Devin Clark had his hand raised in victory at UFC 250, but that wasn’t the most memorable occasion that his fist was in the air during this past Saturday night’s event in Las Vegas.
Clark, who picked up his second consecutive victory with a hard fought unanimous decision win over Alonzo Menifield, made national headlines by joining other athletes to protest racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
As his name was announced by Bruce Buffer, Clark took a knee and raised his right fist in the air. The 30-year-old didn’t care about getting a spotlight shone upon him in that moment. It was about being a voice for the voiceless.
“I chose to do it because it felt like the right thing to do,” Clark told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I had a fight to focus on when all this stuff started to go down, so I wasn’t able to be as active as I wanted to be so that my voice could be heard. I couldn’t protest as much and really dig into it because I had the fight coming up.
“I knew I would have the opportunity when my name would be announced and I think I only told one person I was gonna do it. I didn’t think about whether it was going to be a big deal or not, or if people were going to get mad, or that it would be some kind of news deal. I just knew that’s how I could show my support for the people that feel like they don’t have a voice right now—that’s black, white, or other. It was just one of those things I felt I had to do.”
Following the victory, Clark, along with his team, collectively raised their fists in the air in solidarity. The Jackson-Wink product was proud to be a part of an additional, and powerful statement—although he can’t take credit for it.
“My corners, when we raised the fists afterwards, that was my corner Chad Smith. That was his idea because he feels strongly about the issue, too,” Clark said. “We all look different, we’re all definitely different—political stances and everything like that. We were able to come together on that and it was a really cool deal.”
While Clark was unable to participate in protests as much as he had hoped due to his upcoming fight, his presence was still felt in Albuquerque, N.M. Last month, he joined his teammate, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, to take the streets and make sure that gatherings remained peaceful.
Clark made the phone call, and Jones joined him to make a difference—including a viral moment where the 205-pound king stopped a group of vandals from further destroying the downtown area.
“I’m definitely proud of him, and I was actually with him both of those times (he was out there),” Clark spoke of Jones. “I actually filmed that video (of Jon taking the spray cans away). We went out on Sunday night because there’s not a whole lot of black people in Albuquerque. The cause is to stand up for black people and minorities that don’t get treated fairly.
“I was driving near downtown, I called Jon and was like, ‘Man, there’s not really a lot of black people down here. We should come down and represent.’ He said, ‘Come pick me up,’ and we went down there to show support, and there was a lot of negative things going on down there. Jon stepped up, took those cans and it was pretty cool to watch because it could’ve been a dangerous situation for us, but it was the right thing to do.”
Of course, when the video surfaced of Jones stopping vandals in their tracks—and helping to rebuild the damage done to the city—there were naysayers who believed it was a calculated publicity stunt of some kind to improve his image. Clark unequivocally refutes those claims. In fact, the 11-fight UFC veteran explains there were multiple run-ins with the crew in the scene once they arrived downtown.
“We were after that group,” Clark stated. “We had already encountered them once and then we knew it would be an issue. After that, we flagged down a news van. Jon got on the news and said, ‘If you’re going out tonight and have ill thoughts, just stay home. Tell your family members, your nephews, your sons: stay home if they’re going out to cause trouble tonight because it definitely takes away from the impact of everything.’
“It takes away from it having people riot, loot and destroy cities when that’s not the message that we need to get across.”
Other UFC 250 winners—Aljamain Sterling and Alex Caceres—also used their platforms throughout fight week to support the Black Lives Matter movement, even sharing stories of past instances of racial injustice.
Thus far, the UFC hasn’t released an official statement in regards to the movement, something most major sports leagues and corporations have done. In Clark’s eyes, the promotion has been supportive of the cause, regardless of not taking a public stance.
“I don’t know what direction they’re trying to go with it, but I’m kind of alright with it now,” Clark said. “I don’t think it says one thing or another because they allowed me to do what I did, allowed us to voice our opinions on it without getting in trouble for it which is super huge.
“You saw what happened in the NFL with (Colin) Kaepernick and stuff like that; they didn’t support him. So for me to be able to do what I did, I take that as support.”
Because he was transported to the hospital with a fractured orbital after the win, Clark did not get the chance to speak with the media. During their respective post-fight scrums, both Sterling and Caceres were asked to give their opinions on how the UFC promotes minority fighters.
The South Dakota native gave his thoughts on the matter.
“It’s really hard to say because we have had some really good minority fighters,” Clark explained. “Some of them have been promoted at certain times, others get promotion for a little bit and then they’ll go with something else. I feel like it could be a little better. I don’t know how, haven’t really thought about the details of it.”
At the beginning of the protests, it seemed like the country was divided. As days went on, and conversations were had, things look to be changing in a positive direction—albeit slowly.
Like most people, Clark knows that truly unifying as a nation is going to be a process. However, he is optimistic that if people can do their part to be the best individuals they can be, it can start mending fences.
“I would say to take a stance on it now,” Clark stated. “That’s about all we can do: keep fighting for it. We have to start with ourselves. Treat others how you want to be treated. If we start there, it will change a lot of things. If we keep going witt that, it’ll definitely start to get us on the right path.
“It’ll be a long time before the war on racism is over. It’s gonna be a long road but I have a feeling it’s gonna get better for sure.”