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Dana White fact check: UFC boss might have been overconfident with coronavirus proclamations

Things are changing too quickly for White to speak in absolutes

Dana White says he never made a $2 million bet with Snoop Dogg, let alone an illegal bet, ‘ever.’ Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Digital First Media/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

Welcome to a new ongoing column, “Dana White fact check.” In this series I will look at the claims of the UFC president when he speaks to the media. In the inaugural column, I breakdown White’s recent conversation with UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. The talk took place on Instagram Live on Thursday, March 19.

Dana White: We’re not canceling anything. We’re postponing. We’re calling it postponing.

Bloody Elbow: Maybe

The UFC has done a good in getting fighters booked as soon as it can after its postponed cards. For instance, UFC 233 was scheduled for January 26, 2019, but the UFC announced in mid-December it had postponed the event. Most of the fighters were rebooked against their scheduled opponents in February. One fight, Joseph Benavidez vs. Deiveson Figueiredo did not take place, but Benavidez fought in January and Figueiredo competed in March. The two fighters in the main event, Robbie Lawler and Ben Askren faced off in March. So, the UFC got those fighters bouts as soon as possible.

The UFC is not dealing with the same situation in 2020. The promotion postponed UFC 233 by choice. Matchmakers also had room to book those fights as quickly as possible because the UFC didn’t postpone any other cards and the 2019 schedule was still taking shape. The UFC has postponed three cards because of the coronavirus pandemic and no one knows if more events face the same fate. If everything goes well and they hold UFC 249 and all the other future events as scheduled, the earliest the bulk of the three postponed fights can fit into its schedule is mid-May. Yes, there are some spots available on UFC Fight Night 173 and 174 and UFC 250, but the UFC has 39 fights to make up between UFC London, UFC on ESPN 8 and UFC Portland. That’s a lot of fights to shoehorn into the schedule, while also making sure the other fighters on the roster compete three times in 2020.

My biggest beef with the postponement is the fighters for the three postponed events had already gone through the bulk of their fight camps when the events were put on hold. That money is spent. The fighters won’t get it back and many will probably need to go through another camp — even if it is an abbreviated one — before they get the chance to fight again. So, will White be able to say the UFC made up the fights which were postponed, if all goes according to plan? Yes, but that claim will likely omit the fact the fighters took a financial hit because of the postponement. That’s the reason I believe the UFC needs to pay the fighters on those three postponed cards. They deserve at least their show money, but should get both their show and win.

DW: We will be up and running before any other sport will. Our sport’s different. We have our own arena next door (the UFC Apex).

BE: Maybe

This one depends on at least two factors. The first is if the states the UFC plans to operate in have lifted enough of the restrictions they have adopted during the pandemic. The second is if the states want updated medicals from UFC fighters. Those could include precautions such as coronavirus and COVID-19 testing and self-quarantine mandates after the event. If that testing includes everyone that will enter the arena for those fights (and it should) and a self-quarantine requirement, that could hurt the UFC’s ability to hold future events due to lack of staff, corners, etc..

The UFC could also go commission shopping if enough restrictions are lifted nationally that allow it to hold events on tribal lands, but that would be a bad look for a promotion who always said it runs toward regulation. If those tribal commissions fall short in health and safety regulations, the MMA media will notice and question the UFC’s commitment to its fighters.

DW: Go online and look at some of these people – and this isn’t a knock, this is just a fact: The weakest, wimpiest people on earth cover the biggest, baddest sport on earth. What do you expect them to say? What do you think they’re gonna say?

BE: C’mon now and false

First, what does this have to do with anything? Second: This is false. That’s like saying all MMA promoters have the skin tone of a ripe tomato. It sounds good, but it’s not true.

DW: I have over 350 employees who work for me. Multi-billion-dollar companies are laying off all their employees right now. We haven’t laid off one person at the UFC. And every fighter that fights for me will fight three times this year. Our schedule will go on. Everybody’s gonna get paid, and we will figure this out, and we will be the first sport back on. And, uh, f—k that s—t. Everything will go on.

BE: True for now, but could change

The UFC has not laid off any employees. That’s true (as far as I know) and commendable, but we are still in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. If White’s bosses at Endeavor tell him to enact layoffs, he will have to or else pay the employees out of his own deep pockets. I guess White could re-sign in protest, but it’s doubtful that would happen.

It might be difficult to get every fighter three fights this year if the pandemic causes more postponements, but as of now, the UFC could likely make that happen, even if it has to present more than one card per week.

DW: Listen, the media can talk as much s—t as they want. They don’t feed families. They don’t take care of f—king people. They don’t have people that count on them. They don’t have people to support. We’re doing the right thing as far medical testing goes and everything. That’s all we f—king do. That’s nothing new. We were doing that s—t way before the coronavirus. We were taking care of people and making sure that everybody’s healthy, and every fighter that’s with me on the road is getting much better medical attention than they are at home – if they’re with me. You know what I mean?

BE: False

This is a knuckleheaded claim. If White is talking on a business level, this isn’t true. The heads of the media sites have people who rely on them. They take care of families and people by paying their employees and sometimes offering insurance. As for individual media, there are many people in the MMA media who have families they need to take care of.

As for the testing. The UFC does what the government tells it do and usually nothing more. If it holds a card in a state with a weak commission, the UFC meets those standards. If it holds an event where the commission is more robust, it meets those standards. If it self-regulates, it meets its own standards. The UFC rarely goes above and beyond with health and safety; it defers to the government. If the commissions do not require coronavirus testing, it’s unlikely the UFC will step up and do that testing on its own, even though it should.

Fighters do not have medical insurance outside of training. Even then they only get injury insurance, not illness insurance.

DW: All my people that are with me, no need to worry. Enjoy your family, spend your time. This is a big vacation until this thing blows over and we will be back on track and we will kick some f—king ass like we always do.

BE: Maybe

Fighters need to worry, especially the ones who had put in camps for cards that have been postponed.

As Ashlee Evans-Smith, who was on the London card, told MMA Fighting, “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.”

This might be a vacation for UFC employees, but for the fighters, who are independent contractors, they have much more to worry about and if they missed a paycheck because of a postponed fight, they’re probably not in the financial shape to sit back and relax.

“Not going to lie, my family and I, we’re going to have to tighten our belts for a little while,” Sam Alvey, who was scheduled for UFC on ESPN 8 told MMA Fighting, “I fought in July, I was supposed to fight in November, but I broke my hand. So what was going to be tax money is now living money, and we’re just going to have to budget responsibly and make intelligent decisions with where we spend our money. I’m sure that’s the same as all the staff of the UFC and the staff for every other business that can’t be open. I’m sure they’re going to have to tighten their bootstraps and makes some smart and probably tough decisions.”

“Here’s what I think. The UFC is a huge, serious company, I think they will take care of us athletes. I don’t know,” Geraldo de Freitas told Bloody Elbow. “They have a lot of money, years and years of profit. So I think they have enough money to take care of us right now, but we don’t know what they’re going to do. We’re a little apprehensive about that.”

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