The UFC’s stance on hosting events whilst the world shuts down around them is, in a way an admirable nod to normality but an ultimately reckless one.
The UFC and Dana White have always done things differently to other sporting leagues and organisations around the world. Their seemingly rebellious attitude in their early days certainly got a lot of attention and brought MMA into the realm of legitimacy and acceptance into the mainstream.
Now, in the face of unprecedented uncertainty with the rapid spread of Covid-19, the UFC boss is trying desperately to be – quite literally – the only show in town.
With the Premier League, The Masters and a host of huge sporting events being cancelled across the globe, the UFC still put on a show behind closed doors in Brazil this past weekend.
I’m not going to lie, I was entertained and it was a nice distraction for a few hours from the unrelenting news report and scare mongering across social media. However, once Charles Oliviera sunk in that submission over Kevin Lee to end the night, I couldn’t help but feel that what we were watching was incredibly wrong.
We love MMA. Of course we do. But do we love it that much that we’d happily let dozens of UFC staff members and fighters travel the world during a pandemic that shows no sign of letting up?
While UFC Brasilia distracted us, we now have to contend with the days and weeks that follow. Every government (for the most part) has country’s on near total lockdown to slow down the spread of the coronavirus and yet overnight, UFC President Dana White is trying desperately to move the supposed UFC London event to an unnamed location in the States with a last minute card.
Even if the UK based fighters who were supposed to be fighting on the London card could travel to the USA before Donald Trump’s travel ban comes into effect, there is no guarantee as to how long they may be stuck overseas for.
Do we really need to see a last minute makeshift card just to prove some bullshit macho man point that we’re bigger than this virus? Absolutely not.
Even Cage Warriors President Graham Boylan is still wanting to host a behind closed doors event in London citing that the fighters want to go ahead with it.
I get it. Fighters by their very nature are survivors. The majority of combatants make peanuts in comparison to professional boxers. Boylan and White need to take a leaf out of Scott Coker’s book. The Bellator President threw in the towel ahead of their proposed event last Friday and still offered to pay fighters and staff their full amount of money to cover costs.
The show doesn’t have to go on. If anything, MMA is in a more advantageous position than a lot of other sports in that there’s no league or points system. Fights can be rescheduled. Fans and media will all make individual sacrifices over the next few weeks and months and fights shouldn’t be seen as a priority by anybody right now.
For all of their faults, the UFC have been a beacon of hope for many especially after the Las Vegas shootings and throughout Pride month. They can do the same here and should be promoting safety first rather than living in their own little bubble.
It’s a fight that they can’t and won’t win and for all of their assets they have at their disposal, no bookie in the world would even give them a punchers chance.