Former UFC welterweight Sasha Palatnikov has taken a swipe at the promotion’s fighter flag ban, labelling it as the “dumbest thing ever.”
“We fight in what they proclaim to be the land of the free,” the Hong Kong-born fighter said of the United States, the country in which he now resides. “Yet we can’t even express where we are from?”
Speaking to The AllStar, Palatnikov knows only too well the disappointment of an athlete not being able to represent their homeland on the international stage: He was denied a cage walk two years ago under the flag of his birth city for his big UFC debut.
The promotion’s chief Dana White confirmed the flag ban this week, without properly explaining why. The motivations being speculated upon are many: To please the UFC’s parent company or its corporate partners, or to avoid stoking political controversy in an era of heightened geopolitical tension globally.
Palatnikov said the ban is little more than an effort from the organisation to save face for the company’s investors. That’s something that doesn’t sit well with the 33-year old, who also took aim at the UFC’s top executive.
“To me, that’s pathetic and very un-American,” Palatnikov said. “Dana claims UFC is a company of free speech but that’s completely bullshit.”
On his promotional debut in 2020, Palatnikov was primed and ready to become the first Hong Kong fighter to make the cage walk, draped in the city’s red and white Bauhinia standard.
However, regulatory red tape within the organization ultimately prevented him from achieving that goal, with UFC rules stating only flags of internationally recognized states are permitted to be worn.
It was a curious decision. Hong Kong operates as a special administrative region under mainland China, with its own government and judiciary, but its athletes have competed under the Hong Kong flag at the Olympics and other international sporting events.
Disheartened at the time, Palatnikov chose to make his debut walk with bare shoulders – opting to forgo the use of a flag entirely, in a show of solidarity with Hong Kong.
Now based in Las Vegas, Palatnikov was released from the UFC late last year with a 1-2 record. He fought recently at XMMA 4, finishing Kyron Bowen with a first-round knockout.