Coronavirus’ Impact On All Combat Sports (Updated)

Editor’s Note: Keep up to date on the latest coronavirus news in the combat sports world, via FIGHT SPORTS

Over the past few months, the coronavirus has impacted a number of countries. Italy is on lockdown while the United States just announced a travel ban. Officials are recommending people stay away from large venues where you are more likely to get sick. The NBA already postponed its season after Jazz player Rudy Gobert was tested positive for coronavirus. College sports have done the same and more will follow.

How about boxing and MMA? As of now, several events are scheduled to take place, even without fans. What of judo and sumo, who have already felt the wrath of the virus?

How has the coronavirus affected the way we watch sports in general? With the Olympics in jeopardy, there are a lot of concerns.

FIGHT SPORTS will be providing an updated list of all major events and sports in the combat sports world that have been affected by the virus in one way or another.

Boxing

“From WBA we demand all promoters and boxing events organizers of all levels throughout the world, including those in which there is any World, or International Championships of our organization, to follow the most strict regulations and recommendations provided by the World Health Organization and the local sanitary authorities.”

  • The Asia-Oceania Olympic qualifier was moved from Wuhan, China to Amman Jordan for the time of March 3-11
  • The Japan Professional Boxing Association cancelled all cards scheduled for March. A total of 16 bouts, including amateur and junior ones, will be made up at another time.
  •  WBC Junior-Welterweight Champion Jose Ramirez v. Viktor Postol was originally set for February 1 in China. It was one of the first events to be moved as a result of the virus spreading in the area. Now, the event will take place in May in Fresno, California.

Top Rank brass had to deal with the start of the virus out of all the boxing commissions, and were able to handle it with ease, at that time.

“No issues in getting these fights done,” Top Rank VP Carl Moretti stated to ESPN. “We’re just doing what we know how to do. Not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything. I’m sure the dialogue will continue on many levels.” The co-main event will be Jose Pedraza facing Javier Molina.

  • Originally scheduled for February 28, the IBF International Super-Middleweight Title fight between champion Daniele Scardina and Andrew Francillette was postponed. Matchroom made the announcement on February 24. It was scheduled for Italy, which has been shut down due to the virus.

“Following the order from Regione Lombardia on February 23rd 2020, that dictates the suspension of any demonstration, event and any gathering in public or private places – of any kind of nature, either religious, sports, cultural or others – until March 1st, we inform you that the Milano Boxing Night that was due on February 28th is unfortunately cancelled,” Matchroom stated. “The event will be postponed to a future date that will be communicated as soon as possible.  The tickets sold for the event on February 28th will be considered valid for the rescheduled date.”

  • Delaying the inevitable, Matchroom officially postponed the bout between Devis Boschiero v. Francesco Patera for the interim WBA Lightweight World Title. Originally set for Italy, Matchroom was willing to have the event there until the ban became official.

“The show promoted by Opi Since 82, Matchroom Boxing Italy and DAZN will be rescheduled as soon as health regulations allow,” said Matchroom brass in a statement. “The main event will remain the vacant Interim WBA World Lightweight Title clash between Francesco Patera and Devis Boschiero.”

  • Just recently, Top Rank announced that two card taking place in New York City will go on as planned. Shakur Stevenson v. Miguel Marriaga, set to take place on Saturday, March 14 inside the Hulu Theater, will not have fans inside the arena. The same goes for the St. Patrick Day card on Tuesday, March 17 featuring Michael Conlan against Belmar Preciado.

UPDATE: both events have been postponed.

  • The Athletic announced that the Athletic State athletic Commission has suspended all combat sporting events for the month of March. That includes Golden Boy’s Vergil Ortiz Jr. v. Samuel Vargas inside The Forum on March 28 and Joet Gonzalez v. Chris Avalos on March 19.

“The health and safety of our fighters, fans, employees, officials and partners is of the utmost importance to us, and we thank them for their support and understanding during this time,” Golden Boy’s Oscar De La Hoya stated. “We will communicate further plans when the time is appropriate.”

  • Latvia has banned all public events from March 13 – April 14. As a result, The World Boxing Super Series, scheduled to take place on March 21, will not be taking place over there.

  • All USA Boxing sanctioned events are suspended until March 31. No new sanctioned event requests will be made through at least April 15. Refunds will not be given nut rescheduling is possible at a later date. Clubs and gyms will continue with training on a limited participation schedule.

“This is a very difficult decision given we are in the midst of Golden Gloves tournaments and entering the qualification timeframe for the 2020 Junior Olympics; however USA Boxing’s greatest concern is for the health and safety of all boxers, coaches, officials and physicians,” USA Boxing stated in a release.

