We’re now less than a week away from the return of UFC events starting with UFC 249 on May 9th and there are still a lot of questions regarding how exactly the promotion plans to run things in a safe fashion in the midst of the continuing Coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to get any answers out of the UFC regarding any of this because its president Dana White is in the middle of a largely one sided feud with the media and refuses to share any details with anybody.
That’s led to nobody really knowing what to expect when things kick off next Saturday afternoon. Articles on SportsProMedia.com and Sky Sports briefly claimed the UFC was going to use unmanned cameras to film the event, and then they disappeared, making me wonder if I had hallucinated them after several quarantine cocktails too many. But the articles existed, and now they’re gone. Will there be cameramen at UFC 249? Is this something the UFC is trying to implement but can’t guarantee for Saturday? Is this another attempt to manage expectations by trying to ensure as few expectations as possible?
Another area of uncertainty has been around cornermen. In an earlier phone meeting with fighters and staff, White implied there might be ‘tough decisions’ to be made about who fighters wanted in their corner with them, implying they may not get the usual three cornermen allowed under regular rules. But now MMA Junkie has confirmed the UFC will indeed allow fighters to have a full corner. And while some may complain this doesn’t cut the number of people attending events down to the absolute bone, it makes sense in a lot of ways.
Fighters, as we’ve pointed out all through this debate, don’t fight alone. They need at least a few people around them to help them train, hold mitts, wrap hands, not die in the sauna cutting weight, and perform a thousand other small duties. The number of members in a fighter’s entourage on fight week can balloon out into pretty extreme numbers once you factor in nutritionists and massage therapists and others. But with UFC 249 and all events moving forward, a fighter can bring three people with them. Those are the only people allowed in the hotel. Those are the only people allowed at the event.
It’s a reasonable compromise considering all the other areas in which fighters are being challenged due to Coronavirus. If staff at events needs to be cut (and it clearly does), it’s nice that the fighters aren’t being asked to sacrifice before they get rid of others – judges, commentator, and maybe cameramen? As for the rest of the UFC’s plans and procedures for Saturday night? You’ll have to wait and see to find out, and hope it’s enough to keep this triumphant return with a stacked card from turning into an unfortunate lesson in virology.