It’s only going to get more difficult for Dana White to justify continuing to put on UFC cards, let alone find a home for them in the coming weeks. The world’s largest MMA organization has remained steadfast in the face of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, that they will keep fighters fighting, and currently scheduled events on track. However, as states start to respond to the increasing spread of the virus, it’s getting harder and harder to find a place that will allow the UFC to put on a show, even without an audience present.
And that’s not likely to change anytime soon, especially not if states follow through on newly released guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The federal health organization just released a new set of recommendations via their website, titled “Get Your Mass Gatherings or Large Community Events Ready.” (this link is now dead but CDC guidelines can be found here) In it, the agency strongly recommends putting anything and everything outside of standard day-to-day business operations on hold for the next 8 weeks. That includes conferences, festivals, parades, and sporting events.
Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals.
Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.
Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.
This recommendation does not apply to the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses. This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus. This recommendation is not intended to supersede the advice of local public health officials.
No matter how hard the UFC works to keep things safe and sanitary, there’s no way any fight card could respect recommendations of “social distancing”—nevermind the large amounts of blood, spit, and sweat that fighters tend to shed on one another during their bouts.
And even if the UFC were to stick to their plans of moving events to non-public venues and exclude fans from attendance, it’s hard to imagine the promotion carrying off an entire fight card with less than 50 people present. Just fighters alone for UFC 249 account for 24 people (26 if Shamil Abdurakhimov stays on the card). Give each fighter two corners and you’ve already got a gathering of at least 72. And that doesn’t include officials, techs, or other necessary event staff.
Maybe the UFC could get away with putting on one fight per day over a whole week? If not, they may find themselves fresh out of places to put on a full card. At least assuming that states take the CDC’s message to heart.