Saturday night marked the first UFC event held since the World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus / COVID 19 virus to be a global pandemic. While many other sports leagues have made the decision to shut down until the full scale of the current outbreak and its effects can be measured, UFC president Dana White has declared that his organization’s fights will continue, barring a complete government mandated quarantine.
So UFC Fight Night 170 in Brasilia went ahead, but without a crowd to witness the fights. Instead, the event was held in an empty Ginasio Nilson Nelson. Only the fighters, their corners, and event staff were on hand, creating a very different vibe than the one typically generated by the 11,000 screaming Brazilians that would normally be in attendance.
The UFC did a good job keeping the lighting down and masking the fact that fighters were competing in an empty arena. But certain broadcast shots and behind the scenes footage tell the story of the first UFC Coronavirus event.
Take a look:
”I had already seen a fight change on the day of the event, an athlete being prohibited from fighting hours before the fight, changing the state event during the week,” David Corrhea wrote. “But today was the first time I saw fights in an empty arena. And it was really weird!!”
The UFC’s own social media accounts shared this video:
UFC staff made the best of the situation with jokes. Here’s UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard:
There are crickets in the venue so you can literally.....hear crickets— Mick Maynard (@Mickmaynard2) March 14, 2020
I’m going to take on the responsibility of being the “every fan” tonight. I will be leading the chants woooooooo, yell to kick him in the nuts, stand him up, whistle at the octagon girls and of course chant ooo vai morrer— Mick Maynard (@Mickmaynard2) March 14, 2020
And true to his word...
The event ran smoothly, with just a few hiccups ... like Michael Bisping forgetting there was no one there to ‘make some noise’ for the winning fighter.
Pricks— michael (@bisping) March 14, 2020
And the lack of a crowd didn’t seem to affect the quality of the fights much. Renato Moicano and Gilbert Burns scored quick wins while Charles Oliveira and Kevin Lee went to war for two rounds before “Do Bronx” locked up a choke early in the third round to earn the victory. If it weren’t for the crickets, you’d never know no one else was there to witness it.
With everything going into lockdown for the next couple of weeks, we imagine UFC fights in empty venues are going to become the new normal. What a strange time to be alive.
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