SAN JOSE, Calif. – UFC President Dana White said he’s spoken with Matt Mitrione, and he’s no longer upset at the heavyweight following his unfortunate transphobic remarks. However, Mitrione is still on indefinite suspension, and he was issued a significant fine, to boot.
“I’m not mad at Mitrione,” White said at today’s pre-UFC on FOX 7 media session. “He did something stupid. He knows he did something stupid. He knows the way he said it, he didn’t handle it the right way. He knows he did, so I can respect that.
“We’ll let him know when we decide (how long the suspension will last). He was fined, too – enough to make him call me three times. I bet he’ll think. I bet before words come out of his mouth … he’s going to go, ‘I better not say that. That’s not good. That’s going to cost me some money.’”
This past week, during an appearance on The MMA Hour, Mitrione called transgender fighter Fallon Fox a “lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak.” In response, the UFC issued statement saying the heavyweight’s contract had been suspended while the incident was investigated.
White said that investigation included a phone call with the heavyweight, who was immediately regretful for his choice of words.
“From the first day we talked, he handled the whole thing like a man,” White told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “He said some ignorant comments that made him sound like a complete jackass and a bigot. He knew what he said was wrong.”
The incident – and Fox, herself – have become hot-button topics in MMA as the community tries to educate itself on the plight of transgender fighters while also determining how to treat them moving forward. White said he’s all for healthy debate and even suggested he doesn’t currently believe a woman born as a man should be allowed to compete against other women. However, he said Mitrione’s approach to the situation was simply not appropriate.
“It’s not that I don’t necessarily agree with what [Mitrione] was saying because I have the same issue with a man who becomes a woman,” White said. “You have different bone structure. You have a different jawline. You have all the things of a man. It’s completely different. But he knew what he did was wrong. If he was standing in front of a panel or a judge, and he was arguing on why someone who used to be a man shouldn’t be allowed to fight a woman, he wouldn’t have said it the way that he said it. He would have said it completely different, and there’s nothing wrong with having a point of view.
“Everybody’s crying, ‘Oh, it’s freedom of speech.’ Yeah, OK. Work at any company in the world, OK, and give your opinion where you come off sounding like an ignorant bigot and see how long you last with that company. He could have done it the right way, and nobody would have said anything to him. He can have an opinion. It’s just how you state your opinion.”
For now, the state of Florida has agreed on Fox’s right to compete as a woman, leading some to question White as to whether or not he would allow her to compete in the UFC. White has chosen to largely deflect the issue by pointing out Fox is nowhere near UFC ready.
“The Fallon Fox thing, I mean I don’t even think about it,” White said. “Fallon Fox is so far from being in the UFC. It’s like talking about some lower level guy that fights in some smaller organization that’s beat people with losing records, and we’re seriously debating about the guy.”
That said, White knows it’s an issue that’s not going to just go away but admits he’s not the most qualified individual to make a ruling on the future of transgender athletes in the sport.
In 2004, the International Olympic Committee adopted a set of rules that outlined the requirement for a transgender athlete to compete, a set of guidelines that requires surgery and at least two years of hormone therapy. But thus far, the Olympics has yet to see a transgender athlete compete in a combat sport, such as boxing. White said he’ll likely use the IOC’s precedent – whenever it’s ultimately set – as a guiding principle.
“My thought was that running, pole vaulting and doing all these things is whatever, but when you actually get physical and you start punching? But I’ll leave that up to people that are smarter than me,” White said. “If scientists want to go in and say if you get this operation done and the hormones that you get put on change your physical structure and your strength, I’ll leave it up to the professionals and let them decide.
“If this thing happens at an Olympic level, and I mean an Olympic level where there’s a combat sport that accepts it, I’m sure they’re going to do the homework, and smarter people than me will make that decision.”
In the meantime, Mitrione will remain on the sidelines until further notice. White would not reveal the amount of the fine (though he did say Mitrione’s reaction was, ‘Come on dude, seriously. This much?’). But he said he’s ready to forgive and move on.
“He did he right thing,” White said. “If he got on the phone and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got my freedom of speech, and I can say what I want,’ I guess to a point he’s right. You just can’t work here if you want to say stupid stuff like that. You can say whatever you want. Not in here, though.”
(Pictured: Matt Mitrione)