How should sport respond to a crisis on the scale of the coronavirus? Practically all sport in western Europe and America is on hold. Tomorrow, the Aussie Rules season starts with games held behind closed doors. A return to normality seems weeks, if not months away.
The UFC has not been spared either. On Monday, it postponed 3 events up to April 11. However, Khabib is scheduled to fight Tony Ferguson in one of the biggest UFC headliners in months on that third Saturday of April. So much is riding on that fight for the UFC. Dana White remains insistent that the show will go on, and a venue will be found for UFC 249 on April 18 (even if Vegas or Brooklyn seem unlikely).
White did an interview yesterday on Instagram Live where he robustly defended the UFC's ability to cope with the pandemic, and roundly slated critics of its response to the emergency.
“Here’s the reality: We will be up and running before any other sport will,” White said. “Our sport’s different. We have our own arena next door (the UFC Apex). So we will fulfill every fight for every fighter this year, and we’ll get this thing done.”
“Think about this: Go online and look at some of these people – and this isn’t a knock, this is just a fact: The weakest, wimpiest people on earth cover the biggest, baddest sport on earth. What do you expect them to say? What do you think they’re gonna say?
Whatever your thoughts on the situation, it's not exactly clear what White gains by calling the UFC media 'the weakest wimpiest people on earth'.
Dana White vows Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson will happen as scheduled on April 18:
“Listen, if you’re a fan, a media member, whatever you might be, do you want to bet against me? You want to bet that I can’t pull stuff off?”#UFC249 https://t.co/XeP15TgfW8
— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) March 19, 2020
Dana White versus coronavirus has blossomed into one of sports biggest rivalries. https://t.co/Fqn08tL4Ai
— Chuck Mindenhall (@ChuckMindenhall) March 15, 2020
White certainly seems confident about the health of the sport during this unprecedented situation.
“I have over 350 employees who work for me. Multi-billion-dollar companies are laying off all their employees right now. We haven’t laid off one person at the UFC. And every fighter that fights for me will fight three times this year. Our schedule will go on. Everybody’s gonna get paid, and we will figure this out, and we will be the first sport back on. And, uh, fuck that shit. Everything will go on.”
“Listen, the media can talk as much shit as they want. They don’t feed families. They don’t take care of fucking people. They don’t have people that count on them. They don’t have people to support. We’re doing the right thing as far medical testing goes and everything. That’s all we fucking do. That’s nothing new. We were doing that shit way before the coronavirus. We were taking care of people and making sure that everybody’s healthy, and every fighter that’s with me on the road is getting much better medical attention than they are at home – if they’re with me. You know what I mean?
“I told our whole roster: If you or your loved ones have any type of situations or anything wrong, call me. I’ll do everything in my power to make sure you get taken care of.”