Fuelled by the coronavirus pandemic, subsequent lockdown, and the ongoing political tension in the lead-up to the presidential elections in November, the past few months have seen a noticeable trend of MMA fighters peddling conspiracy theories.
A conspiracy theory is defined as a theory that “rejects the standard explanation for an event and instead credits a covert group or organization with carrying out a secret plot.” In some cases, they presume that some social and political events are little more than deceptive plots that are either unknown to the general public or are designed to mislead them. Such theories include QAnon (designated a domestic terrorism threat by the FBI), false flag operations (such as Sandy Hook, which has been widely discredited), anti-semitism theories (such as George Soros conspiracies), Flat Earth, and anti-vaccination.
This article will serve as a comprehensive list of all the MMA fighters that are currently using their online platforms to spread conspiracy theories.
Current UFC fighters
Back in May, UFC welterweight Jorge Masvidal shared a false quote attributed to Kurt Cobain, which predicted Donald Trump’s presidency along with the hashtag “QAnon”.
When asked to comment on the hashtag and the fake quote, Masvidal shared his COVID-19 skepticism before claiming that he posted the QAnon reference to ‘provoke thought.’
“Do I agree with everything that’s on this website? No,” Masvidal said. “And why I did that was just to spark talk. I’m not affiliating myself with QAnon. Like I said, I was provoking thought there. Like, ‘Hey, this is some crazy stuff. What’s going on here? Check this out.’ That’s it. I’m not telling nobody to believe that word for word. All I’m telling everybody, anybody listening to me, do your own research, man. Do your own homework. That’s it. That’s all I’m saying.”
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya shared conspiracy theories and fake posts regarding the COVID-19 vaccination on his Instagram account. (h/t BE’s Alex Scaffidi) \
Tiktok conspiracies. Are you having trouble going to his profile yourself? pic.twitter.com/jvEBVynFhM— Alex Scaffidi (@alexscaffidi_) December 24, 2020
Reposting this part of Israel Adesanya's IG story with updated articles on this incident to ensure they're seen:— Alex Scaffidi (@alexscaffidi_) December 24, 2020
Full video with the other four nurses that were vaccinated in the televised demonstration: https://t.co/s8L0OphMqz
UMC statement: https://t.co/xcWdu5XD3A pic.twitter.com/rDFM3ki0fE
Beyond his belief of harnessing the powers of rock crystals like pyrite, UFC middleweight Jared Cannonier’s twitter account is filled with conspiracy theories about QAnon, Antifa, Bill Gates, the George Floyd killing, Freemasonry, and the deep state. He referred to former U.S. President Barack Obama as a “lying ass Freemason” before signing off with the phrase “death to pedophiles.”
Here is a round-up of a handful of his tweets (h/t BE’s Alex Scaffidi)
Okay, I went through Jared Cannonier's Twitter so you wouldn't have to. There is a lot to unpack. Here you go: pic.twitter.com/qMe5BeROxu— Alex Scaffidi (@alexscaffidi_) August 1, 2020
On July 3rd, 2020, UFC lightweight Spike Carlyle shared anti-Semitic propaganda on his social media, including a post that claimed Jewish people were the “real invisible enemy” and not the ongoing pandemic.
Spike Carlyle's current IG story is a whole trip and a half. pic.twitter.com/jiguMn0JMs— Alex Scaffidi (@alexscaffidi_) July 3, 2020
Carlyle eventually removed that particular image and provided this statement to Bloody Elbow’s Alex Scaffidi.
“I’m Anti-Zionist, Freemasonry, and Jesuitism,” Carlyle said. “I didn’t read the ‘[F—k] Israel’ hashtags. I’m not an anti-Semite and have Jewish blood in me. I am pro-Israel especially since they are necessary for end times bible prophecy.”
Carlyle alleged that the UFC was taking his anti-Semitic statements seriously but the promotion has not taken any action against the fighter.
