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 two 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.
As Dana White continues to be blasted by his critics, Fiedel and I discussed why White looks bad by holding and event that’s risking the health and safety of fighters, staff, and everyone at the venue involved.
“I would definitely avoid the ‘business is more important than people’ line of thinking. I would definitely defer to experts on this. I am definitely not a virologist, epidemiologist or a doctor of any kind, but to me it seems like we should be prioritizing the health and safety of people, rather than trying to go ahead with events of any kind or business (as usual). I think if the experts are telling us to socially distance, to self-isolate and to practice good hygiene, we should do those things and not put those behind anything else.”
In an unexpected turn of events during this whole pandemic, Conor McGregor redeemed himself in a heartbeat, while Jon Jones came off looking worse than ever. It’s a good time to show empathy toward others given how this affects fighters, fans, and reporters alike.
“If this pandemic is something that’s going to continue to affect the world and the MMA world for a prolonged period of time, we might see layoffs or releases in large droves. Obviously I’m not saying this as a way to cause panic or a way to cause too much concern, but looking at it from a perspective of ‘MMA events need to happen in order for fighters to get paid’ — in order to get paid a fighter must fight under the current gig economy that they participate in, and in order to get paid we have to cover those events — so if events are not going on jobs are threatened in that sense.”
Even if the landscape of MMA as we know it is changed because of the pandemic it scarcely compares to projections that nearly a quarter million people may die in the U.S. alone. Regardless “top dogs” like Jones and White will weather the storm better than most.
“The major players in the sport will be taken care of. I think UFC, like other organizations like the NBA, NHL, even though there’s a disparity between those two groups, will be able to ride this out. I believe that several other promotions will be able to as well, Bellator for example with Viacom, but certain regional shows might take a serious hit here. If you are a promotion that is going event to event, or you are hemorrhaging money through your events but still in your build phase, or you’re trying to do it out of a labor of love, this could be a very difficult time for you. I would not be surprised to see fighters, promoters, and media members involved in the world of combat sports falling on hard times during a prolonged period of absence.”
In closing, Fiedel commended Bellator MMA for paying fighters their show money for a canceled event and encouraged other promoters and companies to follow suit.
“I would say to promoters who do have those means to follow in those footsteps, and I would certainly hope that fighters who are less fortunate or fighters who do not have as stable of a financial situation are taken care of, provided that is in the cards.”
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