Curious about the UFC’s flag policy in 2024?
In this article, we answer when and why the UFC flag ban was lifted, and when and why it was introduced.
When and Why Was the UFC Flag Ban Lifted?
The UFC flag ban was lifted on October 7, 2023, just before UFC Fight Night: Dawson Vs. Green.
Before it was announced, it became evident as Joe Pyfer wore the U.S. flag around him after his win against Abdul Razak Alhassan.
During the post-fight press conference, Dana White explained the UFC flag ban was lifted before the event due to his annoyance with it.
He said he was on vacation on Mexican Independence Day (September 16), “And the no flag thing drove me crazy. And I was like yeah, f*** that, we’re bringing flags back”.
He went on to explain how he didn’t care for the UFC flag ban in the first place, and how it was introduced because he believes that too many people are sensitive and soft about everything.
However, in somewhat of a U-turn, Dana White banned UFC flags from being carried at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi on October 21, 2023.
The decision for the UFC to ban flags at UFC 294 was revealed by Muhammad Mokaev, the undefeated English MMA fighter who was set to fight Tim Elliott.
No flags at UFC 294 👀— Muhammad Mokaev (@muhammadmokaev) October 20, 2023
The reinstatement of the UFC flag ban at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi on October 21, 2023, reflects a cautious approach amidst sensitive geopolitical tensions.
With a lineup featuring many Muslim and Russian fighters during the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the decision likely aimed to avoid political statements or nationalistic displays that could escalate tensions.
While Dana White’s role in this decision might be influenced by external factors, including broadcast partners like ESPN, the move can be seen as an effort to maintain a neutral, apolitical focus on the sport, ensuring that the event remains centered on athletic performance rather than political symbolism.
There weren’t too many flags carried by fighters after UFC 294, but fighters are still allowed to carry them. The UFC flag ban at UFC 294 was a one-off.
Starting with UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs. Walker 2 on January 14, the first UFC event of the year, it’s likely that many flags will be seen again.
Are Russian UFC fighters Allowed To Carry Their Flag?
Yes, Russian UFC fighters are allowed to carry their flag since the UFC lifted its flag ban on October 7, 2023.
During the post-event press conference, Dana White was asked whether Russian UFC fighters could walk out with the Russian flag, to which he responded, yes.
Flags were again banned for UFC 294, which coincidentally featured many Russian UFC fighters, however, the single-event ban was due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Russian fighters are again allowed to carry their flag when walking to the octagon and during their post-fight interview.
When and Why Did the UFC Flag Ban Start?
The UFC flag ban was introduced on May 7, 2022, at UFC 274. The ban was revealed by welterweight fighter, Randy Brown, who said in his post-fight interview, “They didn’t let us get the flag, so, shout out Jamaica.”
The UFC flag ban was introduced in response to the Russia-Ukraine war, started by Russia on February 24, 2022.
The primary reason for this ban was to avoid any potential political controversies or nationalistic displays that could arise from UFC fighters representing their countries in a time of heightened international tensions.
By implementing this ban, the UFC aimed to maintain a neutral stance and focus solely on the sport, ensuring that the events remained apolitical and inclusive for all athletes and fans, regardless of their nationalities or political views.
At the time, Dana White wouldn’t reveal why the UFC had banned flags. When asked why after UFC 274, he said, “You guys know why. Let’s not even play that f***** game.”