UFC featherweight Bryce Mitchell – who once asked Donald Trump to call him if he “needs help whooping some politician” – believes that the coronavirus is a bioweapon “made by the government.” He added that the government “infected the people on purpose to cause some type of chaos” in order to “try and take our guns”
Mitchell is best known as the fighter who tore his scrotum with a power drill.
The UFC flyweight appears to be under the impression that the preventative measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic (including mandatory masks) is some sort of biblical prophecy foreshadowing armageddon.
Former UFC fighters
Tito Ortiz is arguably one of the most conspiracy-driven UFC veterans. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hall-of-fame inductee shared several outlandish and easily debunked coronavirus conspiracies, including that the virus is “man-made” in order to quash protests around the world.
He later shared a bizarre and unfounded conspiracy theory surrounding the death of George Floyd, the African-American man who was killed by police officer Derek Chauvin when he kneeled on his neck to pin him down for several minutes until he suffocated. Ortiz claimed that Floyd’s death was not due to suffocation but was due to a heart condition and is linked to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
Tito Ortiz has a George Floyd conspiracy theory pic.twitter.com/PcIIbB6oEu— Borrachinha Depot (@FullContactMTWF) May 31, 2020
Ortiz, an emphatic Trump supporter, has continued to use his platform to spread dangerous theories. Beyond his COVID-19 denialism and strange paranoia, the former UFC champion is now selling QAnon apparel through his Punishment Athletics clothing line. (HT: @FullContactMTWF)
He is also dating Mindy Robinson, a self-proclaimed “conservative activist” who calls Black Lives Matter protestors “thugs” and promotes anti-mask movements.
Former UFC champion Rich Franklin, who is currently the VP at ONE Championship, has used his social media to push his disdain for COVID-19, preventative measures such as mandatory masks and social distancing, and conspiracies regarding lockdown measures and child trafficking.
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Today I read this headline and thought the world should immediately go back to “normal.” - - The CDC quietly adjusted their statistics, but ch. 12 in my hometown, Cincinnati, reported on it. The is a CBS affiliate...a legitimate news source. - - Why didn’t things go back to normal? Because the world is being primed for fear and compliance. Our children will grow up in an isolated word of being corrected as toddlers for hugging someone.- - We are in a world where kids will sit in the isolation of plexiglass between them at school lunch, people need to be spaced at least 6 feet in public. - - Handshakes, hugs and kisses on the cheek are a thing of yesterday. Thank God we have these masks to save us. - - Open your mind...local businesses are suffering, we can’t celebrate our faith, depression, anxiety and suicide have increased. We are missing out on concerts, sporting events...literally stripped of our way of life. - - 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind. - #cdc #plandemic #wakeup #priming #nofear #freewill
Strikeforce and UFC veteran Josh Thomson is among those who has been pushing COVID-19 conspiracies, including posts about the preventative measures taking place in California to combat the pandemic. In one post, he even referenced George Soros (a boogeyman for the far-right). He has also posted false information about a child trafficking incident in Georgia, which was pushed by QAnon.
Much like Franklin and Thompson, former UFC contender Brandon Vera has been swept up in the QAnon wave and has used his Instagram account to target “elite pedophiles” and blaming mainstream media for an apparent wide scale cover-up. He has also accused democrats of covering up for elite pedophiles and has even referred to BLM protestors as a “terrorist organization.”
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This is going to hard to hear for everyone. . -The Truth Hurts- . From @richacefranklin Former CIA operations officer Robert David Steele discusses the prevalence of pedophilia and human trafficking so matter of factly, not just globally, but in the US as well.- - I hope this post opens your eyes if you are just hearing this. If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem...it is time to hold people accountable- - It is becoming more difficult to push things like Pizzagate or Wayfair off as conspiracy theories.- - Robert talks about children’s organizations like The Boyscouts becoming a place where pedophiles rise through the ranks and control such organizations.- - He discusses Military bases being “lily pads” everything from smuggling drugs to smuggling humans. - - If you think the Harvey Weinsteins and Jeffery Epsteins of the world are isolated situations, start connecting the dots. - #wakeup #openyoureyes #awakeming
He also has conspiracies regarding COVID-19.
