Sean Strickland UFC Screen grab: MMA Junkie

Sean Strickland will defend his UFC Middleweight Championship against Dricus Du Plessis in the main event of UFC 297 on Saturday.

But prior to his first UFC title defense, the 32-year-old has made headlines with his response to a reporter who confronted him about homophobic comments he had previously made on social media.

The reporter, MMA Fighting’s Alexander Lee, asked Strickland about the comments at a press conference ahead of Saturday’s pay-per-view in Toronto. Even before Lee could ask his question, Strickland showed he was in a fiery mood, turning the tables on the reporter by asking him if he was Canadian and whether he would vote for the country’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

Once Lee was able to ask Strickland about his previous post — in which he stated he would think he “failed as a man” if he had a gay son — the UFC star exploded. Not only did he double down on his previous comments, but he proceeded to embark on a homophobic rant.

“Are you gay? Are you a gay man?” Strickland asked Lee.

“I’m an ally of the community,” Lee responded.

“OK. If you had a son and he was gay, you’d be like — you don’t want a grandkid?” Strickland said.

“I’d have no problem with it,” Lee replied.

“You’re a weak f***ing man, dude. You’re a part of the f***ing problem. You elected Justin Trudeau,” Strickland said. “You’re just f***ing pathetic. The fact that you have no f***ing backbone and as he shut down your f***ing country and seized bank accounts, you asked me some stupid s**t like that? Go f*** yourself. Move the f*** on.”

Lee, to his credit, wasn’t done, as he proceeded to ask Strickland about homophobic comments he had made about Bud Light, which now has a sponsorship deal with UFC.

“Here’s the thing about Bud Light: 10 years ago, to be trans was a mental f***ing illness,” Strickland said. “And now all of a sudden people like you have weaseled your way into the world. You are an infection. You are the definition of weakness. Everything that is wrong with the world is because of f***ing you. The best thing is, is the world’s not buying it. The world’s not buying the f***ing bulls*** you’re pedaling.”

You can watch the entire exchange in the social media post below. As a warning, it contains both explicit and hateful language.

Obviously, this is a terrible look for Strickland, albeit one that’s in line with his previous stances. But while Strickland’s persona has largely flown under the radar to the casual sports fan, it’s now on full display as the Anaheim native has established himself as both a champion and main event draw.

UFC, unfortunately, is no stranger to its fighters trafficking in hateful ideology, whether it’s racism or homophobia. Still, considering ESPN is the exclusive home of UFC pay-per-views — including Saturday’s show — Strickland’s comments raise questions about not only UFC, but its partnership with the Disney-owned network.

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.