(Editor’s note: This Q&A first published in The Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network.)

UFC president Dana White, in a phone interview on Friday, said athletes should be free to speak out on social media about racism and that he hopes the protest movement sweeping the U.S. enters a second phase, pushing for legal changes that can bring about lasting change.

White also discussed Bruce Lee and the special role fight sports have in pushing back against racist stereotypes.

(Editor’s note: Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.)

GREG MOORE: There’s a “30 for 30” coming out about Bruce Lee on Sunday, and the UFC has gone out of its way to adopt “The Dragon” as a pioneer of mixed-martial arts. Why has Lee been so important to you?

DANA WHITE: Let’s start with the influence that Bruce Lee had on martial arts and American culture. All this talk with racism that’s going on right now, it’s hard to believe how racist people were to the Chinese at that time. Asians were looked at as weak, and Bruce Lee blew that right out of the water, man.

Every white, black, Asian, you name the human being on Earth, they had a poster hanging of him on their wall.

I don’t know if I’ve known of a human being who’s had more of an impact. Not to mention, he died in the early ’70s, and kids today in 2020 still know who Bruce Lee is.

GM: That’s a great point. Fight sports can help a group of people change perceptions about them. In boxing, I think of black fighters like Joe Louis …

DW: And that’s true, the one thing that breaks through all barriers is fighting. As human beings, we are fascinated by who the toughest man in the world is. And it doesn’t matter what color he is, what race, what religion, we’re fascinated.

GM: Connecting that to the protest movement of today, you’ve had a lot of great black champions. Do you have a special responsibility to the black community? What are your thoughts about your role and the UFC’s role in the current social justice movement?

DW: I’ve had talks with some of my African-American fighters about this: How do we make real change?

For me, personally, making real change is so much bigger than marching and protesting and all of these other things.

This might be a stupid example, but it’s the best example I can give you: I believed in the UFC. I believed in the sport of mixed-martial arts. I got together with a couple buddies of mine, and we bought the UFC, and we started to build this thing. We went out, and we hit the bricks. We went to every sports editor. Every network. You name it.

We shared our vision and grew our movement.

With the current protests, there needs to be somebody to lead the charge. Somebody who can go in and make real change. By that I mean changing laws. Getting in and figuring out ‘how do we train the police department better?’ There’s so many things like that.

It’s like when I wanted to come back and have fights in the pandemic. I could have gotten all 350 of my employees, and we could have walked up and down the street and chanted “we wanna fight!” That’s not what we did. We got out and told our story in the media and worked with politicians.

That’s how you make real change.

GM: You’re saying that marching is one thing, because that gets attention. But attention for attention’s sake is not the goal. If you want to affect real change, you need a Phase 2.

DW: Exactly. 100 percent. You’ve got to get somebody really smart and articulate who won’t back down to certain road blocks that they will hit. Because there will be road blocks and obstacles.

Anything in life that’s worth fighting for, that you really wanna change, you’ve got to be able to get through the obstacles, the pressure, cut through all the bulls–t and get right to the heart of the matter where you need to start changing laws, educating people, training police officers.

There’s lot of work to do.

GM: And what about your athletes using their platform to speak out?

DW: A lot of sports are trying to tell their people to stay out of this, don’t post on social media about it.

We’re at a time and a place where you can’t sit this out.

First of all, this is America. Being able to speak and express yourself is part of your God-given right in America.

People are angry. People are scared. People are confused. You have to let them voice their opinions and let others know how they feel. That’s not a bad thing.

But I do believe that real change takes action.

GM: Can we talk about UFC 250? There’s an exciting undercard features a Phoenix-guy, Sugar Sean O’Malley, who trains out of the MMA Lab in Glendale.

DW: Sugar Sean O’Malley (11-0-0) is a star on the rise. Saturday night is a very big night for him for two reasons: He opens up the pay-per-view on the main card, and he’s fighting Eddie Wineland (23-13-1), a true veteran of the sport, a guy who’s seen it all, done it all, been in there with everybody.

And if Sean O’Malley can come out with an impressive win, the kid is on his way. He’s fun to watch. He’s exciting. And he definitely has “that thing” that people are attracted to.

When he fought on the “Contender” series, 4.5 million people watched that fight.

GM: And for the main event?

DW: Amanda Nunes is the GOAT. She’s one of the greatest mixed-marital artists of all time.

Her resume is unbelievable when you look at a list of the people she’s beat. But what’s even more impressive is how she beat them.

When you find people that aren’t a fan of female fighting and they say crap like “oh, the girls don’t hit hard enough; they don’t have one-punch knockout power” … She does. She hits you, and you go.