Fighter representation has been a talking point for years and amid the coronavirus outbreak fighters missed a chance to band together.
The professional sports world was brought to a screeching halt as the coronavirus spread across the globe. Major organizations such as the NBA, MLB and NHL decided to shutter their doors to keep players and personnel from being exposed to the potentially deadly virus. Those organizations closed and the player’s unions in place took steps to advocate for their members.
However, the UFC continued, holding UFC Brasilia in an empty arena. Fighters on the card were left without much choice and in doing so they missed out on a rare opportunity to band together for the betterment of their position in the sport.
The impact of the coronavirus has been felt across the world and throughout various industries. March Madness, one of the most lucrative times for the NCAA, was canceled. The NBA is reaching its push for the playoffs and the season is suspended indefinitely. MLB was ramping up for another year and spring training has been halted.
But mixed martial arts kept pushing on. And for what? UFC Brasilia was seen by approximately 672,000 viewers, which is the lowest number in the ESPN era. That number is incredibly disastrous considering there were literally no other live sports on before, during or after the broadcast. The fighters and UFC personnel were put in unneeded danger for what seems like little return.
The UFC has finally decided to cancel it’s upcoming three events. The UFC was looking at even moving these upcoming events to tribal lands, despite the CDC warnings and signing any regional talent available in a last-ditch effort to some bodies into the cage. It wasn’t until White’s friend, President Donald Trump, asked to limit gatherings to 10 or below that the UFC head-honcho took action.
All the while, this was a missed opportunity by the men and women the UFC needs most: the fighters. The UFC doesn’t exist without the people that put the gloves on. MMA doesn’t exist without the people that compete for the fans. No matter how determined White was to get these shows on if the fighters stood together and said “no” there would have been nothing the promotion could have done. This weekend was a glaring opening to push for a shift in the narrative. The fighters could have used the NBA, NHL and the MLB as an example of how something like this should be handled. Instead, fighters did what they continue to do – accept fights, at a detriment to their own bodies, because they were afraid of not getting paid otherwise.
The UFC should have taken the route that Bellator did, just one day before UFC Brasilia. Bellator 241 was set for Friday and fighters had already weighed in. Instead, Bellator CEO Scott Coker made the call to cancel the event. He took his steps further by ensuring fighters, officials, judges, cutmen, and other event personnel were compensated. Fighters had a widely positive response to that decision. As of this time, no word has been made as to whether the UFC will compensate anyone from the three cards that were canceled, but it’s unlikely. The promotion has a checkered past for paying fighters when bouts are scrapped last minute, so there isn’t a positive track record.
Again, this is where a fighters’ association or union of some sort would have come into play. White sent a letter to employees letting them know that the “UFC has your back.” Unfortunately, the promotion continues to show that it does not have the backs of the men and women who step into the cage for their exacerbated financial gain. With all the data available fighters remain apprehensive to get behind groups like Project Spearhead. Sadly, until that changes, the sport will continue to use them like cattle.
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