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‘I was willing to risk getting quarantined’ - UFC’s Evans-Smith hopes fighters get paid for postponed cards

UFC flyweight Ashlee Evans-Smith hopes that the UFC follows Bellator’s model for their most recent cancelled card, and compensates the fighters who were set to compete on it.

UFC Fight Night Ngannou v Velasquez: Ultimate Media Day Photo by Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

The UFC hasn’t quite ‘cancelled’ any of their 2020 events, just yet. At least not officially. But, for fighters who were set to compete over the next three weeks, the distinction likely feels a bit academic. Whether the world’s largest MMA organization wants to call these events postponed or rescheduled or what have you, the long story short seems to be that the fights that were supposed to happen aren’t happening, and the fighters aren’t sure when they’ll be able to compete again next.

In a recent interview with the A-Side Live Chat, UFC flyweight Ashlee Evans-Smith spoke about the state of confusion the current COVID-19 pandemic has left her and other fighters in at the moment. Evans-Smith was supposed to fight Molly McCann this Saturday, March 21st, in London, England—before the latest waves of travel and event restrictions forced the UFC to cancel those plans. And with no clear return to normalcy in sight, ‘Bulldog’ says she would like to see the UFC take care of its fighters financially, similar to how Bellator did with their recent cancelled card.

“I haven’t heard anything from the UFC. And the UFC, as much money as they have, they’re not giving out money left and right for nothing,” Evans-Smith said. “I know the [Bellator 241] fighters that got compensated, they weighed in and I’m just really hoping that the UFC doesn’t do some trickery and say, ‘Oh, well you didn’t make weight or you didn’t weigh in.’ I’m not saying they’re gonna do that, but I’m also not gonna get my hopes up.

“I think we deserve that money to say the least. I, personally, was going to go over there and risk my personal health. I was willing to risk getting quarantined to fight, to perform, to do my job for them. So I really hope that they compensate us.”

Some bouts from the UFC London card have been pushed over to this weekend’s closed-doors Cage Warriors event. Had Evans-Smith had the option, she said she would have “done that in a heartbeat.” After all, she was already in London for her upcoming bout, when the UFC cancelled their plans. Evans-Smith even noted that her opponent, Molly McCann apparently only found out that their fight was cancelled after seeing an Instagram video the Black House trained fighter posted on her way back to the airport.

From there, though, things only got more confusing.

“I’m on the flight, I’m literally about to take off and my manager is like, ‘Just stay ready,’” Evans-Smith said. “And I’m like, ‘Ready like don’t eat?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, they might reschedule the fight in California.’

“Are you serious? I’m already eating and he’s like, ‘We might do a catchweight. So just don’t worry, don’t stress.’ I’m like, that’s like saying f-cking don’t breathe right now. Don’t stress? Don’t stress? You don’t know where I’m gonna fight, where I’m gonna fight, maybe I fight Saturday. So yeah there was talk, but it was so ridiculous. We didn’t know if the world was shutting down.”

Eventually Dana White announced the UFC would postpone their London, Columbus, and Portland events. White still claims that UFC 249, headlined by the lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will go ahead as scheduled. But at this stage, even that looks less and less likely by the day. What that will mean for fighters who were expecting to pick up a paycheck in the coming weeks? They may very well find themselves tightening their belts and looking for alternative sources of income.

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