  • Premier Boxing Champions has postponed James Kirkland v. Marcos Hernandez, which was supposed to take place March 14 from inside MGM National Harbor in Maryland. All ticket orders will be refunded from your original point of purchase. 
“In the interest of public health and after reviewing the current information on COVID-19, we have decided the best course of action is to postpone Saturday’s event,” said Tom Brown, President of TGB Promotions. “We understand how disappointing this is to boxing fans and regret any inconvenience.”
  • Boston’s fifth-annual St. Patricks Day Clash on Match 14 at Murphy’s Boxing has been cancelled.
  • Bare-Knuckle Fighting Championship has postponed BKFC 11, scheduled to take place inside the INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita this weekend. The scheduled main event was supposed to be Nico Hernandez v. Chancey Wilson, with the co-main event being David Rickels v. Harris Stephenson.
“With the health and safety concerns of everyone involved, and the mandate carried out by officials, it is unfortunate that we were not able to put on BKFC 11, which would have been our highest attended event yet,” said BKFC founder and president David Feldman. “We have rescheduled the event for Saturday, June 20. Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody affected at this difficult time.”
  • The Raging Babe’s Philly Special event, set to take place inside the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia on march 27, has been postponed. Michelle Rosado announced the event will be rescheduled for June 19.

“I think this is the best thing for all involved,” Rosado stated in a press release. “While the stated din’t require us to shut it down, we feel it’s in the best course of action, and in line with other sports’ coronavirus measures. I care too much about the health of our fans and their families to take the risk. I am not happy about postponing the card, but I would feel much worse if someone became sick because they attended the Philly Special.”

  • The IOC Boxing Task Force has suspended the Boxing Road to Tokyo European qualifiers set to take place in May. Matches have been going on since around last week. The Olympics are set to take place during the summer.
  • The scheduled bouts between Regis Prograis v. Maurice Hooker and Cecilia Braekhus v. Jessica McCaskill have been postponed. The fight card was supposed to take place in April 17 in Maryland.
  • According to Premier Boxing Champions, the following bouts for the months of March and April have been postponed:
    • March 28: Luis Nery v. Aaron Alameda – WBC Super-Bantamweight Title Eliminator – Park Theater at Park MGM in Las Vegas.
    • April 11:  Jamal James v. Thomas Dulorme – Interim WBA Welterweight Title – The Armory in Minneapolis.
    • April 18: David Benavidez (c) v. Roamer Alexis Angulo – WBC Super Middleweight World Title – Arizona Federal Theatre

“The health and safety of the boxers, fans and those working the events are of utmost importance to us,” said Tom Brown, President of TGB Promotions. “We are all disappointed and as we get more information we will address future events.”

  • The scheduled bout on March 28 featuring WBC, IBF, and lineal Light-Heavyweight Champion Artur Beterbiev and Meng Fanlong has been postponed. The bout was scheduled for the Videotron Centre in Quebec City, Canada.
  • BKFC 12, set to take place on April 11 from inside the Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama, is officially cancelled. There is no rescheduled date for the event as of this moment. David Feldman, President of BKFC, posted the following on social media:

“BKFC12 is being postponed. At this time with the whole world being affected, we need to concentrate on finding a solution to the virus and everyone’s health. This comes first. We will keep everyone updated as we reschedule our events. God bless everyone!”

MMA

“Let us unite as a country and let us show strength as a continent to conquer this coronavirus,” ONE founder and CEO Chatri Sityodtong stated. “Let us celebrate what makes us special, what makes us strong, what makes us human. A ship is not made to sit in the calm waters of a harbor. It is made to conquer the rough seas in search of new horizons. With love, compassion, and resilience, we will get through these tough times together.”

The organization then had to cancel a show in Vietnam. A March Heart of Heroes show in Ho Chi Minh City will now take place in June.

Until May, all ONE Championship events will be closed-door, audience-free events. Chatri stated the following on social media:

“We are operating in truly extraordinary times, but my team and I remain committed to providing you the best sports and entertainment action available anywhere on global broadcast today. ONE Championship will continue to thrill you with the greatest martial artists on the planet and inspire you with their incredible stories. This virus might be on the attack right now, but I believe in the power of the human spirit. LET’S GOOOOO!!! #WeAreONE”

  • Ares Fighting Championship postponed Ares 2 and KSW announced that KSW 53, set for March 21 will no longer be taking place. The event was scheduled to emanate from Lodz, Poland.

“Despite our best efforts to organize the event, we had to make this difficult decision,” KSW brass stated on social media. “Due to the restrictions introduced throughout the country, aimed at minimizing the extent of the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, KWSW 53 will not take place either in the previously indicated location or in the television studio.”

  • Combate Americas has rescheduled the following events: March 13 in Arizona, March 20 in Mexico and March 27 in Texas. No scheduled dates have been announced.

“We put the health and safety of our athletes, fans and staff above all other considerations,” said Combate Americas CEO Campbell McLaren in a statement.  “Combate Americas’ mission is to bring together people throughout the U.S., Mexico, South America and Spain, and that requires frequent travel to an array of locations, both foreign and domestic.  Our live studio version of Combate Americas will continue to deliver mucha más acción.”

