Michael Fiedel is deputy editor of TheBodyLockMMA.com and a staff contributor for Flo Combat. I invited Fiedel to discuss the current mixed martial arts (MMA) landscape in the age of coronavirus and our conversation (check out part one here), naturally, turned to UFC 249, which is currently still scheduled to take place April 18, 2020, in an empty arena at a secret location.
There are so many questions regarding the wisdom of this decision for everyone involved:
“As far as a fan-less event, I commend UFC and other promotions like Cage Warriors who have done it. I think that’s a great idea because obviously we don’t want large crowds congregating because of who might be coming in if someone happens to be infected and they do or don’t know, but it also can spread rapidly through a large group. So removing the fan component is a great first step, but even still, an event runs a risk.”
Dana White seems to be of the mindset that a fan-less event is the solution, but Fiedel outlined why that’s still a bad idea for the fighters even if no fans can spread COVID-19.
“Let’s say UFC goes ahead and runs an event. You have UFC staff, the essential staff and the production team. You have all of the fighters — their coaches and corners. (You have) friends and family who happen to be at the event, I know certain fighters (for whom) that is possible, certain fighters that isn’t. I’m not sure if UFC allowed that (in Brasilia). You also have the referees, the medical staff who are going to be at the event.”
That sounds like well more than the widely promoted guideline of no more than 10 people congregating in one place at one during during the pandemic, but the dynamic at play for the fighters involved is even worse.
“You have these athletes who by nature of weight cutting are completely dehydrating themselves, not getting the proper hydration or nutrition, and becoming in effect immunocompromised, only to go out there and compete and then return back to where they are (from). For certain sports like the NBA or the NFL where the population (of athletes) is largely concentrated in the U.S. I guess you can understand that the spread is only going to be confined to the U.S., but the sport of MMA is international — it’s global.”
One only has to look at the main card of UFC 249 to see the problem. Co-main event fighter Jessica Andrade is from Brazil. Ion Cutelaba is from Moldova and his opponent Magomed Ankalaev hails from Dagestan. The only fight originally booked for the main card with two Americans is Jeremy Stephens vs. Calvin Kattar, but Ferguson vs. Gaethje may be next.
“You have fighters from all over, coming from all over, training in completely different places than where they’re from, all converging on a single, centralized location. It’s a recipe for disaster unless extraordinary measures are taken, and as of yet we don’t have any indication that those measures would be taken — through coronavirus testing, or anything approved by WHO, CDC, for events like this. If you’re the only event in town, chances are, you shouldn’t be.”
Stay tuned for part three of this conversation about the severe risks athletes who place themselves in an immunocompromised state are being expected to take in the name of making money for themselves and their promoters.
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