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Arum on boxing’s return: ‘We’re not going to be cowboys like Dana White’

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Top Rank Boxing Fall Schedule News Conference Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Over the years, Top Rank boxing promoter Bob Arum has taken more shots at Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and its bombastic president Dana White than we’d care to catalog. Even when he does throw some begrudging respect towards the promotion or the sport, it usually comes with an insult or jab attached. So we don’t think it’s surprising that he’s not impressed with White and UFC’s latest hard push to keep operating through the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

In the lead-up to the original UFC 249 date on April 18, 2020, he tore White a new one.

“[White] ought to be ashamed of himself,” Arum said on the State of Combat podcast. “What’s going on in this country and the world with this virus, the last thing we need is for an event to take place with no spectators just to get the event to take place. But the truth is Dana White is somebody with a flawed intelligence.”

In a recent interview with Boxing Scene, he let ‘er rip again.

“Good luck to them,” Arum said. “I just hope that they’re not endangering the safety of anyone. But this kind of cowboy behavior doesn’t do anybody any good.”

Arum contrasted his plans to wait until a more respected athletic commission like Nevada or California gives him the go ahead.

“We’re looking now with Nevada, which we’ll do in a sensible way, or California,” Arum said. “We’re working with [Nevada’s] Bob Bennett and [California’s] Andy Foster, and we’re talking to the Texas commission. We’re only gonna do this if it’s safe for the fighters and everyone involved, and if it’s approved by the medical authorities. We’re not gonna be cowboys, like Dana White. I don’t wanna get politics involved, but I have really very little respect for Dana and what he’s doing.”

Arum referenced the NBA’s Adam Silva and NFL’s Roger Goodell as examples to follow in contrast to White’s cowboy behavior before noting one of the original UFC 249 fighters, Lyman Good, tested positive for Coronavirus.

“It turned out one of the fighters, in fact, tested positive afterwards for coronavirus,” he said. “You know, if we get something like that on one of Dana’s shows, and God forbid there’s a serious incident of spreading the disease, it doesn’t do well for anybody who’s involved with sports.”

How bad of a look it would be if the UFC fails to keep its staff and fighters safe depends on the safety protocols used for their upcoming fights in Jacksonville Florida (starting with UFC 249 on May 9th), and of course whatever the hell is going on with Fight Island. A few days ago the UFC finally shed some light on their plans, revealing a serious restriction on the number of people allowed on site and in associated hotels amongst other things.

Everyone gets an individual workout room as opposed to a room for red corner fighters and one for blue corner fighters. Food will be prepared specially and brought in for fighters, and onsite medical staff will be provided. A variety of medical testing will also be done, although the promotion stopped short of saying they’d perform COVID-19 tests.

Will it keep everyone safe? With so many unknowns, it’s really not clear. It really depends on the infection levels of all the various areas fighters will be coming from, and how effective their own lockdown protocols have been. With the only clear cut number right now being the amount of excess deaths per state, it doesn’t feel like we have a good handle on just how rampant the disease is, so there’s a big element of chance at play.

Even with a solid plan that gets executed properly, UFC could simply be unlucky. And then we’ll all have to take a hard look in the mirror then and admit maybe Bob Arum was right about UFC for once.