When all major sports shut down events due to the coronavirus pandemic, two major sports entities decided to defy the system: WWE and the UFC. The UFC attempted to hold events as if it was business as usual. When UFC 249 was postponed following a desire to hold the event in California, Dana White had to come up with alternatives. It appeared that “Fight island” was his only option.
Thanks to Vince McMahon, the floodgates may have opened for an alternative.
This past weekend, WWE was deemed an “essential business” in Florida, per Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. Initially, WWE was not a part of the essential business section that was ordered under the shelter-in-place ruling in Florida. Following a sudden change, WWE was marked under the following guidelines, according to a release of the order:
“Employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience — including any athletes, entertainers, production team, executive team, media team and any others necessary to facilitate including services supporting such production — only if the location is closed to the general public.”
— Harry (@harryaaron) April 13, 2020
As a result, WWE will be providing live programming of Raw (Monday, USA Network), NXT (Wednesday, USA Network) and SmackDown (Friday, FOX) events. One of the main reasons for live events and not taped shows is FOX’s and USA/NBC’s deal with WWE where they are required to host a number of live events a year. WWE has been taping events inside its Performance Center in Orlando, including WrestleMania.
WWE was also deemed critical to the state’s economy. When asked by Marc Raimondi about MMA being included in this section of the ruling, a spokesperson went on to say:
“The memo does not specify specific sports, as long as the event location is closed to the general public.”
Florida was considered one of the ideal destinations for UFC 249 before tribal land in California was chosen. California Governor Gavin Newsom and U.S. Senator of California Diane Feinstein were involved in the UFC being shut down via a call to Disney executives.
Dana has since vowed to be the first sports entity to return to action. Willing to do whatever it takes to get events going, it would seem that he has Florida on his radar. If he can also provide them a profit, it would make a decision to accept them in the area easier. According to an exchange with MMA Fighting, the UFC would need to get accepted by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Per a release, the department stated:
“The [Florida State Boxing Commission] is prepared to regulate a professional sports production that is planned and executed in accordance with the conditions of the essential service approvals issued by the State Coordinating Officer.”
There has been no word from the UFC on this matter as of this moment.