With Dana White at the helm, the UFC has enjoyed record breaking profits. Even with internal scandals that affected the UFC betting tips, the sport has still managed to stay relevant. With recent Covid-19 spread endangering lives, White has had to reaffirm the company’s position on UFC 249. It’s still happening, but the question is whether everyone will see it through to the end.
The Big Event
The main event of UFC 249 is lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov going up against Tony Ferguson. This is the biggest fight on the card, and the main selling point. Russia has recently locked down portions of the country, and in turn made it difficult for Khabib to travel.
As Covid-19 continues to grow, the travel restrictions in Russia will only get worse. That means the original fight date of April 18th may be the final nail in the coffin. Russia is still experiencing early outbreaks, and has yet to get hit with the hard parts of the virus. Mid to late April could be the very beginning of a complete lockdown in Russia.
Location, Location, Location
Even if the champ is able to travel through special restrictions, there is still the issue of logistics. The venue location is Brooklyn, New York. New York by itself accounts for the bulk of U.S. coronavirus cases, and is only getting worse. Employing the people behind the scenes to set this all up is a nightmare for the company.
Besides the issues with insurance, there has also been a large pushback by the working class during this epidemic. Amazon workers are staging walkouts due to lack of protective gear. Companies are having to mark workers as essential and pay them double (sometimes even triple) their normal salaries.
None of the above concessions falls in line with what Dana White or the UFC has done in the past. They pay historically low wages to their athletes, and have been the target of many lawsuits associated with money. So even if they book behind the scenes talent to hook everything up, it is likely the workers will be inexperienced, and more likely to make mistakes.
To get past all of these issues, White has been looking for an alternative location. They have also explored the idea of using empty venues, similar to what the WWE is doing with their main events. The only problem with this approach is that the company hasn’t been able to find a suitable place. That means the original location for the venue is still in play, regardless of what is said in the media.
There are reports that the event could take place in the United Arab Emirates. In many ways, that is logistically worse than having it in New York. The United Arab Emirates have already closed the borders, so it is unlikely they will make an exception for the UFC.
Things get more interesting when you look at the co-main event between Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas. If the UFC fails to find a venue outside of the states for their original main event, then there is a chance the original venue will work (with some card shuffling). That would make Thug Rose the headliner in an unprecedented move that hasn’t happened since Ronda Rousey took over UFC. White and company have been pushing Rose, and she is popular enough to carry the card.
Dana May Have To Take A Loss
Alternative venues and random cards aside, this is one situation where Dana White should take the L. He has been getting hammered by the press, and clearly doesn’t want to go back on his word. But sticking to the original date while getting turned down for venues is not a good look. It’s stubborn, and brings the wrong type of publicity to the sport.
With no end in sight to the coronavirus, UFC is going to take some serious monetary losses while the rest of the world recovers.