Tony Kelley doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong.
The UFC bantamweight caused a stir on social media Saturday due to comments made while cornering Andrea Lee at UFC Vegas 54. Between rounds, Kelley said of Lee’s opponent Viviane Araujo, “That’s what they’re gonna do. They’re dirty f******* Brazilians. They’re going to f***ing cheat like that.”
His words immediately drew criticism from fighters including Brazilian stars Cris Cyborg and Gilbert Burns, and his upcoming opponent on June 18, Adrian Yanez. UFC welterweight Belal Muhammad went as far as to call Kelley a “racist.”
Aware of the controversy, Kelley released a statement on Twitter later in the evening, denying any “racist connotations” and claiming to be a victim of “cancel culture.”
According to Kelley, it is an alleged eye poke that he was referring to as “dirty,” though he does not explain why he chose to single out Brazilians with his comment.
“Cancel Culture is real,” Kelley wrote. “What I said was real and in the heat of battle, and in no way had any type of racist connotations meant…but if that’s the way you take it, [I don’t give a f***]. So many people quick to say racist..that s***’s getting so old. My reference was to a dirty eye poke.”
Araujo went on to defeat Lee by unanimous decision.