While the rest of the sports world immediately shut down operations once COVID-19 got out of hand, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was looking to keep the show going. But after staging UFC Fight Night 170 in an empty arena in Brazil (pictures here), the promotion ultimately hit the pause button on several of its events.
Still, that didn’t stop Dana White from trying to stage UFC 249 — which was set to go down on April 18, 2020 — before ESPN pulled the plug. While some are applauding White's efforts to keep the ball rolling, others were quick to criticize the outspoken UFC president.
Among them is former UFC Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight champion, Randy Couture, who recently appeared on the Weighing In podcast to talk about White’s plans to stage an event during a worldwide pandemic while everyone else is towing the line.
“I had such mixed feelings,” Couture said (via MMA Fighting). “You start balancing, how much of this is hype? You start talking about the real numbers, look at the flu that happens every year, or so many other ways that people die. Where does this register on that same scale? We’re making such a huge deal and, literally, tanking our economy on a worldwide level over it.”
To hear Couture tell it, there was a certain level of selfishness going at UFC headquarters. And while White has been vocal about fighters safety being priority number one, “The Natural” doesn’t seem to think that was the case.
“At the same time, everybody else is on lockdown. Why do you think it’s OK to go out and try and put on a show and put athletes in harm’s way, potentially, with so many unknowns? I don’t know. I had mixed feelings about it.
“I felt like there was some selfishness going on in pushing this as far as they did,” Couture continued. “Finally, ESPN had to step up and, literally, pull the plug on it and say, ‘We’re not gonna broadcast it,’ to get it shut down.”
While White did have a couple of states offer to open their doors to stage a fight in California and Florida, he put his efforts in securing a private island to stage fights, which has since been appropriately dubbed “Fight Island.”
Couture, however, still doesn’t like the idea of Dana trying to find a way to circumvent the system while everyone else is following orders.
“Now, we’re still hearing talks about ‘Fight Island’ and all of this other crazy stuff. ‘Pandemic Island’ is what we should call it. I think we’re all in this together, so why should anyone be exempt? The UFC is no different than any of the rest of us.”
“Fight Island” is still in the works, but UFC still has options at its disposal, specifically UFC Apex, the facility that could host most of the promotion’s upcoming events should Nevada lift its ban on combat events soon.
Nevertheless, UFC is looking to mount its comeback with a stacked pay-per-view (PPV) event on May 9, 2020.