UFC fighter Roy Nelson and promoter Dana White don't like each other very much. That's pretty obvious to any outside observer. That said, “Big Country” hasn't actually done anything to get in trouble beyond pushing buttons with MMA's top promoter...until now.
In a UFC 161 pre-fight interview with Ariel Helwani for MMAFighting.com, Nelson was asked how he felt about fellow heavyweight contender Daniel Cormier saying he wanted to fight him “for Dana White.” Nelson, unwisely, labeled the beef an “Uncle Tom move.”
For those not in the know, the label “Uncle Tom” is a reference to the abolitionist tome “Uncle Tom's Cabin," which effectively humanized the struggle of slaves in the 1800s. Today, however, the label of an “Uncle Tom” is typically made to refer to someone (usually an African-American) who goes out of their way to be subservient to another (usually to a white person) or actively tries to conform to the standards of white society.
The term has come up in MMA in the past. Back when Rashad Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson were exchanging verbal jabs, both Evans and at-the-time Strikeforce light heavyweight champion “King” Mo Lawal took issue with Jackson's portrayal of himself as less-than-intelligent, labeling him in an interview with ESPN an “Uncle Tom” for playing into the “ignorant stereotypes some black men tend to get labeled with.”
The major difference between these instances, of course, is that Lawal and Evans are both African-American, while Nelson is not. The term carries racial weight, which makes it something public figures such as Nelson would be wise to keep out of their vocabulary.
Nelson has never previously said, done or been accused of anything racially-charged, has an ethnically diverse training staff and entourage and is friendly with many prominent black mixed martial artists. There is nothing to indicate that this is anything more than a faux pas on Nelson's part.
However, the UFC is actively trying to stamp out political incorrectness these days and were quick to suspend former lightweight title contender Nate Diaz for using a homophobic slur. While what Diaz did is worse than Nelson's allegation, this incident, in combination with his history of turmoil with Dana White, could reasonably get him a slap from the UFC's disciplinary staff.
Nelson is scheduled to fight up-and-comer Stipe Miocic this Saturday at UFC 161. Look for any possible backlash from the UFC to come after the event.
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