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“Welcome to this oasis of freedom.” — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
The UFC has led since the earliest days of the latest novel coronavirus and the pandemic. Always focused on real safety and on connecting fighters with audiences, Dana White and the company immediately designed protocols to stage events with everyone tested. From the earliest days, they were clear that there was no money in partially filled venues. Keep it on video or go big. Finally, Florida is getting a chance to shine as the first location to return to true normality.
The fans are packing out the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena for UFC 261, with 15,269 roaring appreciation for every fight. In the words of UFC fight announcer Bruce Buffer: “It’s Tiiiime!” Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry were on stage at the final pre-fight news conference. The event card is loaded with top talent, with three exciting champions defending their belts at the top of the fight ticket. As it turned out, this event provided more than one lesson in freedom, as we learned through one of the championship bouts.
Here is the slick promotional video welcoming fans back:
Here is the news conference featuring the three champions and their challengers, along with Dana White and, because this event is a refutation of the panic porn agenda, the governor and mayor came up to speak first. Listen past the politicians at your own risk past the 5:45 mark, as UFC fighters and Dana White can get raw.
A quick observation from the early preliminary fight card:
The event is mask-optional, per Florida rules, and most people are not muffling their enthusiasm. Oh, and the ring girls, who hold up the round number cards, a very important job, are not wearing silly masks. The first referee and the corner teams are wearing masks when they step into the octagon, along with the protective medical gloves they always wear. The second referee, with long beard and shaved head, is going without the mask. The first celebrity audience shot was of Tim Tebow and his wife Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, a former Miss Universe, smiling and waving to the camera.
The main event:
The preliminary bouts were solid, some giving competitors a chance to impress their first time in the UFC big time. The main event started with a reminder that there are much greater risks than COVID-19 for athletes. Chris Weidman, a veteran UFC competitor, lost the first fight of the main event before his opponent, Uriah Hall, could even throw a punch or kick. Weidman threw a strong leg kick and his tibia and fibula snapped, his leg grotesquely folding. He was stabilized and stretchered out for what will be extensive medical treatment and a long recovery. I will not show that footage, which is widely available, instead, here is the class and caring of UFC competitors.
The evening was set back on a positive note as Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko, age 25, defended her 125-pound title in dominant fashion, throwing her veteran Brazilian UFC opponent to the canvas at will. Then an American former champion, a Lithuanian American, knocked out the CCP’s sweetheart, the first Chinese UFC champion in any division, Zhang Weili. Weili Zhang is an elite athlete, whose 5 round war and victory over a Polish former champion, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, was the last great crowd event in March 2020. Rose “Thug” Namajunas was another former 115-pound champion, who quietly called to everyone’s attention the bigger political picture on Lithuanian media:
In an interview with LRT.lt, the 28-year-old Lithuanian-American fighter spoke about her focus on the upcoming fight and winning against her Chinese rival.
“I don’t hate Weili or anything like that,” explained Namajunas. “But I do feel as though I have a lot to fight for in this fight.”
[ . . . ]
“I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Weili is red, that’s what she represents,” said Namajunas. “It’s nothing personal against her, but that’s a huge motivating factor of why I fight.”
“. . . it’s better dead than red.”
[ . . . ]
“I fight for freedom and I’ve got the Christ consciousness, I’ve got Lithuanian blood and I’ve got the American dream, and all those things I’m taking into this fight,” said Namajunas.
So, the CCP star fell to a kick to the head from the daughter of Lithuanians who fled the Russian communist empire. The sound of the crowd, with the announcers having to shout to be heard, makes all the difference in a great sports moment. I embedded a Barstool Sports tweet with the video of the knockout, but that video was blocked. Here is the best I could find on YouTube:
You will notice Zhang back on her feet but clearly not all there after the referee stopped the fight. If you have not followed MMA, the moment when Rose dives in with hammer fists after knocking down her opponent is exactly what she is supposed to do. Zhang was still moving, the referee had not called a stop, so you keep fighting or you might lose the fight to an opponent who manages to clear their head and get back in the game. The referee gets in close to see if Zhang is defending herself, decides she is not, then physically covers Zhang, waving Rose off. That was exactly the right thing to do, protecting the health of the fighter.
“I did it again, but [points up] God did it man, I just had to have faith in Him, and that’s what got me through . . .”
Meanwhile, Xi and the CCP are beating and imprisoning faithful Christians in China who will not embrace CCP approved heretical “churches,” and turning an entire Muslim ethno-nation into a gulag, committing another communist mass atrocity. Indeed Xi and the CCP have been committing genocide, according to the official determination of President Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo:
Party apparatchiks have denied international observers unhindered access to Xinjiang and denounced reliable reports about the worsening situation on the ground, instead spinning fanciful tales of happy Uyghurs participating in educational, counter-terror, women’s empowerment, and poverty alleviation projects. Meanwhile, they are delivering far darker messages to their own people, portraying Uyghurs as “malignant tumors,” comparing their faith to a “communicable plague,” and exhorting the Party faithful to implement a crushing blow, telling them “you can’t uproot all the weeds hidden among the crops in the field one-by-one; you need to spray chemicals to kill them all.”
Since the Allied forces exposed the horrors of Nazi concentration camps, the refrain “Never again” has become the civilized world’s rallying cry against these horrors. Just because an atrocity is perpetrated in a manner that is different than what we have observed in the past, does not make it any less an atrocity. Today, I thus make the following determinations:
- After careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that since at least March 2017, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), under the direction and control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has committed crimes against humanity against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other members of ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. These crimes are ongoing and include: the arbitrary imprisonmentor other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians, forced sterilization, torture of a large number of those arbitrarily detained, forced labor, and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement. The Nuremberg Tribunals at the end of World War II prosecuted perpetrators for crimes against humanity, the same crimes being perpetrated in Xinjiang.
- In addition, after careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that the PRC, under the direction and control of the CCP, has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state. The governing authorities of the second most economically, militarily, and politically powerful country on earth have made clear that they are engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group, even as they simultaneously assert their country as a global leader and attempt to remold the international system in their image.
Dana White, in the post-fight press conference, said that a rematch was the obvious next fight to make.
The final fight was a welterweight championship rematch in which Kamaru Usman defeated Jorge Masvidal by knockout, the first in Masvidal’s 50 professional fights. Mazvidal made a critical mistake, letting down his hands while throwing a leg kick, probably to set up a takedown attempt. The two men hugged and expressed respect for one another moments after the fight was over. Here is a class act as a competitor and a father:
He caught me by surprise. He got my number. He won this fair and square, and God bless him, man . . . To my daughter and son watching, I’m OK, Daddy’s OK. Don’t worry, I’ll be home in no time, its just a little mosquito bite . . . No matter whether I win or lose, this journey has been the most blessed for me, for where I come from, to be headlining here . . . thank you God for everything.
Dana White commented extensively, positively, on Florida in the UFC 261 post-fight press conference, available on YouTube, but you have to know that he drops F-bombs generously.Published in