Trump's Travel Ban Could Affect Several UFC Fighters

Don’t you feel safer knowing Gegard Mousasi and Randa Markos can’t come in?
January 31, 2017, 7:30pm
Photo by Ed Mulholland/Zuffa LLC

You've probably noticed by now that President Donald Trump's executive order to temporarily ban citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries and bar the entry of any refugee into the country has caused a considerable amount of chaos. Since Trump signed the order on Friday, huge protests have broken out at airports across the U.S., lawsuits against the ban have been filed by both individual states and private immigrant/civil liberties groups, federal judges have issued temporary stays, some Homeland Security officers have defied those judges' orders, countries have announced their own retaliatory bans against Americans, hundreds of thousands of Britons have signed a petition to ban Trump from visiting the UK, 100 State Department officials have signed a letter expressing their dissent against the policy, the acting attorney general of the U.S. has announced that the Justice Department wouldn't defend the order, and the White House has fired her.


In addition to being geopolitically and diplomatically insane, militarily self-destructive (one of the first people detained under the executive order was an Iraqi national and refugee who worked as an interpreter for the U.S. during the Iraq war), illogical (none of the countries on Trump's list were home to any of the radicalized Muslims who have killed Americans in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001), ethically disgusting (none of the majority-Muslim countries where Trump has or had business dealings is on the list), ineffective as a weapon against terrorism, likely illegal, definitely immoral, cruel, and potentially the flashpoint for a constitutional crisis the likes of which the country has never seen, Trump's travel ban has also called into question the legal status of foreign professional athletes working in the United States. For example, ever since the ban was announced the National Basketball Association has been in contact with the State Department to determine the legal status of two players—Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng and Milwaukee Bucks center Thon Maker—both of whom are from South Sudan. Though South Sudan, which became an independent country in 2011, is not on Trump's little list, Sudan is, and because of the confusion created by the quick rollout and legally murky wording of the executive order, NBA officials are worried about letting those two players travel out of the country for games.

Photo by Rob Carr/Pool Photo via USA TODAY NETWORK

Meanwhile two American-born basketball players playing overseas are stranded in Dubai after Iran declared a retaliatory ban against U.S. citizens entering the country. So, everything is going great.

Closer to (Fightland's) home, questions have arisen about the legal status of UFC middleweight contender Gegard Mousasi, who has Dutch citizenship but who was born in Iran. According to the language of the executive order the ban includes people from those seven countries who have dual citizenship with other countries. For the moment, Mousasi says he has no idea what his fate will be, or whether his fight with Chris Weidman at UFC 210 in April, in Buffalo, New York, will take place.

"I have the Dutch nationality, but I also have a visa," Mousasi told Telesport (through Google translate). "But even with a visa you get in trouble, I heard. I'll hear more about it this week though. The UFC lawyers are busy, and the people who arrange the visas are too. So it is not in my hands. My job is to train and get ready for the game."

Mousasi is likely not alone in feeling insecure about his legal status as a foreign-born mixed martial artist. There are currently several fighters in the UFC who hail from one of the seven countries on the travel ban list, including heavyweight Jarji Danho of Syria (from which refugees have been suspended indefinitely, even as that country is in the midst of an enormous refugee crisis); Iranian-born lightweights Beneil Dariush and Reza Madadi, both of whom are scheduled for upcoming fights outside the U.S.; and women's strawweight Randa Markos, whose family fled from their native Iraq in 1988 at the height of the Iran-Iraq war when Randa was just 3 years old. The Markos family walked for four days to the Turkish border before being transported to a refugee camp in Istanbul, where they lived in squalor for nearly a year while waiting for visas. Eventually Marko's family, now with a newborn child to care for, was sent back to the Turkey-Iraq border to await deportation. There they lived in a prison. Not long after that, though, their visas came through and the family flew to Canada, where Randa has lived ever since.

Thankfully for Markos, her next fight, against Carla Esparza three weeks from now, is taking place in Nova Scotia, Canada, so she won't have to worry yet about the Trump ban. Thankfully for us too, right? God knows I feel safer knowing she isn't here in America.