President Donald Trump on Saturday night was greeted with a mixed reaction — but more boos than cheers — as he entered Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, where he was attending the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Trump, wearing a dark coat and red tie, arrived at the mixed martial arts event at 9:52 p.m., shortly before the main match, and a few minutes later stood and waved to the crowd seated behind him. This gesture appeared to bring a heavier weighting of cheers.
A man in the crowd was spotted holding up a sign saying "Trump 2020."
Many people stood up from their seats and took photos.
Trump was sitting with House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, his sons Don Jr. and Eric, and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).
King told Newsday that Trump was “very enthused” to be back in New York City.
“After he was in the seat for awhile, he several times told me how pleased he was with the reception,” King said shortly after Trump’s arrival, adding that the president told him, “These are my people!”
Two groups of about 150 anti-Trump protesters — from Refuse Fascism and Rise and Resist — had massed in front of the Garden’s main entrance on Seventh Avenue.
A third group made up of Trump supporters — some wearing MAGA hats — was nearby.
Trump and the UFC have a long and friendly relationship.
Trump was among the first backers who gave the UFC a venue after many states started banning the franchise in the late 1990s. After UFC president Dana White was part of the group who purchased the franchise in 2001, the first and second UFC events were hosted at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
White, in turn, offered a rousing endorsement of Trump at the Republican National Convention in 2016.
"Arenas around the world refused to host our events," White said in his speech at the convention. "Nobody took us seriously; nobody except Donald Trump. Donald was the first guy that recognized the potential that we saw in the UFC and encouraged us to build our business."
Trump is facing possible impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Last Sunday, Trump was greeted with boos and jeers from the sold-out crowd at Game 5 of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros.
Trump arrived as the game was beginning. At the end of the third inning, the ballpark video screens showed the president and the loudspeakers announced him. Chants of "Lock him up!" broke out in some sections. The chant was an echo of the chant that Trump supporters directed at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.
UFC has come a long way since the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona advocated banning mixed martial arts across the country in 1996. McCain called mixed martial arts “human cockfighting.”
These days, UFC is a multibillion-dollar promotion holding major events across the world. It was sold for $4.1 billion in 2016.
The UFC had created a documentary titled "Combatant in Chief: The Story of Donald Trump's History in Combat Sports."
In that documentary, Trump says of White, "I think Dana had a great feeling about my winning. He felt I was going to win at a very early stage, when it wasn't fashionable."
This is Trump's first trip to his home state since announcing that his Florida resort is now his principal home.
With Laura Figueroa Hernandez