A ranked UFC contender has named a possible reason for the promotion’s ban on athletes carrying the flag of their countries to the Octagon.
Previously, members of the UFC roster have made the walk with flags wrapped around them. That scene was often replicated post-fight, with the victor celebrating their result along with their nation’s colors.
However, in recent times, that trend has been forcibly stopped. That includes before and after fights, as well as during the backstage portrait photos. When asked about the decision at UFC 274 this past May, Dana White was hesitant to confirm the reason for the ban.
“You guys know why,” White told the media at the post-fight press conference. “Let’s not even play that f*cking game.”
UFC welterweight Li Jingliang found out just how serious the promotion is taking the ban this past July, when he had the Chinese flag ripped off him following his victory over Muslim Salikhov.
While details have been kept relatively hush since the ban was introduced, the promotion has come under scrutiny from many fighters and pundits, some of whom have pointed to the organization’s previous open stance on free speech.
Now, a prominent name in the promotion has revealed what he was told prior to his most recent fight, and given a possible reason for the ban.
Ranked Featherweight Discusses “Weird” Flag Prohibition
During a recent interview with The African Fighters, #11-ranked featherweight contender Sodiq Yusuff looked back on his victory inside the Octagon last month, as well as his post-fight interview.
During his interaction with Paul Felder, Yusuff addressed his home nation in Yoruba, a language primarily spoken in southwestern and central Nigeria. Recalling what he’d said, “Super Sodiq” noted that he’d apologized for not wearing the country’s flag.
Yusuff, who always wore a banner with the Nigerian flag on pre- and post-fight, revealed that he’d been threatened with a fine should he continue wearing it. He also cited the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a possible reason for the UFC’s stringent policy.
“The flag thing, it was so weird,” Yusuff said. “They always let me wear my bandana, but that weekend, they told me, they said, ‘Hey, if you wear the flag, we’re gonna fine you a lot of money.’ So it wasn’t worth it. They were like, ‘You can’t wear it anywhere the UFC cameras are gonna catch.’
“Because I think of what’s going on with Russia and Ukraine. They don’t want them to wear the flag because of the war, so they said they can’t just single them out, they said they’re gonna do everybody. So nobody can wear their flag,” Yusuff concluded.
Despite Russia invading Ukraine in February, UFC 274 in May marked the first pay-per-view event where flags were prohibited. And at UFC 272 in March, Maryna Moroz was able to proudly fly the Ukrainian flag as she celebrated an emotional victory over Mariya Agapova.
What potentially altered the promotion’s stance is unknown, but Yusuff’s comments certainly support a theory that many have shared since the ban’s introduction.
What do you make of the UFC’s decision to ban flags?
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