Throughout the pandemic, the UFC has been the lone major organization to put up live events. The company had just concluded its fourth show for the month of May, wrapping it up at its very own APEX facility on Saturday.
But according to UFC president Dana White, it’s not the virus that’s been the deterrent for other sports leagues to get back on schedule. For him, it is more about the amount of money involved in putting things forward.
“The biggest problem isn’t COVID-19,” White told reporters during the post-fight media scrum. “COVID-19 isn’t the reason all these sports leagues can’t go. These guys can figure it out. It’s financial. This is a massive financial burden on everybody’s company.
“It’s a huge financial burden to do all the things that you need to do to comply with keeping the place safe. I truly believe that’s the real reason that you haven’t seen any of the majors come back yet, because they’re looking at what it’s gonna cost them.
“And again, like I told you before, one guy makes the decision here: me,” he continued. “And you know me, so we’re f—ng going. These other guys, you got the league, you got different owners with different opinions and different financial situations, and it makes it a lot harder to pull off than something like this.”
Just to be more specific about how much more expensive it was to put up a pandemic event, White revealed that the company needed to rent out an entire hotel for fighters and staff, as opposed to cutting a deal with a casino which they usually do.
But no matter how much it cost, White claims that resuming operations is something he owes to his staff, the fighters and fans.
“The easy answer to this is I lay off most of my staff, take all my executives and cut their pay in half, fighters don’t fight,” he said. “That’s not what I do. That’s not what I’m paid to do. That’s not the way I’m built. That’s not the way I think and look at things.
“I feel like in the position that I’m in, I have an obligation to a lot of people. 350 employees here in Las Vegas who’ve worked hard for me for the last 20 years, fighters… I just feel like I have an obligation to all of these people. I have an obligation to the fans.
“It’s just the way I’m wired and financially, it’s not a great situation, and I guarantee you, that’s why most of the other sports aren’t jumping right in to come back,” White added. “Because it ain’t cheap and it’s a lot more work than three months ago.”
The absence of a live audience is a bit of a blow on the UFC’s finances. White states they’d have about $100 million less revenue, but 2020 is still looking to be pretty huge for the UFC because of their contractual deals with ESPN and others.