MMA Ratings Podcast

March 23, 2020

Coronavirus: The UFC's Response To the Pandemic Hasn't Been Good Enough

By Adam Martin

The coronavirus pandemic is currently ravaging the entire globe and the outbreak of COVID-19 has essentially ground all of professional sports to a halt. That is, except for the UFC. While the NBA, NHL, MLB, and many other leagues across the world shut down amidst this global crisis, the UFC stood defiant and tried to hold as many events as it could before being shut down. While other organizations have ground to a standstill, the UFC has tried its best to continue trucking on. The UFC's response to the coronavirus pandemic has been confusing, and quite frankly, not good enough.

While Bellator MMA canceled its most recent event, Bellator 241, choosing instead to pay its fighters not to fight, the UFC decided to hold its event in Brasilia and had its fighters compete with no option to pull out and still receive their "show money." Sure, there were no fans in the audience and the risk of a fighter contracting the virus during the event was minimized, but keep in mind that none of the fighters on the card were tested for the coronavirus either. The fact that the UFC went on with the event when most fans and media were pushing back on it was baffling. UFC President Dana White hates being told what to do, but when the entire sports world is shutting down its events, it was very surprising to see the UFC choose to go ahead with that event in Brasilia.

The UFC was even trying its best to hold events originally scheduled for Columbus and Portland (but canceled due to the coronavirus) at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, but when the Nevada State Athletic Commission banned combat sports events the UFC had to shut down those plans, much to White's chagrin. The promotion was fully committed to going ahead with its card set for London until the travel ban to and from the UK put a halt to that card. White tried his best to try and shift the card to an Indian reservation in Oklahoma, but ultimately even that didn't end up happening. UFC 249, originally set for Brooklyn in April, is also at risk of not happening at all now either.

White has conducted numerous interviews with the media since the coronavirus outbreak wreaked havoc on his event schedule and, despite everything going on around the world, is still confident the show will go on. While its true that at least three UFC cards have been postponed, White has not come out and outright said they are fully canceled. The UFC still wants to do these shows at some point, and White is adamant that he won't let the coronavirus stop the UFC machine from trucking on, despite the same virus taking down the NBA, NHL, MLB and a host of bigger organizations than the UFC. Even the Summer Olympics in Tokyo is likely to be canceled.

While White has bragged about the fact that the UFC hasn't laid off any of its employees while other companies have, the UFC has also not committed to paying fighters who lost out on their fights in London, Columbus, and Portland. Many of the fighters badly need that money to survive -- to pay their coaches, to pay for their camps, and to take care of their families. So far, the UFC has not made a public statement regarding whether its fighters will get any sort of compensation for their missed bouts despite the UFC's rival Bellator doing so. That response is just not good enough from the UFC. The first thing the promotion should have said was that it was paying fighters whose fights were affected by the coronavirus at the minimum their show money. Instead, the UFC has said nothing.

In some ways, Dana White should be commended for trying to keep the UFC going despite everything going on around the world. After all, the only way the fighters are guaranteed to get paid win bonuses and performance bonuses is if they fight, so most fighters wanted the events to go on. But the UFC should be heavily criticized for pushing for these events to go forward. These are very trying times, unique times, and the whole world is in a state of crisis right now. In times like these, the UFC should be stepping up and showing more leadership by paying the fighters, postponing fights until further notice, and encouraging social distancing by hosting no fights until the crisis subsides, even if it hurts White's ego to do so. It's not about toughness -- ultimately it's about safety.

UFC Fight Night Brasilia: Lee vs. Oliveira took place March 14, 2020 at Ginasio Nilson Nelson in Brasilia, Brazil.

Click HERE for more UFC Brasilia Post-Fight Analysis

UFC Fight Night London: Woodley vs. Edwards was scheduled to take place March 21, 2020 at The O2 in London, England. It was canceled due to growing concerns around the coronavirus.

Click HERE for more UFC London Pre-Fight Analysis

UFC Fight Night Columbus: Ngannou vs. Rozenstruik was scheduled to take place March 28, 2020 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. It was canceled due to growing concerns around the coronavirus.

Click HERE for more UFC Columbus Pre-Fight Analysis

UFC Fight Night Portland: Overeem vs. Harris was scheduled to take place April 11, 2020 at Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. It was canceled due to growing concerns around the coronavirus.

Click HERE for more UFC Portland Pre-Fight Analysis

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