Dating as far back as 2015, Urijah Faber has been vocal about his stance on mandatory vaccinations, joining the ranks of anti-vaxxers growing across the United States. He opposed California Senate Bill 277, which removed personal belief as a reason for an exemption from vaccination requirements. His opposition to the bill — despite an outbreak of measles in California in February 2015 — failed to get the necessary number of signatures for their petition.
Following the death of his infant son in 2017, Nick Catone started a daily journal on Facebook where he regularly blamed vaccinations for the tragedy. The 20-month old toddler died 17 days after receiving a DTaP vaccination that immunizes kids under age 7 from diptheria, tetanus and whooping cough.
Catone’s son has since been used on anti-vaccine billboards spreading dangerous misinformation like “Vaccines Can Kill”
Facebook deleted Catone’s account shortly thereafter, which led to Catone filing a lawsuit against Facebook earlier this year. His lawsuit claims that Facebook’s censorship of anti-vaccine advocates “embodies its categorical attempt to cater to the pharmaceutical industry.”
“Because the sum of $5 billion appears to be insufficient to deter Facebook, the plaintiff asks the jury for a sum significantly in excess of that amount,” he said.
Catone took to social media to explain his position, claiming he is “ex-vax” and will continue to fight to reveal the “truth.”
“First of all I’m not anti-vax, I’m ex-vax. My wife’s a nurse, we vaccinated thought we were doing what we were supposed to and our pediatrician and the bullshit system failed us. All about money. Healthy 20 month olds don’t just pass away in their sleep. People need to know the truth about my son. We have proof and I’ll fight as long as it takes. This happened to the wrong father and family. I’ll never stop fighting. I’m not going away.”
Here is an example of one of his anti-vax posts on Instagram.
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Tomorrow is IT, people!!! S2173/A3818 in Full Senate AND Assembly at 1pm. Tomorrow our GOVERMENT will decide if they will strip us of our Religious Freedoms, our Constitutional Right of Medical Freedom! They will decide if they have the RIGHT to inject us with WHATEVER they want! To line your children in the halls of their schools and Vaccinate them with whatever they want: WITHOUT YOUR CONCENT!!!! ✔ HPV ✔ FLU ✔ WHATEVER THE HELL THEY BELIEVE THEY NEED . . Everything changes if this bill goes through. Not only are they going after our children stripping away our rights as parents, they have a plan set up to go after adults next. You won’t be able to get a drivers license, passport , health insurance unless you are up to date on all shots. . . People are not taking this serious and need to understand what is at stake here. Try to get someone from your household in Trenton tomorrow, tell family members friends everyone you can or In a 180 days when your kids are no longer welcome in school, you will have to quit your job anyways to homeschool. Don’t count on others being there. So many people are upset about this but nobody from their family is going to fight, we need numbers in Trenton. . . . Stand up and Fight for your CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS people. They may be gone tomorrow. THIS IS OUR LAST CHANCE!!! #flyhighnicholas✈️ #Repost @robertfkennedyjr with @get_repost
Former UFC fighter Vik Grujic challenged the Premier of Victoria to a fight due to the strict COVID-19 lockdown measures in place. He has spent the past few months claiming that the coronavirus is a “hoax” and that “communism reigns supreme” in Melbourne, Australia. He ranted about the restrictive measures in place following a surge in cases, adding that his city is “under siege” by a “dictator.” He has also called for Andrews to be lynched.
“The only thing wicked is you,” Grujic tweeted at Andrews last week. “You are evil. You will pay a heavy price for your betrayal. Human rights violations. Answer to no one. State funded propaganda through the vile [mainstream media]. Retribution is coming.”
