UFC 249 is a risk, but the UFC never played by the rules

Saturday will mark 56 days since we last witnessed a live UFC event.

In some ways it feels longer – the absence of the press conferences, the highlight reels, the Saturday night fight fix.

In some ways it feels shorter – the numerous proposed cards, the subsequent cancellations and the rumours surrounding an inevitable return.

It kind of sums up this whole experience, or experiment, whatever way you want to put it, of being a fight fan during this pandemic. What way should I steer?

Confusion 

If anyone has been paying attention to the MMA Twitter sphere – an informative but volatile message board at the best of times – fans are divided about Saturday’s event.

Should it really be happening? I miss sports, but do I miss them that much?

Over the past few weeks – I’ve really shut myself off from the MMA world. The cancelled cards became overbearing, the empty promises became almost predictable and the overall uncertainty made it a not so fun sport to follow.

But now – after 56 days – and a lot of turmoil in the process – I’m willing to accept the UFC’s decision to hold a card on Saturday night. This is the UFC after all.

The UFC and it’s idle path

Dating back to the beginnings of the Ultimate Fighting Championship – they’ve had their fair share of detractors. Federal governments intervened on the UFC holding events in their state – and the company were forced to deal with adversity early on.

As time went on – the company grew through their stars – the Chuck’s, Tito’s, Randy Couture’s of the world. The acceptance had grown but the UFC’s independent placement on the sporting ladder never dispersed.

Why do most people view the UFC in their own right? Well, for a start, the martial arts concept of the sport is distant from many other major organisations. The history of martial arts is deep – but the history of MMA competition in the public eye is not.

Whatever way you want to view it – the UFC are viewed in their own light when it comes to sports. With the carrying out of events such as this one on Saturday, it only further propels them into their own category of entertainment.

Money talks

Unfortunately a sporting organisation such as the UFC will bear the brunt of a pandemic to a higher degree than an NFL, NBA etc. The UFC doesn’t have a structured season they can put back or suspend.

I couldn’t care less about Zuffa, or Endeavour, maintaining a paycheck throughout all this. It’s the fighters and those associated with them that have my concern. When you think of the cancelled cards and the backlog of active fighters – it’s insurmountable.

From a monetary standpoint – the UFC in their eyes – are trying to support the fighters by carrying out these events. It gives them an opportunity to earn money, bonuses etc. It’s also a way of opening up their schedule for more fighters to do the same.

In an ideal world – many wish the UFC brass would just reach into their pockets and keep the fighters compensated throughout all this. But in a more established league like the NBA – players are taking a pay cut. Unfortunately things don’t always work out that way.

The audience

So who’s going to tune in on Saturday night? Whether you’re for or against this card, there’ll likely be a high percentage of MMA fans watching. Given the lack of sporting coverage on television networks – a lot of casual sports fans will be watching too.

Yes, this is great for the UFC and the fighters participating in one way. More eyes on the sport can’t be viewed negatively, right? Well, unfortunately, holding any sort of sporting event in a country as ravaged by the virus as the U.S. is going to be difficult.

The UFC are going to win over some new fans no doubt – but with that will come the vocal detractors who won’t be considered MMA enthusiasts after it’s all said and done.

From a moral standpoint – the audience should be the least of the UFC’s worries in putting this card together.

What will come from UFC 249?

Disney/ESPN execs stepped in on last month’s 249 card – calling for a cancellation. But a few weeks later, and not much headway medically gained in the United States, they are allowing it to go on.

The UFC know what they’re doing, Disney/ESPN know what they’re producing and the fighters themselves are accepting of the circumstances – at least barring the financial pressure.

There’s a great risk at play here with Saturday night’s card. If there’s a confirmed outbreak – or an individual infection – the press will go to town on the UFC.

But for the money and the exposure – the UFC are willing to take the risk. And I can’t say I’m that surprised. After all, this is the UFC we are talking about.

Am I upset at the UFC’s pay structure? Yes. Am I buying the UFC’s strict testing policy in relation to the virus? No. But am I willing to accept this deeply flawed company that’s letting fighters fight and bringing a sense of normality to this pandemic? In some ways, yes.

After 56 days, I’m willing to accept it for what it is. UFC 249 will be happening on Saturday. And that’s that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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