Am I imagining things?
Didn’t we just watch Wrestlemania 36 take place in an empty performance center in Orlando? Two full nights of matches without fans, in a controlled and safe environment?
We did watch that. Russ and Coggin wrote two recaps that totaled something like 9,000 words.
If we’re able to put on a 1v1 and 2v2 sporting event during a global pandemic, then why are we unable to make mixed martial arts work? That’s the question I have. After weeks of trying to forge a path, and deciding to hold UFC 249 at a Native American reservation in California, Dana White says ESPN executives basically pulled rank and told him to chill out:
UFC President Dana White spoke to Brett Okamoto about #UFC249 no longer taking place on April 18.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) April 9, 2020
It’s a tough position for White, who only agreed to that new deal with ESPN last year. ESPN has been very good to UFC, giving it more mainstream publicity and a great platform on their main channel and ESPN+ for pay per view and Fight Night events. Obviously Dana is not going to tell those people to shove it because he doesn’t want to jeopardize that relationship.
But it still doesn’t answer the question as to why we can’t do this thing. What is ESPN worried about? Bad publicity? Do they not want the scrutiny of supporting a guy who is trying to organize a fight during a global pandemic? Does it set a bad example? Is it irresponsible?
Maybe it’s a combination of those things.
There was a report out there claiming that California governor Gavin Newsom actually called Disney (ESPN’s owner) to complain about UFC 249, a report that White denied. Senator Dianne Feinstein was also opposed to the plan to hold UFC 249 at Tachi Palace near Fresno, offering this statement:
Eh, well, she’s got a point, but she still goes on my shit list anyway.
The thing I’ve said about UFC from the jump is that Dana White is working from the Roger Goodell playbook. These guys understand the risk and complexity of moving forward during a crisis, but they want to do it because they understand that pulling off safe events is a big win in the morale and mental health department. When you give people something to look forward to, it’s a success during a time when folks are missing sports and borderline depressed and getting itchy and antsy at home. If there’s a way to do the NFL Draft or hold UFC 249 in a reasonable and responsible way, then let’s make it happen. Anything resembling normalcy is a positive right now.
One more question –
What about the private island then? You heard about White securing this location as well, which I guess was supposed to be a mechanism to get international fighters involved during the crisis.
White remained adamant the UFC will be the first sports organization back in business.
“It’s all good. We’re going to get through this,” he said. “We’ll be the first ones back. Fight Island is coming, all the good stuff. It’s coming, man. We’ll get this thing squared away, get a date from ESPN, and we’ll be back first and we’ll get these fights going that everybody wants to see.”
Regardless, I need to see Khabib Nurmagomedov fight Tony Ferguson at some point in my life. I get this sinking feeling that it’s never going to happen.