Former UFC champion Pat Miletich has used his social media accounts and podcasts to discuss a wide range of conspiracy theories, mostly revolving around domestic and international politics. He has retweeted posts by Andy Ngo (a right-wing provocateur who fashions himself as a gonzo journalist), George Soros conspiracies, and seems to believe there is a communist conspiracy to take guns away from American citizens.
Miletich also hosts a podcast called the Conspiracy Farm, which has hosted the likes of Tim Kennedy, Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, and Peter Schiff, who predicted the 2008 financial crisis and was later the economic advisor for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign.
When asked to share his thoughts on the “uncertain times” we’re living through, Miletich had this to say:
“It’s a race against time and a race against two sides to be honest with you. A lot of people like to discount the term Deep State, and that it even exists, but now we see mainstream media has started to pick up on the phrase and use it every once in a while. The establishment is a business model of corruption. Politicians across the globe, including our own are deeply entrenched in it. There are a few that are not, luckily. And I do believe that as much of a prick as Donald Trump is, he is trying to get rid of these guys. I think that a lot of the resignations, and the people deciding not to run for office again, are a sign that its actually working. You’re seeing a massive amount of CEO’s resign over the past year. I think there’s a lot of stuff going on behind that scenes that people don’t fully understand.”
The former UFC heavyweight champion and three-time King of Pancrase world champion appeared in a video on his personal Instagram account wearing a QAnon shirt with the slogan WWG1WGA (Where We Go One We Go All), which is synonymous with the movement.
Interestingly, Rutten’s video was not about QAnon but about a CBD vape pen that he is currently using.
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Love this thing! And again, I do NOT get paid for this, I post this only because I love it! The Hanu Stone is launching today in California. The Stone is normally $70 but as a launch special, they are reducing it to $35 if you also purchase a pod with it. SPARC and Harborside are our main locations in Northern California and Buds N Roses in Southern California. You can also use their store locator here: https://hanulabs.com/pages/store-locator. #HanuStone #GetHanu and #GetStone
The UFC veteran recently tweeted that stem cell therapy “helps” in treating autism, even though the therapy has no scientific backing.
Check out the link for the journal on the clinical evidence for Mesenchymal stem cells that help in treating autism. https://t.co/lDO7XjTeHb#ASD #autism #Autismtreatment #CellTherapy #Mesenchymalstemcells #StemCellTherapy— Angela Magana (@AngelaMagana1) February 14, 2020
It should be noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of stem cells for blood disorders, including cancer, but not for autism.
In 2013, former UFC champion Ronda Rousey retweeted a video clip suggesting that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, CT was a government conspiracy. She later deleted the original tweet but defended her reasoning by stating “ I just figure asking questions and doing research is more patriotic than blindly accepting what you’re told.”
In response to a question about why he liked a tweet by U.S. President Donald Trump, former UFC champion Rashad Evans tweeted what appears to be a deep state conspiracy theory related to COVID-19 and the end of the “republic.”
As a country we are separated by race and divided by IGNORANCE. That IGNORANCE is what keeps us blind from the traitors that have crept into council and now look to do away with our REPUBLIC by insidious means #COVID— Rashad Evans (@SugaRashadEvans) September 4, 2020
Former UFC heavyweight Justin Willis uses his social media accounts to spread a wide range of conspiracy theories, including anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda, anti-semitism, anti-vaxx theories, and other unfounded ideas.
Speak now or forever hold your peace. Fuck truth back to your vanity, and artificial sanity! #nogreaterproofthantime— Justin Willis (@BigPrettyMMA) September 16, 2020
.#pride #prophecy #pedarasty #lgbtq #mybodymychoice #solutions #epstein pic.twitter.com/8IkAnakvMk
i really should stop seeing what willis is tweeting, but i cant help myself pic.twitter.com/YJux9zknUc— Leg Kickin Tacos (@LegKickTKO) October 4, 2019
During an appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience, Ben Askren discussed several conspiracy theories with the UFC commentator. He questioned the Las Vegas shooting, and claimed that when it comes to conspiracy theories, “you’re never going to know the real truth so you have to keep an open mind.”
