Is Dana White’s determination to stage UFC cards during the coronavirus pandemic admirable or, as boxing promoter Eddie Hearn suggested, is he “mad?”
White, the head of UFC, said he has secured a site for UFC 249 on April 18 in the United States – at a Native American reserve, according to at least one report — in spite of widespread lock downs and ultimately plans to showcase his product on an undisclosed private island.
UFC 249, originally scheduled for Brooklyn, almost certainly would take place without spectators but would be televised on ESPN. Tony Ferguson would face Justin Gaethje in the main event after Khabib Nurmagomedov pulled out.
White told ESPN that he is “going to continue to pump fights out.”
“I talked to the president and the vice president of the United States about this,” White said in an interview on ESPN. “They’re taking this very serious. They’re saying, ‘Be cautious, be careful, but live your life and stop panicking.’ Everybody is panicking, and instead of panicking, we’re actually getting out there and working with doctors and health officials and the government to figure out how we can keep the sport safe and how we can continue to put on events.”
White added: “We’re always looking out for the health and safety of our fans, our athletes, whatever it might be. This thing going on, we’re going to do the same thing. We’re going to make sure that two healthy athletes are competing, and these guys are good to go.”
As ESPN reported, the Association of Ringside Physicians has called for a suspension of all combat sports events.
A ARP statement read: “Any combat sport taking place during this global pandemic places the athletes, officials, and anyone else involved in the event under unnecessary risk of infection and transmission of COVID-19. In addition, combat sports athletes often require medical attention after a bout, and we do not wish to see any additional strain on an already overwhelmed medical system.”
White would have to find medical personal willing to buck the ARP recommendation and, because it’s unlikely any commission would oversee his cards, he would have to come up with his own judges and referees.
Hearn, whose cards are showcased on rival DAZN, said White’s plans are in “bad taste,” according to Express Sport.
“It’s unbelievable,” Hearn said. “I’d like to think that in boxing, there’s no-one more roll your sleeves up and get on with it than me. But even I wouldn’t consider staging an event right now. I’m not even thinking about options, not even on the radar.
“This is stubbornness. These are many of the things that make him successful but at some point you have to sit back and say ‘white flag’. I’m quite surprised ESPN are going ahead with this, obviously they want ratings and money.
“Half of me admires him for cracking on, but the other half says ‘come on don’t be mad.’”