Moreno’s corner apologizes for racist posts

Marcelo Rojo (right) walks with Brandon Moreno before his UFC flyweight title win over Deiveson Figueiredo. | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

UFC fighter Marcelo Rojo claimed he didn’t think it was racist to use a monkey Instagram filter on pictures of Deiveson Figueiredo.

Ahead of Brandon Moreno’s UFC flyweight title winning performance over Deiveson Figueiredo at last night’s UFC 263, his cornerman Marcelo Rojo—a UFC featherweight—caused controversy by posting racist images depicting Figueiredo.

MMA Fighting reports that Rojo uploaded pictures to Instagram using a filter that replaced Figueiredo’s head with that of a monkey. The original images were taken by Rojo during the UFC 263 press conference on Thursday.

Rojo, a white Argentinian, has since told MMA Fighting’s Guilherme Cruz that his posts regarding Figueiredo, a Brazilian of Indigenous ancestry, were not intended to be racist. Rojo also claimed that he was ignorant to the history regarding ‘monkey’ being used as a slur towards Brazilians.

In his piece Cruz, who is also Brazilian, explains that there have been multiple incidents of Argentinian soccer fans calling Brazilians monkeys over the past few decades.

Recently Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez also caused controversy when he said, “Mexicans emerged from Indigenous people, Brazilians emerged from the jungle, but we Argentines arrived on boats.”

Ahead of UFC 263 Figueiredo’s manager and coach Wallid Ismail expressed his outrage at Rojo’s posts and called for “every racist” to be “banned from the sport.”

Later Rojo posted an apology, in Portuguese, on his Instagram page. In that post he said sorry “for offending people yesterday, which wasn’t the intention.”

“I apologize to everybody, to people I don’t even know,” Rojo told MMA Fighting. “Wallid is making this bigger than it is, I was just was putting filters on the [Instagram] live. I put a lot to all the fighters, I use the baby Yoda, the moustache filter, the monkey, on every fighter in the press conference, we were joking around… Then [Figueiredo] push Brandon and we start shouting, and someone screenshot the live and pass me the image. I upload it for fun, to make jokes to get [Figueiredo] more angry than he already is, but not to make this a racist thing.

“I do not know Brazil history, I’m from Argentina but I hate [soccer], I never watch an entire game, I did not know that was a real offense to the Brazilian people. I make a big mistake and regret it. I apologize to the people, I apologize to Wallid, I even apologize to master Rafael Cordeiro who I know him, who train me six months, and he explained it to me. Also, this is nothing to do with the Argentinian president, I am not living in Argentina since 2015. It was al a big mistake. In Mexico we joke around every time like this and it’s a big cultural gap that I missed. And I’m sorry again.

“[I’m] telling you it was a big misunderstanding, I never know that was a historical offense in Brazil. A girl who works in the UFC later on told me a little bit of Brazilian history, what happened, and then told me about the soccer games and everything around. But Wallid is making this bigger.

“I know it was a weird situation ‘cause I’m from Argentina … And also in Argentina the stupid president was taking about that things. But that was not the intention. We just making fun joking around like we do all the time in I was putting filters on [Instagram]. Now I’m terrible. Sorry, I’m not a bad dude. I’m not a racist.”

At the UFC 263 weigh-ins on Friday UFC President Dana White was asked about Rojo’s comments by Combateis . White shrugged off the controversy, asking “what are you gonna do?”

“I heard about it this morning. I don’t know enough about it to speak on it. I know that something happened. I know that whoever did it apologized. And there was some horrible stuff being DM’d to Israel Adesanya, too, that I saw today. It’s just, like, you know… I don’t even know what to say. It’s disgusting. You know, I don’t even know what to say, but, listen, at the end of the day, this is the fight business. A lot of mean things happen here, a lot of bad things are said. Racist, disgusting stuff make me sick, but you know, what are you gonna do?”

Combate also asked Moreno about the situation.

“I feel so bad for that because I really am an ambassador of the love in the world and that’s happening in my team. Like, come on guys, come on,” Moreno said. “I was a little bit angry at first, but, I mean, everybody make a mistake. Everybody makes a mistake. And in this era with cancellation, you never give the opportunity to the people to learn, to make some progress. So it was a mistake and in the name of my team, I apologize. It is what it is. We try to learn to make some progress in this new era.”

At UFC 263 Moreno clinched the flyweight title with a third round submission. That fight was a rematch from late 2020, where Figueiredo and Moreno fought to a majority draw in a Fight of the Year candidate.

Rojo is currently scheduled to face Kevin Croom on August 28 at the UFC APEX. The Combate Americas veteran is 0-1 in the UFC having lost his promotional debut to Charles Jourdain in March.

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