The UFC's Absurd Response To The Coronavirus
In the wake of every major sports organisation cancelling and / or postponing events and even whole seasons, the UFC has been an outlier in their refusal to follow suit. UFC President Dana White went on record with Aaron Bronsteter, stating:
I don't give a shit about the Coronavirus. As far as I am concerned we are gonna continue to run our business. We have Dr. Davidson involved, and we're always looking about the safety of the fighters, no matter what it is.
That was on March 8th, and since then the UFC has gone ahead with their show in Brasilia, Brazil, UFC Fight Night 175 (Fight Notes) without any fans in attendance. During the broadcast, the Nevada State Athletic Commission announced (story) that they have revoked all licences for combat sports events until March 25th.
Previously, the UFC had indicated their plan was to proceed with their scheduled events, including the upcoming London, England, event, and they would hold the remaining North American events at their private APEX facility. This decision from the NSAC nixes most of this, and the UK has banned mass gatherings (story), so that's a no-go as well. The UFC's reticence to cancel / reschedule is stark contrast to the NHL, NBA, MLB, NCAA, NASCAR, and countless international soccer federations. The severity of this crises does not seem to be registering with the UFC — and Dana White in particular.
One argument for continuing to try and run events is that fighters need to get paid, as many live paycheque-to-paycheque. I have a really simple solution for this: pay the fighters their win and show money, act like decent human beings and put things on hold until this literal global fucking pandemic is properly addressed and resolved. The scope of this problem just doesn't seem to be understood by the UFC but, thankfully, it seems as though the decision is being rightfully taken out of their hands.
The Coronvavirus crisis is shedding light on a multitude of societal issues, as systems break down under strain. The UFC, through its actions, has shown exactly how little regard they have for the safety of their staff and fighters. They can make hollow, empty claims to the contrary, but choosing to run an event, even without a crowd, that brings together 26 athletes and their associated personnel, into a venue with production and commission staff, in a foreign country no less, you are rolling a lot of dice. Whether or not any Coronavirus exposures result from proceeding with UFC Fight Night 170, the only effective defence against this pandemic is exercising an abundance of caution and not taking unneccessary risks. At best, the UFC looks ignorant, at worst they facilitated some number of viral exposures which could be transmitted to an exponential number of other people.
How the UFC handles the issue of compensating their athletes for cancelled events remains to be seen. I am very cynical and would expect the UFC to do the bare minimum here, possibly offering nothing more than the option to rebooked as quickly as possible. The company's decision to loot their cash reserves to pay out a $300 million dividend to investors (story) already looked incredibly crass in contrast to their paying %16 of revenue to the fighters. Stiffing the roster in a global crisis would be indescribably gross, and not outside the realm of possibility when discussing blood merchants like Dana White.
The severity and overall impact of the Coronavirus is still yet unknown, but the United States government's response has been sorely lacking. The UFC has been, unfortunately, responding in a manner similar to some media outlets and many citizens — one of disbelief and skepticism. I would hope that the UFC relents in their resistance to countermeasures being taken against the spread of this virus and pivots to supporting their roster of fighters and other sundry employees through this difficult time. I'm skeptical and very much encourage the UFC to prove me wrong here.
No matter what, this crisis will end eventually. It's up the UFC how they want to look when the dust clears and everyone takes stock of what went wrong and how the situation was handled. Right now, it doesn't look good. There is still time, however.
Published: March 15th, 2020.