Dana White on UFC champ Sean Strickland’s rise in popularity: ‘People love an underdog’

LAS VEGAS – UFC CEO Dana White isn’t all that surprised to see Sean Strickland emerge as a fan favorite.

Strickland (28-5 MMA, 15-5 UFC) dethroned middleweight champion Israel Adesanya (24-3 MMA, 13-3 UFC) with a stunning upset in this past Saturday’s UFC 293 headliner in Sydney.

Strickland has no filter when it comes to his mic time, and his raw honesty has resonated with people. He has produced staggering numbers for the UFC on social media, and White says it’s a product of an unexpected story.

“Let me tell you this: So on Instagram, I have 8.3 million followers. Me wrapping the belt on him did 16 million views,” White told MMA Junkie and other reporters following Dana White’s Contender Series 62 at the UFC Apex. “DC (Daniel Cormier) was telling me on the flight back, he did interviews with him on his YouTube channel, and it was the biggest he’s ever done or something like that.

“If you saw, there was a lot of hype around Strickland early. He lost a couple, hype kind of died down, he came back and he won the world title, and people are fascinated again. I think people love an underdog. He was such a big underdog in that fight, he came out and won. People were saying, ‘Oh, don’t take away the fact that Strickland won the fight,’ good for him. I love that sh*t. I love the support he’s getting, it’s great.”

In the UFC 293 post-fight news conference, Strickland joked that the UFC probably regretted giving him the short-notice opportunity after Dricus Du Plessis couldn’t make the fight, but White said he knew what to expect from a Strickland win.

“It is what it is,” White said. “We obviously put him in that position, and he went in and delivered and won the fight, and he’s the champ now. You know what you’re getting when you get him. This is no surprise, no shock. Good for him.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for DWCS 62.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie