Jesus Christ, it hasn’t even been 24 hours since a notable MMA figure said something unbelievably stupid. Yet here we are again. This time the culprit is Roy Nelson, who called fellow UFC heavyweight Daniel Cormier an “Uncle Tom” during an interview with Ariel Helwani. As BloodyElbow summarizes:
Ariel brought up Daniel Cormier’s recent statements that he wants to kick Nelson’s ass in part “for Dana White.” Nelson went a bizarre direction with his response, stating “Having a lot of black friends. They would say that would be more of an Uncle Tom move.”
Pushed to expand on what made it an “Uncle Tom move,” Nelson laughed and said “That’s what my friends were saying. And I was just like ‘wow!’ Hey it is what it is. You gotta do what you can do for the boss.”
Wow, indeed. While I’m not one to try to rank the degrees of horribleness between different ways of denigrating an entire people…yeah, this is probably the worst thing that’s been uttered this week by pretty much any public figure in American sports. And Nelson — who is managed by Mike Kogan‘s RealTalk Entertainment, by the way — has no lack of competition.
If you’re unaware of what the phrase “Uncle Tom” means and what the implications of its use are, go ahead and brush up on that. Of course, this isn’t the first instance of “Uncle Tom” being used in pugilistic trash talk — Muhammad Ali famously taunted Joe Frazier with the epithet during their rivalry. Afterwards, Frazier would take pride in his contributions to Ali’s physical and mental decline. So despite the fact that Ali had “a lot of black friends” himself, even he couldn’t get away with it.
I doubt Roy Nelson has any idea what it was he actually said. And I doubt Daniel Cormier is going to take as much offense as Joe Frazier did. But this is entirely unacceptable. Nelson should expect to be hit hard by the UFC for this, maybe with the hardest punishment the promotion has ever handed down. I’m not so sure this is necessarily a fireable offense, or at least I don’t believe it should be, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it becomes one. Nelson’s contract is expiring soon and he’s never been Dana White’s favorite employee. If anything, he’s the perfect candidate for the UFC to make an example of if it wants to claim its personal conduct policy has some serious teeth.
Then again, maybe they’ll keep him around for one more fight. I bet Cormier wouldn’t mind.