  • The UFC has yet to cancel major events taking place. UFC Strawweight Champion Weili Zhang was forced to leave her home of China to train following the spread of the coronavirus. The virus was a subject of controversy when it came to Joanna sharing a meme leading up to UFC 248.
  • Speaking of the UFC, UFC Brasilia, set to take place on March 14, will be a closed-door event. Media day and ceremonial weigh-ins have been cancelled. The event is still on for now, with the main event being Kevin Lee facing Charles Oliveira.

“Due to consideration of the government’s decree yesterday, Ultimate Media Day has been cancelled,” the UFC stated, via Cageside Press. “Content featuring the athletes scheduled to fight in Saturday’s event will be captured and shared with credentialed media members in advance of the event.”

  • Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recommended that no spectators be at sporting arenas for events. The UFC was meant to head to Columbus on March 28. The Athletic Commission and the Governor’s office have yet to meet with the UFC on the matter, but talks are being scheduled.

“As with any UFC event, our top priority is the health and safety of our fans, athletes, and staff,” UFC VP of Communications Lenee Breckenridge said, via ESPN. “We are monitoring the situation closely in conjunction with our venue partners and medical team, and we are following the recommended guidelines from the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) and the CDC. We also encourage our fans to observe the common sense health precautions suggested by the CDC, such as washing hands frequently and staying home if you are sick.”

UPDATE: According to Combate, UFC Columbus is expected to be moved to Las Vegas at the UFC APEX after DeWine suspending all activities with over 100 people.

  • Cage Fury Fighting Championships has postponed CFFC 82 in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. All tickets will be refunded.
  • Bellator 241, scheduled to take place on Friday, March 13 inside the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT, will be closed to the public.

  • According to TSN Sports’ Aaron Bronsteter, the UFC’s Fight Night in Portland on April 11 is expected to be moved to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • Brave CF announced the move to postpone Brave CF 35 (March 28), Brave CF 36 (April 13) and Brave CF 37 (April 18).
  • Legacy Fighting Alliance postponed LFA 84 in Arizona, scheduled to take place on March 20. postponement of LFA 84 in Arizona due the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The event was scheduled for this Friday, March 20th. The promotion also postponed LFA 85 on April 3rd in Colorado and LFA 86 on April 17th in South Dakota.
  • New York Combat Championship has postponed its inaugural event set for April 11 inside the Melrose Ballroom.
  • After much debate, the UFC has postponed UFC London (3/21), UFC Columbus (3/28) and UFC Portland (4/11)

  • ACA MMA will be postponing tournaments planned for ACA 106, 107 and 108. Originally scheduled for March 27 in St-Petersburg, ACA 106 will take place on August 21. ACA 107 on April 3 in Moscow will take place on July 24 while a new date for April 24’s ACA 108 in Warsaw is being worked on.

Judo

  • One of the first teams to make a decision on the coronavirus was Team Israel.  The Israeli national judo team cancelled their plans to travel to Tokyo for its scheduled training camp.
  • The Judo Grand Prix in Rabat, Morocco was cancelled. Scheduled for March 6-8, this comes after but all international competitions, exhibitions and public gatherings in Morocco have been told to end.

“We apologize for the unexpected occurrence of the event and we do understand the inconvenience for all stakeholders, especially for our athletes and delegations,” the IJF stated in a press release. “The IJF is currently searching for the appropriate solutions for this unexpected situation and all its consequences across all levels. As a first emergency measure, the IJF has reopened the registration for Ekaterinburg Grand Slam (March 13-15) until the end of accreditation, Thursday, 12th March at 12:00pm.”

  • The International Judo Federation and UAE Wrestling has suspended all competition and training. That includes Olympic qualifying events. For now, the cancellation is until the month of April.

“We are in the unfortunate position where we must take a drastic decision in order to protect the judo family and also to comply with the general safety measures all around the world,” the IJF stated in a release.

Sumo

  • The March Grand Sumo Tournament went on without spectators. Taking place in Osaka, the Japan Sumo Association met to decide the best way to combat the virus and protect fans and athletes alike.

“We made this decision to help end the spread of the infection,” the JPA said on its website. “We ask for your understanding.”

Karate

“The cancellation of the event has been taken upon the decision of the Moroccan authorities to take extraordinary measures to control the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country,” the WJF stated. “All international sports competitions have been cancelled in Morocco, and the World Karate Federation has just received the communication from the Moroccan government regarding the Karate event to be held in Rabat next week.

“Due to this unexpected circumstance, the World Karate Federation in coordination with the International Olympic Committee is working through its Olympic Planning Commission and the Executive Committee to find adequate solutions for any eventual adjustments on the Olympic Qualification System.”

Kickboxing

  • GLORY Kickboxing has postponed GLORY 76 ANTWERP on March 28 and GLORY 77 MIAMI on May 30.

“The health and safety of our fans, athletes, staff and the wider public are of paramount importance,” said GLORY CEO Marshall Zelaznik in a statement.

“Fans in possession of tickets will have their seats reserved for the rescheduled event, but if they are unable to attend on the rescheduled date, they are being given the option to receive a refund or have the value of their ticket used as a credit toward a future GLORY event.”

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