Due to social distancing, we have already lost every single broadcasted sport in existence. The NBA was shut down early, the NFL’s next season is in limbo, the Olympics have been postponed, and Football as next to no presence worldwide now. All of this is extremely saddening for those of us who use sports as one of our main forms of entertainment, and we all can’t help but ask the question, which sport will be the first one back when social distancing ends?
The plan for sports coming back is generally that there is no plan, just a lot of talk. It’s basically a mad dash for every sports organization to figure out how they are going to move forward, but for sports like American Football which requires something near 100 team members from each side to be in a stadium at all times, it seems almost impossible to see them coming back in these social distancing times. But sports like Basketball and Baseball with smaller team sizes might have more of a fighting chance for getting back on track sooner than later.
No crowd is for sure how many of these sports are going to come back at first, which I can live with as long as I can watch from home, but I’m not sure how that is going to affect the vibe of the players and the viewers. Sports like baseball, which are already boring, will be just fine, but what motivation will NBA players have to hit that buzzer-beater with no electricity from the crowd, or how exciting will that buzzer-beater be with no explosion from the audience after it hits. These are questions we don’t have the answers to yet, but I’d like to figure it out on the fly if that means I can have my sports back.
I know I worded the last two sections as if I care at all about sports, but I really don’t. The only thing I watch that can be considered a sport is skateboarding and mixed martial arts, but I don’t personally consider them sports, to me they are more of an art, and that is one of the most pretentious things I have ever said, but I believe it.
Skateboarding is almost unaffected because people aren’t going to stop taking to the streets and cruising around, but MMA, on the other hand, is at a standstill right now.
The last UFC event was in Brazil on March 14th, and it was held, of course, in an empty arena. Now while it may be uncertain how other sports will play out in front of no crowd, I can say for sure that this doesn’t completely harm MMA, and there are even some benefits to no crowd. These benefits include hearing punches and kicks landing with brutal clarity, and even hearing the fighters talk shit to each other mid brawl, which I love.
Since that March 14th show, there have been about 4-5 events that have been postponed, but UFC President Dana White has been working tirelessly to ensure that UFC will be the first sport back during these social distancing times. This is helped even more by the fact that MMA doesn’t require entire teams to be present for each fight, which lends even more to a seamless transition.
We were actually so close to having a fight on April 18th, but powers higher than the UFC were able to shut down for that date. The UFC is distributed through ESPN, which is owned by Disney, and after Dana went through hell to set up a safe event on a Native American reservation, the higher-ups at Disney put the kibosh on it a week before the event.
Since then, numerous talks have been had, many options have been explored, and it seems like we are now getting a fight on May 9th. And with states like Florida claiming combat sports are an essential business, I don’t see what can stand in the UFC’s way, but only time will tell.
The UFC isn’t just throwing caution to the wind either; they have plans to test all fighters for Covid before the event. There will also be a huge medical team that will be present, the commentary team will be trimmed down, ring card girls will be trimmed down, and each fighter and their team will come in and leave the arena before and after their fights. What this means to me is that during social distancing times, UFC seems like it will be the first sport back, and they will be abiding by social distancing guidelines.
Fight island is just a little added bonus to everything the UFC has going on, and I don’t know if I can say that I’ve ever been more excited for a specific sporting event. Like something out of entering The Dragon, Dana White bought an island, and he wants to put fights on there, that way, safety can be maximized, and public backlash can be minimized. This will also be the dedicated spot for the international fighters because with it seeming like we will be able to move forward in America now, it would completely exhaust the roster if only American based fighters can compete for the foreseeable future. So there needs to be a location where the international portion of the roster can come and fight, and what better place than a tropical island. The last word that we heard on fight Island is that the infrastructure was being built, and hopefully, if it is going to happen, we will see fight island events kicking off sometime next month.
Even if you aren’t a fan of the UFC, maybe with them being the first sport back, it will be an opportunity to see what it’s all about. A common thought is that with a lack of eyes on other sports, this will be a great time for the UFC to build its fan base, and whether or not you are going to join the MMA community because of this, it’s going to be refreshing to have some form of competition back on T.V.