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UFC’s White addresses GOP convention

Updated August 27, 2020 - 6:08 pm

WASHINGTON — Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White is scheduled to speak Thursday at the fourth and final night of the Republican National Convention, ahead of President Donald Trump’s acceptance speech delivered from the White House.

The evening is themed “Land of Greatness.”

White, the fourth Las Vegan to speak at this year’s Republican convention, also spoke at the 2016 Republican convention in Cleveland.

A friendship between the president of UFC and the president of the United States may seem like an unlikely pairing, but their bond goes back two decades.

As Trump and White tell it, Trump believed in White and mixed martial arts early on. In 2001, “UFC 30: Battle of the Boardwalk” was held at Trump’s Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.

Last year, Trump attended UFC 244 in Madison Square Garden where he was greeted with boos and cheers.

“One of the things that Donald Trump is very good at, I think, is bringing the culture into the party. (White) is a cultural figure and exceedingly popular with many people,” said Jeffrey Lord, 2016 Trump surrogate and author of “Swamp Wars.”

Lord said the Democratic National Convention featured Hollywood stars, while the RNC serves up cultural icons like White and former football great Herschel Walker, who addressed the RNC Monday night.

“It hurts my soul to hear the terrible names that people call Donald. The worst one is ‘racist.’ I take it as a personal insult that people would think I would have a 37-year friendship with a racist,” said Walker, who is African-American.

Like Trump before he entered the 2016 GOP primary, White has contributed to both Democrats and Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In 2017, White contributed $5,400 to Trump and another $5,400 to then-Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who lost re-election in 2018. That same year, White also donated $5,400 to Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, who in 2016 won the seat vacated by outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

UFC declined to comment for this story and attempts to reach White were unsuccessful.

It is likely White will repeat the praise he gave Trump in 2016 as he lauded Trump’s business instincts, work ethic and loyalty.

“I’m never going to say anything bad about Donald Trump, ever,” White told Fox News in 2018. “Ever, ever, ever. That guy gave us our start when nobody would talk to us.”

White joined Trump during a February campaign rally in Colorado Springs where he talked about chatting with the president before boarding Air Force One from Las Vegas and confessed that, to his surprise, he is closer with Trump since his friend entered the Oval Office.

White is “clearly a genius and he’s been an incredible pioneer” who took UFC “mainstream and global,” former Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt told the Review-Journal.

Laxalt and Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael J. McDonald have been invited to attend Trump’s Thursday night acceptance speech on the White House South Lawn.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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