Re­turn of UFC could pro­vide blue­print for other pro leagues

The State - - Sports - BY MARK LONG

UFC Pres­i­dent Dana White wanted a ma­jor fight card weeks ago. He was con­fi­dent his team could pull it off whether it took place on a tribal land, on a pri­vate is­land or in any of the 10 states of­fer­ing to host it.

Coro­n­avirus test­ing. Fan-free arena. So­cial dis­tanc­ing. Self-iso­la­tion. White looked at all those un­prece­dented de­tails that seemed too com­plex and too risky to some out­siders as merely ex­tra chal­lenges.

“I knew we could do this,” he said fol­low­ing UFC 249 on Satur­day night. “I knew we could fig­ure it out. Even with all the hur­dles that we had early on, this has been fun. It’s been chal­leng­ing and it’s been fun.

“I know that sounds a lit­tle de­mented to say I’ve had fun go­ing through this. It’s been chal­leng­ing and I’ve en­joyed the whole game of it, if you will.”

White and the UFC look like the big win­ners fol­low­ing their rous­ing show at Veter­ans Memo­rial Arena in Jack­sonville, an event that could serve as a blue­print for other sports leagues around the coun­try and the world as they start to re­sume dur­ing a global pan­demic.

The NFL, NBA, NHL, Ma­jor League Base­ball and NASCAR, all of them had to have an eye on how the UFC ap­proached and han­dled the first ma­jor hu­man-cen­tric sport­ing event in the U.S. since the new coro­n­avirus shut­tered much of the coun­try nearly two months ago. The UFC cre­ated a 25-page doc­u­ment to ad­dress health and safety pro­to­cols, which in­cluded dis­in­fect­ing the oc­tagon be­tween bouts and man­dat­ing tests and masks for nearly ev­ery­one in at­ten­dance.

The spotlight only in­ten­si­fied when one fighter, Jacare Souza, and two of his cor­ner­men tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19 a day be­fore the stacked card.

Souza was pulled from the fight and re­moved from the ho­tel where hun­dreds of UFC em­ploy­ees are stay­ing this week. The UFC’s med­i­cal team con­tin­ues to pro­vide as­sis­tance and is help­ing with nec­es­sary treat­ment, White said.

The UFC has two more fight nights sched­uled this week in Jack­sonville, be­gin­ning Wed­nes­day, and plans to ad­min­is­ter more than 1,000 more coro­n­avirus tests for ev­ery­one sched­uled to take part.

“How­ever it was han­dled this week, this was our first week,” White said. “It will only get bet­ter. And we can share what we learned here do­ing three events with other sports leagues who are reach­ing out to us and ask­ing.

“A lot can be learned by what we’re do­ing here. Not just for pro­fes­sional sports but for send­ing peo­ple back to work and lot of other things in life.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.