The UFC has been leading the world of sports in holding events throughout the worldwide pandemic. When the world first shut down, it was the UFC that found a way to continue before all other sporting organizations. Because of their commitment to the health and safety of their employees, the past year has actually been very successful for the company. Now, the next step is to begin to hold events in front of live crowds. That will begin happening in April according to president Dana White, but maybe this is all too soon.
White announced recently that the UFC will be holding events with fans. The plan was for the organization to move to Texas since the Governor was easing up on COVID restrictions. Then out of the blue, he announces that it will actually be Florida to hold the first event back with fans in attendance. UFC 261 taking place on April 24, will be open to the public. The event will be held in Jacksonville and, as advertised, it will hold “a full house of fans.” White mentioned that they are expecting 15,000 fans to come out for this event. In addition, UFC 262 will also be a packed house. That will be held in Houston, TX, in the Toyota Center.
There is no doubt that the UFC wanted to be one of the first sports organizations back hosting events with crowds. Some have already done it with limited seating, but now with that many people? It seems too soon. The coronavirus is still a risk for people. Restrictions are still very much in effect in most places in the world. Gathering that many people in one place so close to each other seems irresponsible. They want to be the first, but they have done such a great job at maintaining safety to this point, why not wait a bit more?
There are no details about the precautions being taken when it comes to the fans. Maybe if they need to show proof of a vaccine of COVID negative test a certain number of days out from the event, then that could be taken into account. Looking at other fight promotions around the world, they are being much more cautious.
Bellator is still requiring a bubble situation for fighters and media. They are setting up camp in Connecticut at this point in time with no fans. PFL is going even further and requiring their fighters to quarantine in their bubble for 17 days prior to fights. When you look at the extreme difference between PFL and the UFC, it is staggering.
The other thing is, the UFC can risk losing fights last minute. They have such a big roster and funds that they can change up the event and get fights lined up and postponed easily. This has been an issue lately. Many fights have been canceled, rescheduled, or rebooked because of fighter illness or COVID protocols. The fighters themselves shouldn’t be assuming any more risk than they would in Las Vegas or Abu Dhabi. It is the fans that pose the highest risk.
If an outbreak of coronavirus should come out of one of these highly populated events, would the UFC be to blame? Ultimately, the UFC and other sports organizations were given the OK by the government to hold these types of events. The people in charge believe that it is safe, as long as the precautions are taken, to accommodate these large crowds. The people going to the event should know what they are risking and make their own decision. If something should go wrong, the UFC will be on blast. But that is the risk they are willing to take just to be first.