Before he was president, Donald Trump opened one of his Atlantic City casinos to the struggling UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) for mixed martial arts competitions. The UFC is now celebrating its 25th anniversary with a 25-part documentary on UFC's streaming service, including the segment "Combatant in Chief: The Story of Donald Trump’s History in Combat Sports." That portion of the series and the men its centers on, President Trump and UFC President Dana White, is reviled as "deranged'' in a Deadspin.com review by freelance writer Josh Tucker.
The fact that White spoke up for Trump in July 2016 at the Republican National Convention just makes Tucker all the more angry in his post, titled "UFC is streaming a Bizarre Donald Trump Propaganda Documentary." Tucker writes that Combatant in Chief's opening montage is beyond parody:
"You’ve got your orchestral strings. An American flag. The ubiquitous name slapped on the back of a helicopter: TRUMP. Then Dana White in his traditional uniform, jeans and a black shirt with an extra button undone, lavishing praise. 'Donald Trump is a visionary,' White says. 'This guy is a fighter, he’s an entrepreneur.' Fireworks. A voiceover of Donald Trump himself saying, 'Only Trump would do that. Enjoy the show, folks.' Footage of The Apprentice. This is still just the first minute."
As Tucker describes it, "And then we see Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, complimenting UFC President Dana White and lauding their shared 'fighter’s mentality.' White speaking at the Republican National Convention, bellowing, 'I stand with Donald Trump.' The music builds. Another American flag, in close-up this time. A title card reads, I shit you not, Combatant in Chief, over the sound of a cheering crowd. It is all very well-produced and all utterly deranged."
Tucker charges that many of the films in the silver anniversary series are filled with "oafish hagiography, half-truths, and convenient omissions. But even by those standards, Combatant in Chief stands out." It's 14 minutes of "pure jaw-dropping vertigo. It is a film that serves a very specific and peculiar type of contemporary fan: the kind that wails about keeping politics out of sports while saluting the hundred-million-dollar war machines flying over a stadium that was paid for by a tax subsidy. The type of fan that makes sure that everyone else at the game is singing the national anthem in a sufficiently sincere way. The type that delights in calling a billionaire team owner 'Mister.'”
Tucker says it's no surprise that men like Trump and White are pals. Both of them see life as "a zero-sum game to be dominated" and they're only interested in what helps them accomplish their goals. "The idea of hard work, for both, amounts to exploiting any angle you can to take money from suckers; loyalty is what you feel towards whoever is currently delivering power and cash for as long as they continue to do that. The rest is negotiable. If your fighters—or contractors, or the media, or the people you’re governing—don’t like it, they might just not be winners. ... " Trump has spent a public lifetime as "a racist, misogynist, litigious grifter buffoon. ..."
With Combatant in Chief, facts are malleable, and, "It smudges everything, from minor particulars to broad historical events," Tucker complains. Claims that Trump saved UFC and revitalized Atlantic City are "all standard corporate-history bullshit."
Trump is seen in the documentary saying, “Everything I touched turned to gold.” But Tucker says he's missing the point of the Midas myth "in a perfectly fitting way" that's "historically grotesque. What Trump did in Atlantic City was the same thing he has done everywhere else—failed upward, spectacularly oblivious to the collateral damage that resulted. He bled every target dry, was bailed out by his dad and several bankruptcies, and left destruction in his wake. Personally, he did great."