Popular mixed martial arts fighter Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal was back in fighting shape for his UFC 251 matchup against Kamaru Usman on Saturday night. Despite his unanimous decision loss to Usman, the outspoken athlete made other news this week by fighting for Goya Foods against calls for a boycott of the company.
Last week, following comments by Goya Foods CEO Bob Unanue that many took as overly complimentary of President Trump, critics of Mr. Unanue called on consumers to boycott the popular Spanish food company. At an event that was part of the Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, an executive order signed by President Trump in order to improve access to educational and economic opportunities, Mr. Unanue announced the donation of millions of pounds of food by Goya to support food banks in the U.S. While doing so, the CEO also heaped praise on the President.
“We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump, who is a builder,” Unanue said. “And so we have an incredible builder. And we pray. We pray for our leadership, our president, and we pray for our country, that we will continue to prosper and to grow.”
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – JULY 10: Jorge Masvidal poses on the scale during the UFC 251 … [+]
Reaction by critics was swift, with many commentators on social media questioning why a Spanish-owned company would effusively praise a President who many feel has offensively targeted Latinx Americans and Spanish-speaking immigrants in a myriad of ways. Hashtags such as #BoycottGoya and #Goyaway have popped up over the internet and numerous elected officials, commentators and others have been quick to join the fray. As an example, former Democratic president candidate and housing secretary in the Obama administration, Julian Castro, tweeted a message in support of the boycott.
“@GoyaFoods has been a staple of so many Latino households for generations. Now their CEO, Bob Unanue, is praising a president who villainizes and maliciously attacks Latinos for political gain. Americans should think twice before buying their products. #Goyaway”
In contrast, the 35-year-old, Masvidal, who is an exceptionally popular fighter in the UFC, and is one of two fighters gracing the cover of the popular new EA Sports video game, UFC 4, took a different approach. In pair of Tweets on Saturday, Masvidol expressed support for Goya Foods, taking aim at the those calling for the boycott of the Spanish foods company and linking to a story about Goya donating a million pounds of food to at the time of 2018’s deadly Hurricane Maria that devastated Puerto Rico.
The champion fighter’s words came as there was attention on his return to the UFC fight scene with a match-up on Saturday evening at UFC’s “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Masvidal stepped in at the last minute to replace Gilbert Burns in a fight against top ranked Kamaru Usman in the main event. Burns was forced to withdraw after testing positive for Covid-19.
Masvidal, currently the third-ranked welterweight fighter in the UFC, is no stranger to being outspoken. The popular fighter also has a legion of followers that have supported him as he has risen from being a street fighter on the backstreets of Miami to being UFC’s 2019 Fighter of the Year.
By stepping into the political arena and criticizing the “woke mob,” a derisive term used by many to describe those calling for boycotts or other social justice related actions, Masvidal has found himself as an ambassador for another kind of fight, one that can be as fierce as mixed martial arts. While it is obvious that Masvidal’s perspective on Goya is grounded in both his heritage and his experience, it might be that its his popularity that makes his arguments in favor of the food company even more effective.
In an interview on Fox News on Friday, Goya Foods’ Unanue was unapologetic about his comments regarding Trump. “It’s suppression of speech,” he said, noting he had also previously worked with the Obama administration on an initiative led by former first lady Michelle Obama. “So you’re allowed to talk good or to praise one president, but you’re not allowed, when I was called to be part of this commission to aid in economic and education prosperity and you make positive comment, all of the sudden that’s not acceptable,” Mr. Unanue said.
Jorge Masvidal also isn’t known for pulling his punches. While the fighter is best known for his ability to knock people down in the UFC’s famous octagon, it might be Masvidal’s newfound political voice in that gets his opponents to take notice.
If his record is any indicator, in both cases he won’t be afraid to go down swinging.