After originally planning to go ahead with events with UFC on ESPN+ 29, that course is reversed. A series of UFC postponements is official.
UFC has postponed its next three events due to the coronavirus. More could follow, but particulars on that are murky for the time being.
The details on the latest UFC postponements
The next three UFC events, which won’t take place as previously scheduled, are:
- UFC on ESPN+ 29, originally scheduled for March 22
- UFC on ESPN 8, originally set for March 28
- UFC on ESPN+ 30, previously set for April 11
Along with postponing these events, UFC closed its offices in Las Vegas through the end of the month. UFC 249, currently scheduled for April 18 at the Barclays Center in New York, may change venues.
To some extent, other parties are making these decisions for UFC. Nevada has banned all contact sports through at least March 25, for example.
New York City could possibly be the worst place to hold UFC 249 right now. That’s largely because the virus is spreading there, and there are already concerns about a lack of hospital beds for the infected.
Even if UFC does find another venue for 249, that doesn’t necessarily mean spectators will get to watch the fight in person. The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against any groups of 50 or more people through at least May.
UFC could hold the event without fans, as it did last Saturday in Brazil. If the fight does happen, UFC’s broadcast partners will likely carry it.
As with just about everything else right now, the situation remains fluid. For UFC, there are a lot of moving parts.
All the considerations for UFC in its planning
Unfortunately for UFC, rescheduling postponed events isn’t as simple as picking an open date on its calendar. There are many considerations.
- Is the desired venue available on the scheduled date?
- If not, what other suitable venues might be available or what other dates in the desired venue are free?
- Do fighters on the card have other commitments?
- Do UFC’s broadcast partners have other commitments?
- Will government officials allow gatherings?
- What is the latest guidance from the CDC?
- Can local hotels accommodate the event?
- What other events may UFC be competing with?
For example, consider UFC trying these events sometime in May. That might be in direct competition with the opening of the 2020 baseball season.
If UFC waits until June, however, that may force the cancellation of other events later in UFC’s calendar. UFC likely doesn’t want to disrupt fans’ plans to attend events later this year.
What seems certain is that UFC seems less concerned about social optics than other entertainment corporations. Until Monday, UFC planned to go ahead with its events.
UFC undaunted by criticism of its plans
It seems that Nevada’s banning of contact sports was the key component in the reversal, not concern over the virus or UFC looking bad for keeping its fights going. That’s evident in a comment from UFC president Dana White.
“This is what we do. We put fights on every weekend. The fighters want to fight. The fans want to see it. I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from the fans and the fighters. These guys all want to continue. We will. Obviously, we’ve had some blowback from the media that covers us, but everybody is going to have their opinions. We’re going to continue on. These three fights are postponed. They will still happen. Khabib vs. Tony is on for the original date. We’re going to keep fighting.”
Whether or not White’s assessment of the situation is accurate may prove irrelevant if government officials bar fights. At the same time, UFC’s actions are proof of why these measures by such officials are necessary.