The former UFC fighter has also used his platform to spread misinformation about COVID-19 and to defend the use of the term “globalist,” which is an anti-semitic dogwhistle that is used a a euphemism to describe Jewish people and their role in a global conspiracy.
The former UFC fighter uses his Instagram account to spread far-right propaganda including posts with hashtags celebrating the Kenosha shooter, QAnon, the Obamagate conspiracy, and also proclaimed that people are being “cat-fished” by mainstream media. Several of his posts have since been removed by Instagram’s fact-checkers and deemed fake news.
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The former Strikeforce and UFC fighter recently posted an article on his Instagram that seemingly presents Black Lives Matter protestors as “evil” who practice witchcraft.
Not with Cung Le framing support of BLM as witchcraft. Seems like anti-blackness is the trajectory for the majority of the politically vocal UFC fighters. pic.twitter.com/JiFRCw0c9l— Omega Dread (@GodHamgod) September 15, 2020
The Ultimate Fighter 3 winner has recently put up some questionable social media posts, including regarding COVID-19. He also shared a post regarding child trafficking that featured slogans and symbols from QAnon.
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WE CAN'T BE SILENT ANY MORE THESE ARE OUR CHILDREN, there will be 500,000 babies born in the US this year that will be sexually abused before they turn 18 if we do not prevent it. There are over 7000 children including infants raped in the US every year. Its Easier to build strong children then fix broken men. stop breaking our children
Coaches training UFC fighters
Among the worst conspiracy mongers is Eddie Bravo, the 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu founder and creator of the Eddie Bravo Invitational (EBI) grappling competition, who also coaches UFC fighters like Tony Ferguson. Over the years, Bravo has advocated for an endless array of conspiracy theories, including the Flat Earth conspiracy theory, the moon landing, fake alien invasions, and the 9/11 controlled demolition conspiracy. He even questioned the existence of nuclear bombs, claimed that Elon Musk is controlled opposition and that the New World Order asked him to speak out against the coronavirus lockdown in order to extend the lockdown longer.
Naturally, Bravo had thoughts on the coronavirus as well.
The renowned coach behind UFC champions like Holly Holm and Jon Jones, Mike Winkeljohn has filled his Instagram account with a medley of criticism surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, especially the lockdown measures in place. He compared the measures to Nazi Germany and used a fake Hitler quote to prove his (entirely false) point. He then targeted BloodElbow managing editor Anton Tabuena (who wrote the article on Winkeljohn’s Hitler quote) claiming he is playing “dress up like Fidel Castro” while the “rest of us are worried about government overreach.”
Winkeljohn, whose JacksonWink gym was found to have a QAnon flag on its rooftop, has also spent his time promoting fake conspiracy theories.
The Jackson Wink statement also addressed this potential association:
“We denounce all hate groups, alt-right groups, and militia violence. We equally denounce those bad actors who keep trying to falsely portray our extremely diverse and accepting MMA gym as anything other than that for their own shameful politics and agendas.”
In June 2020, long-time UFC cutman Don House appeared on a UFC broadcast sporting a Q symbol on his chest and a WWG1WGA marking on the left arm of his shirt, which stands for “Where we go one we go all” and is a popular slogan amongst QAnon conspiracy theorists and supporters. The UFC claimed to have been unaware of House’s decision to wear the markings, and stated that the cutman had not sought permission to wear the symbols.
House later admitted that he regretted his decision to wear the markings because of the embarrassment it caused White, whom he called a “friend of mine”. However, he also defended QAnon by agreeing with some of the theory’s key principles, including their supposed aim to expose a child sex trafficking ring. “They’re trying to expose that, “ House told MMAFighting.com.
