UFC president Dana White made some controversial comments at the UFC 297 press conference when asked whether he considered asking middleweight contender Sean Strickland to “tone down” his trash talk leading up to his title defense against Dricus Du Plessis.
White gave an emphatic defense of free speech, saying “I don’t f***ing tell any other human being what to say, what to think, and there’s no leashes on any of them.”
He continued: “What is your question? It’s ridiculous to say I give somebody a leash. Free speech, brother. People can say whatever they want. They can believe whatever they want.”
White has long alleged he had a policy of not censoring what UFC star say, no matter how controversial their statements may be. He believes it is not his role to police fighter speech or beliefs.
However, Strickland did face public backlash for offensive comments he made during fight week about wanting to “kill somebody” in the octagon. Sponsors and broadcast partners often do not appreciate controversy, but White confirmed there was no pressure from any UFC partners over Strickland’s remarks.
The end result was Strickland losing a close split decision in his title bout against Du Plessis at UFC 297. But White asserted that Strickland remains a star who can draw big crowds, and he will likely get another title shot soon given the narrow loss.
As for free speech, White was adamant he will continue his hands-off approach, saying there are “no leashes” on UFC stars when it comes to speaking their minds.