Burt Watson has a unique perspective on the UFC’s ongoing attempt to get its schedule back up and running.

Like the vast majority of the sports world, MMA’s leading promotion has been shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike most other major sports organizations, however, the UFC has agitated to get back up and running as soon as possible, including an aborted attempt to kickstart things with UFC 249 on April 18.

But now, as the pandemic progresses and we see signs of flattening the curve on coronavirus’ spread, the UFC has a new date in mind, May 9, to run UFC 249.

These days, Watson runs his Burt Watson Promotions. But for many years he was the UFC’s director of on-site operations. And as the man who oversaw the company’s event logistics, the always upbeat Watson believes that if any promotion can meet the challenges of running an event in this precarious time, it’s the UFC.

“When I heard that they were going ahead and making it happen, from a safety and medical standpoint, and an operational standpoint I know what’s in place, because I had a hand in creating that, and I know that no matter how many legs they have to pull off of it, they can make it happen,” Watson recently told MMA Junkie Radio.

Watson believes you can see the evidence of people taking social distancing and stay-at-home order seriously, and with that in mind, the time has come to have the conversation on how to begin staging events in a safe manner.

“We’re also in a time where, and a situation where, it’s bigger than anything else, what’s going on,” Watson said. “And the conditions of it, it designates what needs to be done, and it says we that we need social distancing. It says that medically we need to be careful. We’ve been in this situation now since honestly the beginning of March. The end of February, the beginning of March, and I think it’s gotten to a place where people have been careful enough they’re more careful of spreading it, because they know it’s a situation where it can be spread from one person to another.

“People are being more careful,” he continued. “And I can guarantee you that, aside from putting them on a plane and getting them all to one place and putting those guys where they can be secure, (the UFC is) going to do that, and the fighters and the camps themselves will take heed to that. We’re in a position now where it’s not as rampant as it was before, and there’s a little more control on it because of the social distancing, and people are listening to it. So I get a bit of a comfort level on that part.” 

This goes, too, with UFC president Dana White’s plan for a “Fight Island.” While the idea of flying international fighters out to a secure private island seems outrageous, Watson’s experiences over the years has taught him not to doubt even White’s wildest suggestions.

“As far as getting an island, Dana White foresees a lot of things, man,” he said. “I have yet to know that man to say something was going to happen, and it didn’t happen one way or another. And quite a few times I’ve heard Dana say things that you’re like, ‘What in the hell is he talking about?’ And you know what? From here to here (holding his hands apart), you understand it a little more. And by the time you get from here to here (holding his hands closer), he has confined and refined to a point where you understand it a little more, and it makes a little more sense. So if that happens, which I’m sure in some way it will, I just, in my head, I’m thinking if it is, if there is a place, where are the fans, where are the fans going to come from, how is that going to happen? When are we going to get to a place where we are going to have fans?”

This, again, is where Watson is confident that the UFC will find a way.

“As in anything, if you create a system that makes sure that you get from point A to point Z safe and sound, and that you’re healthy from an operational standpoint, from my understanding, everyone is going to be tested, everybody is getting that done and having that done and everybody gets tested, that’s the most important part,” Watson said. “You put that out there first, and once they know everyone is tested, I’m sure it’s going to happen.”

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