By Devin Jones
As of April 8, the upcoming UFC249 event was officially postponed.
The event has been scheduled for months now and was highly anticipated because of the men’s middleweight title-fight that was supposed to headline the card.
Despite the company being fully aware of the large-scale cancellation of almost every other sporting event in the coming months, UFC 249 found itself wrapped up in an interesting piece of controversy: UFC president Dana White was doing everything he could to make sure the event went on as planned.
This plan took many unexpected turns, as have many of our plans in the recent month or so.
First, the Russian-born champion Khabib Nurmagomedov was barred from leaving his home country because of fears linked to the coronavirus. This isn’t unforeseen territory in the world of mixed martial arts matches get canceled at the last moment quite frequently for reasons ranging from injuries to fighters missing weight.
The champion was quickly replaced by Justin Gaethje, the highest-ranking available opponent.
What ensued after that was something not many people expected. White was pressured by the U.S. government to follow in the footsteps of every other major sporting company in the world and postpone the event. White refused. When he was barred from having the event take place in the United States, White went about taking steps to secure an offshore private island which was technically outside of the boundaries of the US, set up the proper infrastructure to host MMA fight cards, and secured coronavirus tests for everyone who was to be admitted on to the island.
White, after all of this time, effort, and money, ended up being pressured by high-ranking members of ESPN and Disney to cancel the event. White eventually obliged.
Seeing the lengths to which White went to try and make this card happen was shocking. It was completely ready to go, with the tests, island, crew, and fighters all at the ready.
Knowing the extent to which this one man went to put on this event raised a large ethical question from my perspective. As there are people around the world dying from this virus, how was one man able to secure enough tests to be able to “safely” put on an entire fight card? White seemed to have secured the proper amount of tests in under a week, despite the number of U.S. cases and deaths rising by the hour. The U.S. can’t even secure a proper amount of tests for its citizens at the moment, yet this man was able to secure a number of them for himself?
Not to mention, why would White even want to continue pushing to put on this event while knowing the risks? The only thing that got him to stop was losing support from his providers. If White had noble intentions, finding a way to stream the fights surely would have been easier than, oh, I don’t know, buying an entire island?
As more and more people become infected with this disease, I can’t help but wonder how far this company would have gone to make a buck. If this was truly about anything other than making money, it would still be happening.