As expected, Florida’s curious decision to deem sports as an essential service has opened the floodgates for more than just the WWE to inquire about hosting shows in the state.
Top Rank Boxing’s Bob Arum, who has been a heavy critic of the UFC’s approach to running events during the coronavirus pandemic, told ESPN that his promotion has looked into eventually having events in Florida, including at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando.
“It’s very, very interesting, and we’re going to be in touch with them. There’s a possibility to use their facility to maybe do events without a crowd,” Arum said.
Arum did add that a resumption of Top Rank’s schedule wouldn’t happen before June, a full month later than the UFC and WWE’s respective plans for shows. The 87-year-old has been critical of Dana White’s handling of the pandemic, but now there’s even a chance that when combat sports returns, some Top Rank cards could be at the UFC’s APEX building in Las Vegas. It should be noted that this is all hardly set in stone.
One of the obvious questions about conducting shows during a pandemic is “where would all of these fighters train at a time when gyms around the country and in other parts of the world are closed?” The solution is simple: everyone trains under one roof.
“What we’re doing is looking at facilities, including our gym, where the guys would have to train,” said Arum (via ESPN). “You can’t have them in these old gyms because they can pick up the virus that way. But if you clean your gyms and you just let a limited number of people in to train, and then you bring everybody to the location, put them up in a hotel and keep testing them, you can get it done.
“We would sanitize the Top Rank gym, limit the availability to those in the program and bring everybody into Vegas. If the hotels aren’t open, rent them a facility to live in and get them ready when we do open up and we do the events with the testing and so forth, whether it’s in California, Nevada, Texas or Florida, any of those places. So we’re working on all of that, but again, it’s a work in progress because we’re flying blind.”
As an aside, given the payment structure differences between boxing and MMA, when boxing does return there’s a really good chance that bigger fights in boxing get pushed back indefinitely, whereas the top MMA bouts will likely be made whether there’s a crowd or not. The gate money that is lacking for closed-door shows has an impact on the purses of top boxers, so unless they want to fight at a reduced cost, the long-term ramifications for boxing as a result of the coronavirus will undoubtedly be major.