Dana White has assured us that UFC 249 will go ahead as planned on April 18, despite mounting criticism from the media about the possible spread of COVID-19 from fighters who may have unknowingly contracted the virus.
Many fighters and managers, however, seem to be on board with the idea, as Khabib’s manager Ali Abdelaziz believes the UFC president has the fighter’s best interests at heart.
“I think the UFC or any other promotion who has fighters under contract, they have to find a solution,” Abdelaziz said. “Because these guys, the fighters, are independent contractors. They do not get a salary. Some of these guys make $10k and $10k, $12k and $12k, $15k and $15k and they live paycheck to paycheck. This is how they make money and this has been going on for 20 years.
“For you as a media member to criticize or a coach or a fighter, whoever you are, if you’re a fighter and don’t want to fight, that’s fine. Don’t fight. If the UFC is willing and Dana White is willing to put his reputation and money and getting potentially f*cking sued, put that on the line and put on a fight and the fighters are willing to fight, I don’t think anybody has the f*cking right to tell them not to put on the fight.”
Abdelaziz, who owns Dominance MMA, also said White has offered to pay fighters who may be struggling financially and won’t be able to compete for the foreseeable future.
“Dana White reached out to me and said ‘if any of your fighters need money to support their families, reach out to me, and they don’t have to fight if they don’t want to,” Abdelaziz said. “For me, that means a lot. I want to go ahead and say that because that’s the truth. He didn’t have to say that.
“He’s telling me if any of my fighters need money, reach out to him. I haven’t yet but I’m sure I will.”
Abdelaziz doubled down on his claim that, ultimately, the fighters want to fight at UFC 249 — Dana isn’t forcing anyone to compete.
“It’s about the fighters, who need to provide for their families,” Abdelaziz said. “They need to pay rent. They need to pay bills. Why can we not put on a safe event? I believe Dana White can put on a safe event. I believe Hunter [Campbell], Sean Shelby, Mick [Maynard], Dr. [Jeff] Davidson, all these guys, they’re going to take the right measurement to put on a safe event. I trust them.
“Some of the people who are sitting behind the computer saying they can’t but they’re the reason we’re fighting today.”
Although no venue has been announced for UFC 249, Abdelaziz is almost certain that it will take place behind closed doors in an empty arena.
“If they can put it on in an arena with no fans, have the fighters at the hotel and bring them one by one to the arena with their corner men, let them do it,” he added. “Let them do it. They’re the ones putting their reputations on the line. But if you’re not the fighters, you should not talk. This is my opinion. If any fighters don’t want to fight, that’s fine.
“These guys want to fight. These guys have been in camp for two or three months. I’ve got guys fighting April 18 and April 11 and March 28. Marvin Vettori f*cking traveled to London and came back and didn’t fight. Listen, I’m writing checks to some of these guys and it’s fine. Because these guys have been paying my bills for the last 10 years so if I have to help pay their bills, I don’t care. I’m going to do it. But I’m telling you, the UFC is giving opportunities for the fighters to make money.”
UFC 249 was originally expected to take place in Brooklyn, New York, but the event was cancelled after the government enforced a statewide lockdown. The PPV, which features a headlining lightweight title bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, is still scheduled to take place on April 18, so expect the UFC to announce a new venue and location in the coming days.
To check out the rest of MMA Fighting’s interview with Abdelaziz, click here.