Entertainment

The Addison Rae UFC Controversy Is a Big, Dumb Misunderstanding

Contrary to what a million angry tweets would have you believe, the UFC never hired Rae, a source close to the organization told VICE.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
July 13, 2021, 5:56pm
Addison Rae
Photo by Amy Sussman / Getty Images

Addison Rae, the highest-paid creator on TikTok and one of its most popular stars, spent the weekend hanging out at UFC 264, where the main draw was a brawl between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor. Ahead of the big fight, she posted a photo of herself standing in front of a UFC-branded step-and-repeat wall, microphone in hand, on Twitter. Then all hell broke loose.

That photo and its accompanying caption—which nodded to Rae’s time at LSU, where she studied sports broadcasting for a semester before dropping out—led thousands of people to conclude that she had landed a paying gig as a UFC correspondent. For some reason, that infuriated them.

To quote various extremely pissed-off people on Twitter, what Rae had done was “disrespectful,” “disgusting,” and “belittling”—an “obnoxious and tone-deaf slap in the face to the people who actually studied for and are trying to make it” in sports journalism. In their eyes, Rae was “stealing” a gig from someone more qualified and more deserving than her, “taking away the opportunity for people who actually need this job.” Tweets slamming Rae for her affront to hopeful young sports journalists the world over went viral. For hours on Monday, Twitter was ablaze with Addison Rae drama. Then she threw gasoline on the fire:

That set off yet another wave of rage tweeting, virtue signaling, and click chasing—and all of it, it turns out, was based on a big, dumb misunderstanding. 

Rae was never hired by the UFC, a source connected to the UFC told VICE. (A separate source with knowledge of the situation also confirmed that she wasn’t on the payroll.) Instead, she attended UFC 264 as a VIP guest, the source close to the UFC said. 

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“She was not there in any official capacity, nor did she have a role as a reporter or broadcaster for the weekend,” the source said. “She wasn’t paid.”

Rae’s dad is a big fan of the UFC, according to the source. When the UFC’s social team found that out, they invited her to the event and gave her a pair of free tickets. From there, they enlisted Rae in a series of “social activations,” the source said. Rae worked out at the UFC’s training center with Miesha Tate, an MMA fighter. She did a fake walkout in an empty T-Mobile Arena. She briefly interviewed Poirier for a TikTok uploaded to ESPN’s account, because both of them are from Lafayette, Louisiana. She had a brief on-camera conversation with Laura Sanko, an actual paid UFC correspondent. She watched a few fights in the VIP section, seated next to Travis Barker, Kourtney Kardashian, Justin Bieber, and a handful of other celebrities. Then she went home. The UFC never “fired” Rae, nor have they cut ties with her.

“That was a joke,” the source connected to the UFC said. “They're still going to be churning out the social content that they produced with her in the coming days.”

The UFC is constantly looking for opportunities to get “more eyeballs” on their events, the source said. Partnering with Rae, who has about 82 million followers on TikTok, presented such an opportunity. The UFC gained exposure to Rae’s fans, some of whom might not have followed the UFC before, and in exchange, Rae got exposure to UFC fans, some of whom might not have followed her before. It was guaranteed to be a big win for everyone involved, no matter how it played out. The Twitter kerfuffle over Rae’s nonexistent “job” with the UFC only made it bigger, triggering a flood of articles calling attention to Rae and the UFC—like this one!—that otherwise wouldn’t have been written.

This kind of thing happens all the time online: Some celebrity is accused of a low-level moral wrongdoing, a million people get really mad about it, and then a few days later, the world learns that all that outrage was based on erroneous information. The famous person involved gets a little more famous; the angry Twitter users who happened to go viral rack up a few more followers; and people like me waste a day setting the story straight, only for everyone to stop caring about it and, pretty quickly, forget it ever happened. A few days later, we move on to the next ultimately meaningless “controversy,” and the cycle repeats itself. If somebody smarter than me figures out how to put an end to this dumb bullshit, let me know. Until then, I’ll see you guys next time. 

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