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Whitlock: ESPN, Dana White, Connor McGregor, and the Trump Missile Crisis at UFC 264

Op-ed
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For nearly a decade, ESPN has waged a Cold War with traditional sports fans.

At the behest of its China-obsessed parent company, Disney, and Silicon Valley social media apps, the Worldwide Leader in Sports has done everything in its power to infuse patriotic sports fans with anti-American sentiment and bitterness.

ESPN disapproves of main street, working-class America, and it absolutely despises Trump supporters.

That's what makes the network's shotgun marriage to Dana White's UFC so fascinating. That's why UFC 264, Connor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier, felt a bit like the Trump Missile Crisis.

Saturday night, moments before McGregor and Poirier entered the octagon, Dana White rolled and readied a ballistic nuclear missile ringside — Donald J. Trump. Frustrated by President Joe Biden's landslide Bay of Pigs Election, White personally escorted the former president to his seat at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The capacity crowd went wild, chanting "USA! USA! USA!"

ESPN ignored the whole thing. They never mentioned that the former president was in the building. The Worldwide Leader followed the guidelines prescribed by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. America's social media apps disappeared the 45th president. Like an obedient soldier, ESPN did, too.

This is wild. Trump's appearance was news. White's very public embrace of Trump is fascinating and newsworthy. It's not surprising. White is a longtime Trump supporter. But White and the UFC's stance is completely different from Roger Goodell and the NFL, Adam Silver and the NBA, Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball.

Our major sports leagues and commissioners would run from Trump as if he were a pack of Wuhan bats.

Personally, I don't find mixed martial arts all that entertaining. I don't enjoy street fights. I love boxing, the sweet science. However, I'm attracted to what the UFC has come to represent under White's guidance. The UFC is America first. Its fanbase is patriotic.

White is a combination of old Raiders owner Al Davis and deceased NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle. The NFL surpassed baseball as America's pastime partially because Rozelle intentionally marketed the league as supportive of law enforcement, the military and traditional American values. White is following Rozelle's formula.

It's odd to see the NFL lean in the opposite direction today.

There's a business cliche that the "customer is always right." This is no longer true in America. Major corporations do not care about the customer, not the American customer.

ESPN seems unconcerned with antagonizing its audience. And it has zero concern for giving its audience what it wants. UFC fans would've delighted in ESPN acknowledging Trump's attendance, and probably would've been pleased had a reporter interviewed the former president.

UFC fans don't view Trump as a pariah. They don't believe there was an "insurrection" on Jan. 6. That's a myth created by CNN, MSNBC, and the Democratic Party.

But let's remove Trump from the equation. There was at least one other flaming example of ESPN's disregard for its audience. Broadcaster Stephen A. Smith was part of the pre-fight coverage. He showed up dressed like he'd walked off the set of "Shaft."

Smith is an excellent NBA commentator. He knows virtually nothing about mixed martial arts and the UFC. His lack of MMA knowledge is no secret. He was part of the broadcast because ESPN must justify his $8-million-a-year contract.

Twenty years ago, ESPN would pay a swift and deadly price for treating its customers this poorly. Now? The checks and balances of capitalism have been undermined by China's economic influence and the modern monetary theory of endlessly printing money.

The bad guys are winning the new cold war.

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