Earlier this week, M-1 Global announced that it will go ahead with a series of scheduled events throughout the course of April, most of which are expected to take place in Minsk, Belarus. The announcement drew criticism and concern from fans and media alike who questioned how the Russian promotion would be able to pull of such shows given the travel restrictions and government mandates in place across the Russian Federation due to COVID-19.
In an attempt to address these concerns, M-1 Global posted an interview with founder Vadim Finkelchtein, who explained that he wanted to fill a void in the sports world left after the coronavirus pandemic, and to take advantage of the pivot towards online content in the arts and entertainment industries.
“You all know what the situation is now in the country and in the world,” Finkelchtein said. “People are forced to sit at home. In the field of music and art, online concerts and performances have gained popularity, for art lovers there is a large selection of such broadcasts, but for sports lovers there is nothing at all. We can see from the comments how boys who are not interested in concerts missed out on sporting events. Gyms are closed, even street sports are banned. That’s it for the sports audience, so we decided to make a gift and hold a closed online tournament.”
Despite the risks associated with holding sports events amid a global health crisis, M-1 Global plans to hold up to four separate shows over the next ten days, beginning on April 15 and ending on April 25th in Minsk, Belarus.
Given that Russia is currently on lockdown as it deals with a rising number of coronavirus infection rates and death tolls, M-1 Global decided to host these events in Belarus, the only neighbouring country that has refused to implement any official government restrictions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
While Finkelchtein is aware of these concerns, he remains adamant that the events will take place under strict safety measures.
“Of course, we will carry out all the measures that are prescribed to date. We received a letter from the sports committee [in Belarus], got acquainted and will do everything necessary.”
Unlike the UFC, which is able to profit off its events in a closed-door environment due to its broadcast deals and Pay-Per-View sales, promotions such as M-1 rely on the live gate as an important source of revenue. So why does Finkelchtein insist on holding these events if he would be operating at a loss?
“Yes, we understand that, financially, of course, we are making the tournament at a loss to ourselves, but we made that decision. I think this is a necessary measure to maintain and audience interest in MMA and in general in sports. We always talk about the priority of a healthy lifestyle, and today, as I said, there are only concerts among online broadcasts. So we want the guys involved in sports, too, had something to see.”
Russia currently has 24, 490 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 198 deaths and approx. 2000 recovered.