For sports fans all around the globe, the cancellation of all major sports due to COVID-19 has hit hard. As time has gone on, days start to feel like months and months begin to feel like years. So when are fans going to be able to sit down and finally watch live sports again?
Welcome Dana White and the UFC into the picture. From the get-go, the President of the UFC, Dana White, had no plans of canceling events, but like every other sport, he had to step down and sideline the UFC as well.
But mark your calendars folks, because on May 9th, live sports returns. UFC 249 is set to take place on May 9th in Jacksonville, Florida, without fans in attendance. And with a stacked fight card from top to bottom, it’s apparent White knew the time to steal the spotlight was in his hands.
This decision has come with severe backlash. Even die-hard mixed martial arts fans have been pleading online to postpone events until the virus subsides.
“We know how serious the coronavirus is. We’re taking it very seriously. Health and safety didn’t just pop up for us a few weeks ago with the coronavirus, it has always a concern for us for the last 20 years,” White said in an interview with CBS Sports. “I’m one of these types of people who likes to figure out: how do we solve this problem instead of running and hiding from it? I think we’ve got it figured out.”
The UFC is taking significant precautions to ensure the safety of everyone involved. To begin with, everyone involved with the event will be tested for the virus, from the fighters all the way to people setting up the venue days before the event. As far as when the fights finally begin, this event won’t look the same, as fans may be expecting. All commentators inside the venue will be spread out with their own safe space, instead of the typical shoulder to shoulder approach. Post-fight interviews will now be held outside the octagon, with fighters talking over a mic to a commentator.
These precautions only scratch the surface of what White and the UFC are doing to protect everyone involved, and it makes sense to have strict guidelines in place. But why is it so important for the UFC to pull off this event?
If the weekend goes to plan, no one gets infected; this will be the event that thrusts the ever-growing sport into the levels of the NBA, NFL, and MLB. This weekend the entire sports world will have their eyes on this event, and millions will tune in around the world to watch live sports again.
As the UFC has shown time and time again, when adversity peaks its head, they can pivot and prove all the naysayers wrong.
Looking past just the UFC, this event has significant implications for other sports believe it or not. As aforementioned, if the UFC 249 goes to plan, this can pave the way for all the other major organizations who are on the fence about resuming or starting up their season. And as of right now, that includes the NBA and MLB.
“What I’m kind of hoping is this gives other sports leagues the confidence to get out there and do what I’m doing and figure this thing out in how to put on a sport as safely as you possibly can,” White said in the same interview with CBS.
UFC 249 will be headlined by an interim Lightweight title fight for the ages between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje. The Co-Main event features a bantamweight title fight between Henry Cejudo and UFC veteran Dominick Cruz. So cross your fingers, sports fans, and make sure to tune in on May 9th, to see one of the most pinnacle sports events in history.