Over the years, Rogan has proclaimed his belief in conspiracy theories such as the falsified Apollo moon landing (which he has since moved away from), and that the CIA was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Earlier this year, Rogan tried to validate an unfounded conspiracy theory based on Trump’s claims that Barack Obama broke a law during his transition out of office. Despite the theory being debunked by former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Rogan discussed the merits of the so-called “Obamagate” on his podcast and claimed that Obama was using the FBI to spy on Trump.
Joe Rogan thinks Obamagate is real despite the fact that it makes no sense whatsoever so now I don’t know what to think. pic.twitter.com/s77uBSAXFB— Hutch (@hutchinson) May 19, 2020
Even Trump’s Attorney General William Barr said the accusations would not result in an investigation. therefore silencing the entirely baseless claims.
Apart from peddling in conspiracy theories for over a decade on one of the most popular podcasts in existence, Rogan has also hosted conspiracy mongers such as Alex Jones, Eddie Bravo (sometimes together!), allowing them to peddle conspiracy theories to gullible listeners. While Rogan prides himself on his “question everything” mentality, his podcast has proven to be (at times) dangerous in its ability to convey false information to impressionable followers who already question the legitimacy of mainstream science and media.
Kevin MacDonald (Referee)
UFC referee Kevin MacDonald is among the officials posting QAnon adjacent conspiracy theories, as well as retweeting influential figures in the movement such as Gen. Michael Flynn. He has also shared disinformation surrounding the 2020 presidential election.
MMA pioneer Tara LaRosa tweeted in April 2020 that the “globalists are using COVID-19 to kill off the elderly and infirm, like the Nazis did in the 1940s called Aktion T4.” She also claimed the following month that she is not an “antivaxxer” but did not plan to take a vaccine that “Bill Gates has anything to do with.”
LaRosa also tweeted a fake list of anti-fascist activists and organizers ahead of a Proud Boys rally in Portland. The list, which was devised on 8chan — an extremist forum where white supremacists and domestic terrorists have uploaded their manifestos — is actually just a list of people who signed an anti-Trump petition from refusefacism.org.
LaRosa has shared plenty of other conspiracies, including calling David Hogg a “crisis actor” in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. She explored her beliefs in an interview with Frank Mir, available here.
MMA fighter turned Hollywood actor Gina Carano has been promoting QAnon-related conspiracy theories in her Instagram stories and tweets.
Gina Carano shared the same thing, along with constantly posting a bunch of other COVID-19 and QAnon conspiracy stuff too.— Anton Tabuena (@antontabuena) August 30, 2020
This is what’s on her IG stories in the last day alone. https://t.co/gmVT4Ynf1k pic.twitter.com/stquHfUhLO
She also recently ranted about the coronavirus-related preventative lockdown measures in the United States, encouraging her followers to “take back your freedom.”
Open up your businesses & churches. Put whatever regulations you want to because that is your right but open them up. You’re telling me Covid-19 knows the difference between a protest or praise & worship. I haven’t even been to church in over a decade but I sure would go now.— Gina Carano boop/bop/beep (@ginacarano) September 6, 2020
The Kazakh MMA fighter who is a veteran of Fight Nights Global was arrested after encouraging people to shoot down helicopters, which he claimed were responsible for spreading COVID-19.
“Just yesterday people started to disinfecting, started to poison the nation, therefore I call for anyone who sees these people in the street to beat them up,” Khamitov said. ”Beat them with sticks and with stones so that these people do not poison the nation. And if you see helicopters that are spreading this, and you have a gun at home, shoot straight at them.”
The criteria used to create this list specifically sought out MMA figures who use their platforms to peddle conspiracy theories to their followers. It ignores those who may believe the theories but have chosen not to promote them.
This article will be updated regularly as new conspiracy mongers arise.