The UFC is a Public Health Threat

Instead of doing the right thing and suspending operations like the rest of the world, the UFC is digging in their heels and vowing to continue.

SO, HERE’S WHAT I WROTE TO YOU on March 11.

This was only four days ago, but if you are like me, it feels like four years, so let me refresh your memory.

It is nearly impossible for me, at least at this juncture, to imagine UFC 249 taking place as planned. If you have tickets for that event, you’re probably out of luck. Hell, if you have tickets for any public event, you’re probably out of luck.

I have been critical of the UFC here, but even I cannot imagine them approaching the level of irresponsibility it would take to run a live event in the middle of a literal pandemic. 

In the days after I published that story, virtually every major sporting and live event organization in the world has closed up shop. The NBA. The Premier League. The NCAA tournament was cancelled. Formula 1. Film and television productions have been suspended and delayed. The entire entertainment and sports world seems to understand the gravity of the situation we’re in and made the right decision, even when it means losing millions and millions of dollars.

Bellator cancelled its weekend event and even pledged to pay the fighters and crew who were scheduled on the card. Of course, Bellator is run by reasonable people with some semblance of humanity, but the gesture still felt good when compared to the stupid defiance offered up by the UFC.

Here’s what Scott Coker said about the decision:

There are much bigger things to worry about than fights. With the current climate, we just felt like it was the right decision to make.

It was the right decision to make.

But then Dana White went on SportsCenter Saturday night and said…something entirely different.


White’s appearance on SportsCenter came hours after the conclusion of its UFC Brasilia event, which was aired by ESPN not because of contractual commitments or quality, but because every other sport typically aired by ESPN has suspended operations.

Those watching the broadcast were constantly reminded of this by the “breaking news” ticker at the bottom of the screen. It was strange to see headlines flash on the bottom of the screen with updates on how every sports organization in the world—and yes, I mean literally—was shutting down operations, all while a live UFC event was unfurling in an empty arena in Brazil.

Watching that broadcast—with the empty arena juxtaposed against the news ticker—made me feel certain that I was watching the last live UFC event I’d see for quite some time. The news that the Nevada athletic commission was shutting down all combat sports events in the state until March 25, and likely for the foreseeable future after that date, made it almost a certainty that the UFC would soon announce a suspension of its event schedule.

But then came SportsCenter.

“Unless there’s a total shutdown of the country where people can’t leave their houses and things like that, these fights will happen. We’re gonna move on. These guys will compete. We will find venues, and we will figure this thing out. I mean, the only thing that’s gonna stop us is a complete government shutdown where everyone is confined to their homes.”


A Threat to Public Safety

Instead of doing the right thing and suspending operations like the rest of the world, the UFC is digging in their heels and vowing to continue.

Why? I have no fucking idea. Honestly. This company has made some downright baffling, gross decisions over the past 20 years, but all of them pale in comparison to the stupidity and sheer arrogance we are witnessing right now.

From a fighter’s perspective, I get it; they only get paid if they compete, so an event cancellation means they don’t get paid. Yes, that sucks, but there’s a very easy solution to the problem: The UFC could just pay everyone a stipend or salary until they can resume a normal schedule. And don’t tell me they don’t have the money for that; the company just paid out $300 million to its investors.

None of this makes any sense. There’s only one explanation: Greed.

One thing is certain: Forcing the government to shut you down doesn’t make you look like a badass. It doesn’t give you credibility with fight fans, particularly when your matchmakers are so desperate to fill these last-second events that they resort to sending managers emails like this:

The UFC has long wished for a place alongside the NFL and other organizations as a major, best-in-class sporting organization. Maybe they’ll get there someday.

But right now, here’s what they are:

A threat to the health of UFC athletes and employees.

A detriment to the fight against this pandemic.

A menace to the public at large.