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Amid the wreckage of UFC 249, who gets the blame?

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Fighters, Managers, and very likely UFC brass are going to want a scapegoat for the disaster that was the failed UFC 249 fight card. Is it the “media,” is it the government? A good scapegoat may be hard to come by.

This week appears to have been something of a catastrophic mess for the UFC. Fight plans were at once resurrected from the tomb, only to be almost immediately torched and destroyed like some creature from beyond. If Dana White is our Victor Frankenstein, however, who exactly is to blame for the death of his malformed creation?

Should the monster have ever lived at all? And, having been given life, did it deserve to die so swiftly?

Stitched together from the components of other dead cards, UFC 249 was supposed to be Dana White’s magnificent return to form. A true attempt to play god, and spit in the face of man and nature—as he looked to bring life to fans and fighters amid a global pandemic that has seen large portions of the world locked in their homes for weeks on end now.

For many, the fact that this thing needed to die fast was pretty obvious from the beginning. There’s just no way to put on fist fights while also following regulations of social distancing and guidelines against travel and events. To push ahead, nonetheless, was to put numerous people needlessly at risk.

And when government officials started making overtures to entertainment executives, the eventual action that stopped this whole process dead, was indeed swift. A process that should leave the trail of blame pretty clearly laid. From the fighters that just wanted to fight, whatever the cost, up to Dana White, and on to the executives that greenlit White’s plans, right up until the exact moment they didn’t.

But for those who were depending on a swift return to normalcy, who saw White’s vision as a clear path back from the brink to a working world they recognized—for them this swift destruction has left a lot of impotent rage in its wake.

Managers and fighters are taking to social media grasping desperately for a scapegoat to target for a failure that, in hindsight, seems almost inevitable. Some are picking up the groundwork Dana White laid down weeks ago, when he started calling out the media as weak and wimpy. Eventually going so far as to tell outlets that he had to keep the location of UFC 249 secret, so that the media wouldn’t spoil the event. It’s hard to keep an event secret when the UFC has to notify local organizers of their plans and arrange for things like medical support staff. But, hey, if White says it loud enough, someone will believe it.

Others are looking at the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic and see only a vast overreaction to a problem that they still view as relatively minor and overblown. After all, there have only been a few cases in Fresno County. So what’s wrong with bringing a bunch of people from all around the world there? The UFC says they’re testing everyone. Where, when, and how quickly is probably the kind of information that White feels people are better off not knowing. Couldn’t we just have given the whole process a spin to find out if it worked? If anyone got sick and died, we’d know not to do it again, right?

For these people, figuring out exactly who to blame is gonna be rough. After all, they can’t troll a virus. Blaming the media has a nice ring to it. Once the location leaked, coverage of the UFC’s plans was probably exactly the kind of thing that alerted the governor that he needed to take action. And the press has always been a convenient boogeyman whenever people have been faced with the potential of taking responsibility themselves.

But, as the pandemic continues, it can only become increasingly clear that this isn’t a media problem. The bad news will continue to hit in waves, from all sides. Job losses, business failures, illnesses, and ultimately the most important thing that we’re all hoping to avoid, death. As that happens, for those feeling that they could be living a normal life, if only everyone else would let them, they are going to find themselves blaming everyone and anyone, but unable to pick out anyone in specific.

UFC 249 came crashing down because, by most any realistic standard, it had to. Dana White & Co. had meddled in God’s domain (so to speak) and they’re mostly just lucky that they didn’t end up getting anyone hurt for their trouble.