UFC Middleweight Champion Sean Strickland doubled down on his viral comments made during the UFC 297 media day after a number of left-wing MMA reporters endorsed the idea of stripping him of the middleweight belt and removing him from this weekend’s main event.
Canadian MMA reporter Alexander K. Lee asked Strickland about previous comments in which he said that having a gay son would mean he failed as a parent. Strickland wasted no time in living up to his outspoken reputation, calling Lee a “weak fu**ing man” while making fun of him for likely voting for Justin Trudeau. The UFC middleweight champion went on to describe Lee’s worldview as an “infection,” adding that transgender ideology equates to mental illness.
Strickland’s comments went viral on X, with many praising his willingness to stick to his beliefs no matter how controversial. The comments did not go over well with a number of left-leaning MMA reporters, however, one of whom called for Strickland to be removed from Saturday’s main event in Toronto.
“MMA fighter Sean Strickland called a journalist – who asked about his own awful comments about having a gay son – an ‘infection.’ And WAY beyond,” SB Nation reporter Cyd Zeigler wrote in an X post. Strickland should be suspended from #UFC297. His language went WAY beyond anything remotely acceptable.”
MMA fighter Sean Strickland called a journalist – who asked about his own awful comments about having a gay son – an "infection." And WAY beyond.
— Cyd Zeigler (@CydZeigler) January 17, 2024
While the post was met with generally negative reactions, it was reposted by a number of journalists, including Lee.
Lee also reposted a rant from longtime radio producer Mike Ryan, who served as executive producer for ESPN’s Dan LeBatard Show for more than a decade. During an appearance on the show, Ryan called on UFC President Dana White to condemn Strickland’s remarks. “That is bullsh** that we allow that. It’s bullsh**. And we can’t ignore it. And we should. If there isn’t going to be a punitive measure, let’s move on. Move the f**k on.”
“But there can’t be a punitive measure, Mike, if the person in charge doesn’t feel anything in the way of pressure. Like, there has to be the outrage and the reaction to it. Now I understand that the reaction these days to the outrage is to simply say, ‘you’re too sensitive. You want to cancel me. This isn’t freedom, you’re being outraged by every little thing,’ but this kind of speech is not a little thing,” LeBatard replied.
Ryan then called on ESPN and its parent company Disney to take action. “It’s just as it’s on ESPN. I asked Jimmy Pataro, what are you what gonads are you gonna show me in this instance? Because that pay-per-view is on ESPN+. That is on ESPN+. And I know Disney is an inclusive company, I worked for it. You say nothing?” he said.
Despite the backlash, Strickland received an overwhelmingly positive embrace from the pre-fight press conference crowd on Thursday, with one fan even rushing the stage in an attempt to shake the UFC champion’s hand.
“But when have you ever seen a UFC champion, George St. Pierre, or anybody else stick up for you f***ing guys? I f***ing do it. I do it. I am not chasing the Chinese check mark of Nike. I don’t give a f*** about that. I care about you guys!” Strickland told the Toronto crowd, drawing massive cheers.
He has been particularly critical of the Canadian government’s ruthless crackdown on Freedom Convoy protesters in 2022, who were beaten by riot police and had their bank accounts seized by the federal government.
“I care about you guys being free. I care about you guys having freedom of speech. I give a f*** about you guys. And I’ll tell you what, you guys are f***ing awesome and I cannot wait to see this man f***ing go to war for you f***ing guys. And I’ll tell you what, you guys are f***ing awesome ,” Strickland said during Thursday’s press conference.
He later uploaded the clip to his personal X account with the caption “hate speech isn’t real. I didn’t know I was fighting in North Korea.”
Strickland will be looking to defend his middleweight title for the first time at UFC 297 in Toronto on Saturday, when he will take on South Africa’s Dricus Du Plessis.