Welcome to the monthly April wrap up! Here is where we breakdown some of the biggest headlines from the month and provide some insight and opinion on it. I would love to hear what you all think so please leave a comment down below. You can find March’s Wrap here
Considering the Covid-19 Pandemic, April was a slow month for headlines and news from MMA world.
1. UFC 249 Delay:
UFC 249 was expected to be one of the biggest events of the year scheduled for April 18. The much-anticipated match up between the lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson which was rebooked for a record fifth time. Each opponent pulled out of the fight twice each. No one would ever expect that a global pandemic would be the reason they would not fight this time around. The event was expected to take place in Brooklyn but New York was one of the first states to issue a lock down and cancel all sporting events.
This sent the UFC into a panic to find a new location and venue to host the fight. The original idea was to host it in Las Vegas but that was nixed when the Nevada Athletic Commission cancelled all combat sporting events. After this the plans were kept a secret (likely because the UFC had no clue) on the venue. Imagine being a fighter up until the week of the fight and did not know where it would take place? That is incredibly difficult to deal with mentally and can really throw a wrench into the weight cut schedule.
This had the worst effect on the champ, Khabib. He had first been informed to move to Abu Dhabi as they were confident that is where it would take place. Once they were on lock down, he was asked to move to Russia. Next thing you know Russia is under lock down as well and the champ is stuck in his home country unable to fight.
The UFC scrambled to get Justin Gaethje to fill in and fight Tony for the Interim Lightweight title on two weeks notice. They also reveal the new venue two weeks before the fight. It will take place at the Tachi Palace, an Indian Reservation Casino in California. The Tachi Palace is well known for their MMA events hosting Tachi Palace Fights, an MMA organization up to 2018 before they folded. The importance of this location was that it was on a Native Indian Reservation. It is not mandated by law to follow the lockdown order that the state of California imposed. This seems kind of backwards to me. When Dana and the Fertitta brothers purchased the UFC, they were fighting for regulation so that it can be accepted into society. This was Dana White running away from regulation.
It was at this point that important people had to intervene and stop the event from taking place. The Governor of California was not pleased that the UFC was going behind his lockdown orders, so he made a call to the executives at Disney and ESPN (Disney owns ESPN). Together they asked Dana White and the UFC to postpone the event until it can do so legally under the jurisdiction of an athletic commission. They ultimately got what they asked for and the event was postponed to May 9th.
It’s apparent that Dana was hell bent on running the event because people told them they could not do it. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed, and the event was postponed. It is not a good look for the UFC to run an unregulated event and without safety precautions. This also proved that ultimately executives at Endeavor (Endeavor owns the UFC), ESPN, and Disney can pull their weight and get the UFC to do what they feel is right and ultimately taking some power away from the UFC. Now more than ever is it time to make responsible decisions.
2. UFC Reschedule:
Currently there have been five cancelled UFC events due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. That leaves a lot of fighters unpaid who have not earned a living wage. The UFC is also confident they can be the first major sport organization up and running. That is where Florida comes in. Florida mandated professional wrestling (WWE) and MMA events as an essential service. Luckily this was the perfect opportunity for them to host an event that was regulated.
The UFC announced that UFC 249 would move to May 9th. Two events that would take place that same week were also announced. One on Wednesday the 13th and the last one on the 16th. All of them would take place at the Vystar Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
A lot of questions remain up in the air as to the safety of hosting that many events in such a short time span. Logistically how would this take place regarding testing, if someone tests positive, social distancing rules, and more. Surely the UFC will create a protocol and guideline, but will it be enough? Only time will tell.
This also led to the idea of Fight Island. Many of the international fighters that the UFC has under contract will struggle to get into the country. Getting working visas to compete in the United States is challenging during this time. Thus, Fight Island was born. Dana White found a secret island where they built the infrastructure for fighters to live, train and compete on until the end of the pandemic. This is supposed to be ready by the end of June. The issue is that there has been no updates provided to the public.
I miss the UFC as much as the next person, but I do not want it to come back at the expense of everyone else involved. Hosting three events in such a short time span is already a difficult task but to do so during this pandemic only adds to the challenge. The UFC will go ahead with the plans because it will be regulated by the Florida Athletic Commission. Disney and ESPN will not try to stop them this time. I just hope that they take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of everyone. Fight Island is an interesting idea. I see the appeal of it, but I am unsure of how viable it is. It sounds like an episode of the Ultimate Fighter except it is for people already on the roster and in a more exotic location.
This was my April wrap! Let me know what you thought, and what stories I missed out on mentioning.