Never in a million years did I expect to be coming to you to present an article in a time like this:
On Wednesday, due to concerns over what is now the coronavirus pandemic, the sports calendar began to feel the effects of a worldwide health crisis.
A scheduled Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder game in the NBA was postponed right before tip-off—but at the time there was no reason given.
It was revealed two hours later that Utah Jazz C Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19, causing the game to be called off and the NBA electing to suspend its season indefinitely at the close of Wednesday night’s games.
Just before the start of the scheduled New Orleans Pelicans at Sacramento Kings game, the contest was postponed out of caution for an official who had worked the Mar. 9 Toronto Raptors at Utah Jazz game.
Since then, the sports world has, by and large, been thrust into a standstill—with every major collegiate athletic conference deciding against continuing its men’s basketball tournaments.
Duke University and Kansas University each decided to indefinitely suspend respective sporting events for the moment, resulting in each school’s men’s basketball programs not appearing in the NCAA Tournament.
Now, March Madness has itself been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, along with all other winter/spring sporting events.
Earlier in the week, NCAA President Mark Emmert announced that both men’s and women’s tournaments would be played without spectators in attendance.
Major League Baseball announced on Thursday afternoon that it would suspend its season temporarily due to the pandemic—resulting in the delay of its scheduled Mar. 26 opening day–with Major League Soccer delaying its regular season for the next 30 days.
The NHL has also suspended its regular season for the time being due to COVID-19.
As far as the NFL is concerned, the league does not intend to delay the start of its 2020 year from Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET, nor does it intend to push back the deadline for its players’ association to vote on a new collective bargaining agreement, currently scheduled for Saturday evening at 11:59 p.m. ET.
With the cases of the NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball suspending play, this will mark the first time that the leagues have missed games since work stoppages in 1994-95, 2011, and 2012-13, respectively.
In Ohio, all Ohio High School Athletic Association winter tournaments were called off in advance of a 2 p.m. ET press conference by Governor Mike DeWine where he announced a ban on public gatherings of more than 100 spectators.
The pandemic has already reached mixed martial arts inside the United States as Combate Americas suspended its competitions through March on Monday.
Earlier Thursday afternoon, Cage Fury Fighting Championships announced the cancellation of its CFFC 82, which had been initially scheduled for next Saturday night on Facebook Live and UFC Fight Pass.
This leads us to our focus on a bleak day in the sporting calendar.
Should the UFC go ahead with the scheduled Columbus Fight Night (also known as UFC on ESPN 8) at the end of the month?
Let’s start with this:
Illnesses like COVID-19 are nothing to be taken lightly.
You don’t want to fool around with something like this and risk your health, or the health of anyone else for that matter.
We’re now at a point where athletes are self-quarantined out of the collective safety and well-being for their teams and organizations.
Let’s make something else perfectly clear in that I am by no means trying to scare anyone—rather, I am simply trying to approach this with common sense.
Secondly, a cancellation of UFC Columbus wouldn’t be an unprecedented action by the promotion.
The UFC has only canceled an event four times in 27 years, most recently the scheduled UFC 233 pay-per-view last year.
UFC 233 was canceled a month and a half prior to its scheduled Jan. 26, 2019 date due to its planned main event being rebooked for UFC on ESPN+ 1 a week earlier and the promotion being unable to book a suitable replacement as the main event.
But with the statewide ban on gatherings of more than 100 people now in place, the UFC has only two choices here:
Hold the event as scheduled with no audience or postpone this card and try to reschedule it for later on in the year.
The UFC has not made an appearance in Columbus for 11 years—but public safety concerns may force that wait to be extended for right now.
Stay safe and be well, everybody.
UPDATE: Thursday night, UFC President Dana White announced in a YouTube video that there will be no alterations made to the UFC schedule of upcoming events, save for the possibility that the cards would be relocated to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, where Contender Series is taped.
White stressed that any spectators who bought tickets to affected shows will be refunded.
UFC Columbus on Mar. 28 is one of these affected shows moved to Las Vegas.
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