When it comes to UFC 249, does anyone know what is going on? Following the last few weeks of headlines, questions and inconclusive data, it is hard to give an answer. We are just a few weeks away from UFC 249 and no venue is in place. The main event is nonexistent.
Two things are for sure, however: this entire situation in and out of the octagon is a mess, and it is not getting better.
The coronavirus has affected many people all over the world. Various events have been postponed, including the remainder of the NHL, the NBA and the entire NCAA Tournament. The Olympics are postponed, and a number of combat sports entities have halted events. That is of course, except for the UFC. In fact, the only two people who have not halted anything are Vince McMahon and Dana White.
The show must go on as they say. But in this case, is it worth it? Just recently, the UFC went to Brazil for one of its last major events. Held inside an empty arena, the Brazilian Athletic Commission did not test the athletes prior to or after the fights for COVID-19. Speaking to Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole, White was discreet when talking about testing athletes, although he did say something was being done about it.
“We will make sure we take care of everybody like we always do,” White stated, “I’m not giving the public and the media all kinds of information on what I’m doing, but I’m not acting like some crazy rebel out here with the coronavirus. I’ve done everything I’ve been told to do.”
White also told TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter that the UFC is doing something, but it wasn’t as detailed as those were expecting.
“Health and safety is always an issue with us,” White stated. “A lot of these different businesses don’t deal with this type of stuff, we deal with it every day. We have the best and the brightest. We have these doctors who work with the athletes and these doctors who work with our staff. Health and safety isn’t something new for us, it is something we live with every day, and it is something we think about and are focused on.
This comes after Randa Markos, who fought at the event, talked about her experience once fight night was over.
Just made it home. Stopped by the coronavirus testing center and they wouldn't test me. Long flights with a lot of people, not feeling great and I'm not a risk? Okay I guess I'll be home for two weeks
— Randa Markos (@randamma) March 17, 2020
The UFC has been leaping over various hurdles in order to get UFC 249, featuring Khabib Nurmagomedov v. Tony Ferguson to take place. For one, President Trump has banned all travel into and out of the United States. That factor can affect all fighters who are from outside America from getting in. Nurmagomedov returned to Russia to train since all gyms in America are closed, and now he is stuck there. The Nevada and New York Athletic Commission have both barred combat sports from taking place within the states, while other states have just halted events altogether.
Why continue, especially when the fight most pined for is not going to happen?
Dana and the UFC eventually had to give in, cancelling three events before UFC 249. In total, the potential gate for all these events may have been over $3,300,000. That does not include subscriptions to ESPN+. With the current situation the world is in, the UFC and ESPN+ need a home run to lift spirits.
UFC Brasilia card ratings on ESPN – average of 672,000 viewers. Lowest number of UFC on ESPN era – also streamed on ESPN+ and broadcast on ESPN Deportes.
— Trent Reinsmith (@TrentReinsmith) March 17, 2020
As one of the main contributors to the wealth of Endeavor, a company which is being classified as negative “CreditWatch” by S&P, the UFC has a lot of pressure on them. It makes sense with them being the big MMA entity.
Fighters fight because some of them don’t have any other means of compensation. If they don’t compete, they don’t get the amount that could help them thrive in the world. It may cause a dilemma when it comes to performing.
“I think our health is more important right now and the UFC is right to postpone events until things get better,” Markos stated to MMA Junkie.
“If they have to cancel it, they have to cancel it,” Ronaldo said to Combate in regards to UFC 249, via Bloody Elbow. “The most important thing during a pandemic is to protect the ones close to you. If it’s bad for me and it’s bad for my opponent, then it’s bad for the whole world. For the UFC, who is putting those events together. Let’s hope everything goes well.”
I would bet more then half of fighters would expose themselves to coronavirus before not getting to fight. We aren’t union and don’t get paid to not fight. Most spend all their money getting to their next fight.
— Anthony Rocco Martin (@TonyRoccoMartin) March 12, 2020
Even the next event, UFC 250, is getting fighters nervous. Every single day something changes and the coronavirus gets worse. Fighters like Ketlen Vieira, Bethe Correia, Carlos Felipe told MMA Fighting their concerns with going on with the show.
Moving around the card, Dana has been attempting to grab whoever is available. There are concerns on that considering the issues of training without a gym, travel, fear of the virus, etc. The MMA media and doubters have been criticized, but it is only because of their concerns regarding the current situation. Everyone, not just the UFC, now has to worry about a fighters overall health outside of the octagon.
Everything appears fine on their end, for now. The UFC is housed in Las Vegas and White has been known to be a gambling man. There is no denying his determination. In this case, however, is the juice worth the squeeze?