Dubai: Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and boxing promoters are locked in solidarity as they explore ways to stay on course and host the major fights scheduled for 2020, but the biggest obstacle appears to be the concern over testing facilities for coronavirus.
Both Dana White, the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) boss and his boxing counterpart, Top Rank’s Bob Arum, are keen to go ahead with the planned fights without spectators, even if it means the choice of venue will not be the iconic MGM Grand or the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
White and Arum are considering smaller venues around Las Vegas, the New York Post has reported, in a bid to help their sports stay alive amid the fast-spreading outbreak that has brought world sport to its knees.
The UFC and Top Rank share a partnership with television broadcaster ESPN and, given the current popularity of MMA and boxing, are determined not to throw in the towel despite the nature of the beast that they are confronting.
“Getting a studio setting just to show the fights on television, that’s not ideal, but we’re preparing to do it,” Arum told The Post. “But without testing it’s no good. We’ve got to be able to test the guys. Unless we have tests to where we can get answers in a couple of days or two days or the same day we’re nowhere.”
The paper also reports that California-based boxing promoter Tom Brown, spent hours on the phone consulting with doctors and commissioners on ways to stage forthcoming events scheduled for Las Vegas, Nevada, Minneapolis and Phoenix, Arizona.
“We want everyone that’s going to be in that room to be tested,” Brown said, “whether it’s the TV crew, the ambulance drivers, the commission, the referee or the time keeper. We want everyone tested because if someone does come out of that arena with the virus everyone has to be quarantined.”
Meanwhile, the UFC Fight Night 170 card scheduled to be held at the Ginasio Nilson Nelson indoor sporting arena in Brazil, appears to be on course. The main fight features Kevin Lee (18-5-0) and Charles Oliveira (28-8-0).
Major fights are also planned for March 22 between Tyron Woodley vs Leon Edwards at the O2 Arena, in London, the March 29 showdown between Francis Ngannous Vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas where Alistair Overeem will also meet Walter Harris on April and the April 19 UFC 249 blockbuster featuring world champion Kabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn.
Should UFC 249 not materialise it will be the fifth-time that the Nurmagomedov vs Ferguson face-off has been called off.
Boxing fans learnt that Michael Conlan’s St Patrick’s Day fight against Belmar Preciado and WBO featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson vs Miguel Marriaga expected to take place behind closed doors at the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden were postponed for health and safety reasons, even as governor Andrew Cuomo banned gatherings of more than 500 people.
Bellator MMA, the American based martial arts promotion, also postponed their card scheduled for Friday just hours before the first bell at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.
It is still unclear whether MMA and boxing’s exciting roster of fighters will take place, but given the resolve and Wherewithal of Dana White and Bob Arum, you can be sure that they will use everything in their power to see it through.