Before we begin, two notes from the NFL:
First, legendary Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula passed away on Monday at the age of 90.
Shula’s 1972 Dolphins team gained NFL immortality by completing an undefeated season, culminating in a victory against the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII in January of 1973.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins are, as of 2020, the only team in NFL history to go undefeated throughout a season.
Second, due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the NFL has decided to cancel its five International Series games for the 2020 season on Monday.
All five games will take place in America at the home stadiums of the participating teams.
Onward to today’s topic:
It’s been 51 days, as of this writing, May 4, 2020, since the last Ultimate Fighting Championship event, UFC on ESPN+ 28 in Brasilia, Brazil took place.
The card took place without fans or credentialed press in the arena, and ESPN+’s onsite studio for the event was moved outside the venue.
Both of these measures were instituted in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
UFC on ESPN+ 28 turned out to be the only live MMA show to occur that second full weekend of March as the scheduled Bellator 241 on March 13 was canceled in the hours leading up to the event due to an order from Bellator MMA’s parent company, ViacomCBS, that the event not take place,
Prior to the cancellation, Bellator MMA had announced that Bellator 241 would happen without fans at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT.
Now, eight weeks later, the UFC is set to return with UFC 249 this Saturday night on ESPN+ pay-per-view inside Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena with two championship fights to end the show and no fans in attendance.
After UFC 249 on Saturday, two UFC Fight Night events will be held at the same arena on May 13 and 16 with no fans in attendance.
These events will take place after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made an exception to his state’s stay-at-home order allowing for live sporting events or television productions to take place in the state so long as the venue holding the events remains closed to the general public.
In addition to the various medical tests that competitors will be subjected to during fight week, published reports on Monday indicate that fighters will also undergo swab and antibody tests for COVID-19.
As far as holding MMA shows without fans in the arenas, it’s something that promotions are going to have to get used to doing for the foreseeable future.
It’s part of the new normal as we continue to navigate through this trying time.
Even though social distancing regulations and stay-at-home orders will eventually be loosened to the point that MMA promotions can hold events with crowds in attendance, I think that this is something that, at the very least, we are several months away from, if not longer.
An MMA promotion does not want to have people flock to an arena on fight night at a time like this.
It runs the risk of thousands of people getting sick—a risk that no one would even entertain taking right now.
The liability issues that would arise from something like that would be, in a word, nightmarish for the promotion to deal with from a public relations and an ethics standpoint.
Of course, if a fighter happens to test positive for the virus and it’s traced back to any of the three UFC Jacksonville shows, everything would be suspended again for the time being and there’d be no telling when a sports organization would try to hold events again.
Safety is on the forefront of everyone’s minds right now.
For now, fans will have to settle for yelling at the TV—something that’s always worked for me.
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