At least one fighter on the UFC roster doesn’t sound like he’s buying into the narrative that it was okay for White to hit is wife or that he shouldn’t be held accountable for it.
When it came to the UFC’s athletes, Dana White’s domestic violence incident—where he was captured on video slapping his wife several times at a bar in Cabo San Lucas—ignited a wave of statements. Not against White for his actions, but against fans and pundits who would dare to suggest that the promotion president was out of line and should face some kind of repercussion for his actions.
Even noted anti-DV advocate Derek Brunson (who famously wore an “I beat up domestic abusers” t-shirt) found himself backpedaling into the safe zone of “second chances.”
Was Dana White wrong , “YES” . Men shouldn’t hit women. Do I feel this is a reflection of who Dana White is , NO. Dana has been a component of second chances . I think speaking up against the topic and maybe sit out two events is fair! He admitted he was wrong !
— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) January 3, 2023
UFC fighters willing to speak up against White’s actions with any conviction or vigor have been few and far between. A position that makes Tony Ferguson’s recent actions on social media worth noting. The former interim lightweight champ took to Twitter to air his feelings about his long time fight promoter, noting that White’s violence against his wife is a reflection of the way he treats athletes behind the scenes.
It’s gonna take a class action lawsuit to let some these so called untouchables get a taste of there own medicine *mack* If this fucker treated his lady in public like that, how do you think he treats his fighters undeneath #askme @DisneyStudios @danawhite @ufc TUF Chanp pic.twitter.com/fpFoQAtYtZ
— Tony Ferguson (@TonyFergusonXT) February 25, 2023
Ferguson himself was the subject of a 2019 restraining order from his wife during what appears to have been something of a psychotic episode for the then-35-year-old. Statements at the time reported that ‘El Cucuy’ went without sleep for three days and started “tearing apart” the family home as a result—under paranoid delusions that “someone was inside his walls.” However, Ferguson’s wife also told police that he did not physically harm anyone at the time, and that her restraining order was directed at getting him into treatment. It was dropped only a month later.
As for White, the UFC president faced a brief wave of criticism from media members for his actions, but made it clear he would not address the incident publicly further, and would not face any internal suspension from his duties with the UFC. Instead, he claimed that the real punishment would be the labels he’d have to carry for the rest of his life.
“There’s a lot of things that I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of my life that are way more of a punishment than what, I take a 30-day [or a] 60-day absence?” White told reporters. “That’s not a punishment to me. The punishment is that I did it, and now I have to deal with it.”
In the meantime, the UFC has already had to face pressure from an existing class action lawsuit from former fighters. While getting through the court system has been an agonizingly slow process, that legal battle has yielded some positive results. Francis Ngannou’s ability to sunset his deal with the world’s largest MMA promotion, while still holding the heavyweight title, is almost certainly a direct result of the class action challenge to UFC contract language. It’s also likely why the UFC has modified their more recent contracts with language that makes filing a class action suit against them in the future just that much more difficult.