UFC 249 may be done and dusted, and the promotion’s foreseeable 2020 schedule on indefinite hold, but there’s still one US promoter out there looking to push ahead with combat sports events in the next couple weeks: Chael Sonnen. The ‘American Gangster’ hasn’t necessarily been dismissive of the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic, but when push comes to shove, he hasn’t been willing to put an end to his Submission Underground grappling events either.
“I’m getting way too much credit for this,” Sonnen said in an interview with UFC.com back in March. “We had this on the calendar. A deal is a deal and we said we were moving forward and there’s a lot of people involved with this. People who have trained, people who have goals, people who, in all fairness, need to make a living. Not just the athletes, either; we’re talking production and everything. There’s just a lot of dominoes and if you say you’re going to do something in this space, you do it.”
That was ahead of Submission Underground 12, which took place in a converted grain silo on March 29th. And with the next event planned for April 26th, The Body Lock has received word that Sonnen is still full steam ahead on his plans to carry on with events. A quick look at the promotion’s Instagram seems to confirm that the promotion shows no signs of stopping.
While making no mention of any COVID-19 testing procedures, Sonnen described his safety protocols during the broadcast of the last grappling card; detailing how he stays in one room to do commentary, while the athletes are kept separate until fight time—when only a doctor, referee, and cameraman are present. The competition surface is sanitized between fights, and all competitors must wear long-sleeve rashguards and compression spats.
It’s certainly a valiant effort to minimize risk. But ultimately, as Joe Rogan so succinctly put it, “There’s no social distancing in a fucking cage fight.” With the next Submission Underground set to feature athletes traveling from around the country for the event, even if they were coronavirus-free when they started the trip, they’re putting themselves at higher risk of picking up the virus on the way.
But, as long as there’s the possibility of a paycheck on offer, and unless state government officially steps in to shut Sonnen’s promotion down, it seems likely that the former UFC title challenger will find ways to keep putting together cards, come hell or high water.