UFC veteran explains why UFC is more conservative leaning than NFL, NBA, and MLB

Jake Shields is a former UFC star and a conservative internet personality. He recently shared his perspective on why the UFC appears to be more conservative leaning compared to leagues like the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

According to Shields, the nature of mixed martial arts itself lends itself to a more conservative mindset among fighters. “There’s nothing more real than getting in a cage and fighting another man,” Shields told Twins podcast. “You can’t make excuses. There’s no team. I think something about that, getting in there and just fighting, makes everything just f***ing real.”

Shields contrasted MMA with other sports that have embraced social justice messaging more prominently. He believes many athletes in those leagues were “forced into politics” by backlash against statements like “all lives matter.” Shields cited LeBron James initially using that phrase before being criticized for it.

The UFC has been noticeably quieter on political matters compared to widespread activism seen across the NBA, NFL, and MLB in recent years. Shields thinks the UFC’s resistance to activism comes from the individual nature of the sport. “The culture of UFC is no excuses. It’s man versus man.”

While a few UFC fighters have voiced support for causes like Black Lives Matter, Shields said most Black fighters he knows didn’t really get behind that movement. He believes the UFC’s hands-off approach allowed fighters to express themselves as individuals without being pushed one way or the other.

Ultimately, Shields feels the brutal reality and personal accountability required in MMA creates a mindset not as accommodating to external political influences as team sports. “There’s nothing more real than a fight,” he said. “That just makes everything f***ing real.”

But it’s not that simple.

Previously MMA journalist Ariel Helwani highlighted apparent hypocrisy from the UFC regarding freedom of speech in a conversation with journalist Pablo Torre. Helwani discusses how the UFC and Dana White previously punished fighters for offensive comments but now champion free speech, citing a shift in the organization’s stance over the years. He attributes this change to the UFC’s business incentives, particularly its record $4 billion sale in 2016, and its alignment with right-wing politics and figures like Donald Trump.

By marketing the UFC as an organization that won’t “cancel” people for their speech, Helwani suggests the UFC taps into sentiments of a large portion of its fanbase, generating publicity and framing that benefits its bottom line. He concludes that the UFC prioritizes its business interests over a true commitment to free speech, protecting speech that generates buzz and revenue while seeking to curb or punish speech that may hurt its brand or relationships. Helwani argues that the UFC’s “free speech absolutism” stance is primarily a brand-building strategy driven by profit considerations rather than a principled stand on rights and fairness.