what happens.”
His fellow New Jersey fighter Frankie Edgar took it a step further, remembering that Trump was not so long ago a reality show star on The Apprentice.
“I didn’t expect those results,” he said. “But it’s just what we got, and it’s what we have to deal with.
“It’s crazy. I just didn’t think a reality star would get it. I was surprised he made it as far as he did, and when he got to here I didn’t think he’d win. So it shows you where the country’s at now.”
Edgar did say that he wasn’t sure it would affect him in any big way, though.
“In my adult life, we’ve had a couple of presidents, and I don’t feel like life changed too much.”
Whippany, New Jersey’s Jim MIller — an avid outdoorsman who brews his own beer, hunts for food, makes his own jerky, and at some point wants to live in a self-contained environment away from the bustle of city life — said he wasn’t exactly pro-Trump, but then again he didn’t want to see Clinton elected.
“You like to see third party and all that stuff, but unfortunately the way it works, we as voters and the American people kind of put ourselves in that spot where you’ve got red or you’ve got blue,” he said. “And that’s about it. The way that I look at it, there are assholes in every group. Any time you put a group together, there’s going to be an asshole, whether it’s Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, fighters, press. There’s always somebody that made that group look bad. I try not to bunch people together. I like people. I don’t like people who are assholes. Nothing else matters.
“Is Donald abrasive? Yeah Donald’s abrasive. He’s said some stupid stuff. But I don’t like the idea of professional politicians. I don’t like the idea of a ruling class that is pretty clearly above the law. Justice is supposed to be blind. And while [Clinton] might not get prosecuted for any of this stuff, at least she didn’t win. I just didn’t want her to win.”
Miller said that the outcry in the aftermath of the election was what stood out to him as a little bit over the top.
“The fact that people get so upset and defensive about it, it’s a little bit ridiculous,” he said.
Caraway said he voted for Trump.
“It’s just kind of crazy,” he said. “We forget that we’re all fellow Americans, that we’re all one race and that we’re all one country. It kills me to see these people, because one president’s not elected, they start burning the flag. We’re still living in America, we’re still living in one of the greatest countries in the world. It’s just blows my mind.
“It’s truly sad to see that we pit against each other like we’re two rival gangs. We’re all in the same country.”
Caraway splits time between Washington state (blue) and Las Vegas, Nevada (also blue), where he has lived for the most part for the last three years. Still, he says we should take a wait-and-see approach with Trump.
“People were going crazy, taking it to whole new levels,” he said. “All you are is further destroying our country. Just because you didn’t get what you want you’re throwing a fit? They haven’t even given the guy a chance. We don’t even know. Maybe if he starts screwing up, then be pissed off. Until then lets see how he does. Yeah he’s rough around the edges and he has kind of a big mouth and he’s a little crazy, but you know what, there’s some things he brings to the table that he can do well. Every president will have strengths in different areas. Don’t crucify the guy yet, until he does a shitty job.”