Due to the COVID-19 being highly contagious, all global health organizations, including WHO, have published guidelines and protocols to make people aware of the dangers of the new health threat and protect them from being infected. These include respiratory hygiene, social distancing, and avoiding mass gathering.
Of course, major sports leagues in the United States are not exempted from these protocols, especially contact sports like boxing and MMA. From NCAA canceling their March Madness to PGA Tours cancellation, every sports league event is postponed until further notice.
However, despite most sports leagues canceling their shows and events, the UFC, which is the leading promotion of MMA, has no intention of stopping their events and instead moved their shows to Las Vegas. Most healthcare professionals condemn this, of course, but some people support this decision by the UFC. But just days after this decision, UFC 249 was postponed.
Cancellation of UFC 249 and Other UFC Events
On April 6, Monday, Dana White told the press that UFC 249 is happening despite the worldwide health threat. The main event will still be Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight title. Tony Ferguson’s opponent in the ring was supposed to be Khabib Nurmagomedov but was replaced because he was stuck in Russia due to travel bans.
However, it all changed just three days later when the UFC was pressured by Disney and ESPN, the UFC’s leading streaming platforms. The event was supposed to be set in Brooklyn, but because of COVID-19, the booking was canceled, and White moved the event to Tachi Palace Casino Resort near Fresno. The main reason is that the place is tribal land and is not subjected to any state laws.
However, Sen. Dianne Feinstein expressed concern about the event and urged the company to reconsider the world health threat.
Fighters Losing Bouts Because of Positive Tests
Coaches such as Mike Brown have heard of the devastating news of their fighters testing positive for COVID-19. While this is an inevitable event happening, it’s still a massive loss for coaches.
After the sports league events having a comeback after a long hiatus, fighters testing positive for the Coronavirus has been a regular UFC occurrence. Fighters like UFC welterweight challenger Gilbert Burns have missed significant events and fights, prompting him to lose huge paydays.
This is because fighters are general contractors, meaning they only get money when they have fights. A percentage of that money will go to the coaches themselves, and because of their fighters losing the chance to compete, they also lose money.
Although the UFC has enacted some guidelines and protocols like social distancing and sanitary actions, one of the sport’s biggest problems is the spread of the virus in gyms where physical contact is unavoidable. That said, all training gyms have emphasized protection to their staff and fighters.
Like Fortis, combat gyms have made significant changes to its place and will continue to evolve its guidelines as Texas has an upsurge in cases. They now require temperature checks in and out of the vicinity. During the downtimes, the staff must clean the gym with fogging machines that have disinfectants inside them.
Promotions Losing Money
Big named promotions like UFC, Top Rank, and Bellator are continuing their operations despite having no fans during the pandemic. While this is good for itself, small events that rely on ticket sales are being dormant.
Small events are the lifeblood of a thousand athletes, and without them, a lot of them are currently inactive. Not only that but businesses that also rely on these small events, like your favorite FanDuel’s UFC Betting Guide, are also being decimated.
With the combination of the loss of ticket sales revenue and further medical costs of COVID-19, the combat sports club’s future is looking bleak. COVID-19 has put many club promoters in a dire state and can potentially run them out of business forever. Not only that, if these promoters only rely on ticket sales and have no access to live streams, they lose potential money.
There is little hope and clarity as to when combat sports will return to normal again. Because due to the virus’s unpredictable nature, state laws and guidelines are also continually changing. Promoters have no idea when the regular crowd will be allowed again, thus making ticket sales out of the window for now.
While the UFC has offered to help the sport’s ecosystem by expanding its regional offering of their streaming services, it’s still not clear whether this will help their business or not.
COVID-19 is an unpredictable virus and has made many changes to the world due to its nature. Even then, major sports leagues are doing what they can to adjust to this world threat and help their people cope with their income source. However, this can only do so much, and they’re hoping that this will all pass very soon.