UFC versus coronavirus: While other sports shut down over health fears, Dana White stubbornly vows, 'We're not stopping' (VIDEO)
In stark contrast to the English Premier League, the NBA, the NCAA basketball tournament and the UEFA Champions League, the UFC is taking a "business as usual" approach to life during the coronavirus crisis, making changes to their events and event schedule only when government decrees and restrictions force them to do so.Also on rt.com 'This stupid f*cking virus': Conor McGregor posts lengthy statement about coronavirus amid personal tragedy
In an all-encompassing interview on ESPN's SportsCenter Saturday night, UFC president Dana White laid out his company's approach to business during the coronavirus crisis in one simple sentence.
"Unless there's a total shutdown of the country where people can't leave their houses and things like that, these fights will happen," he said.
The next UFC event on the schedule was the promotion's March 21 event in London, England, as former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley was set to return to action against England's Leon Edwards.
Throughout the past week, the UFC's plan was that the event would go ahead, as planned. But now, as international travel restrictions get ever tighter, their London visit has been scrapped, with the main event bout due to be relocated elsewhere.
"Obviously things are changing by the hour," White explained.
"This morning (Saturday) they announced new travel restrictions for the U.K. so the fight obviously can’t continue in London, but the fight will go on.
"We’re working on finding a new venue, likely in the United States, and I have my matchmakers working right now to put together the undercard. The bottom line is that fight is happening, and the main event will go on."
White's insistence that the big fights will still happen continued when he addressed the situation with UFC 249, which was set to be headlined by the hotly-anticipated UFC lightweight title clash between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.
White said that fight would indeed take place, but it wouldn't be in their originally-scheduled location of Barclays Center in Brooklyn, due to a government shutdown in the New York area.Also on rt.com UFC, just make this f*cking fight... Planet Earth needs to see Khabib vs Tony Ferguson!
The plan was for White to move key fights back to Las Vegas, with the option of holding stripped-down events inside the promotion's state-of-the-art APEX facility, next door to the UFC's Performance Institute. But with the Nevada State Athletic Commission provisionally suspending all combat sports events until the end of March. That plan is far from certain.
"We had possibly a couple of different venues for that fight, including Nevada," said White.
"So now the whole Nevada thing went down, we’re looking for another venue. I hope by probably 10 o’clock (Sunday) morning I should have two venue options for that fight. That fight will happen. It will go on. The fans are all freaking out about that. Do not worry. Khabib versus Tony will happen."
“The fans are all freakin’ out about that. Do not worry; Khabib versus Tony will happen.”@danawhite says only a “total shutdown of the country” would lead to fight cards like #UFC249 being canceled. (via @SportsCenter) pic.twitter.com/pliGtv4wc1— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 15, 2020
Despite the unprecedented nature of the situation, White said his experience dealing with the often volatile, unpredictable nature of booking and promoting fight events has stood him in good stead for dealing with the coronavirus crisis. And he said that, one way or another, the show will go on.
"We’re working to find new locations, but the fights will go on. They will continue.” @danawhite announces that two fight cards, originally scheduled for Columbus and Portland and recently relocated to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, will move once more. (via @SportsCenter) pic.twitter.com/2smPcU8zKB— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 15, 2020
"We’re not stopping. We will keep finding a way to put on the fights," he said, defiantly.
"I’m in the fight business. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and this stuff happens to me every weekend. So, I’m used to this stuff. Not at this level obviously, but this is what we do. And we always make sure that the cards happen, and they will continue to happen."Also on rt.com COVID19 & cash: The financial implications of the coronovirus pandemic on sport