Dana White has told TMZ that UFC 249 is set to go ahead with a 12-fight card on April 18th with Tony Ferguson (25-3) vs Justin Gaethje (21-2) for the Interim Lightweight Belt as the headliner, but the location was kept a closely guarded secret. In addition to this, he told TMZ “I’m also a day or two away from securing a private island”. Yes, you read that right.
Dana has grown increasingly irritated and negative towards MMA media since the COVID-19 outbreak, due to the number of outlets and journalists urging the UFC’s president to abandon UFC events until the pandemic has reached a safe point. However, Dana’s downright refusal to accept this has thrown up a plethora of questions.
Firstly, why is Dana so intent on hosting events free of a live crowd? Gates produce a significant amount of income for the promotion and create the atmosphere almost necessary for a sport like MMA. The entire structure of the UFC is laid out to protect that fan-friendly philosophy in the guise of the performance bonus.
You can even produce several occasions in which exciting fighters with inferior records and form receive more of a promotional push in terms of salary and bouts higher up on sought after cards than those with a less fan-friendly style.
Take Demian Maia (28-10) for example, he was on a 6-fight win streak in 2016, and the overwhelming consensus was that he was the next contender for Tyron Woodley’s (19-4-1) 170lb belt. Yet, Dana refused to grant him the title shot and instead paired him with Jorge Masvidal (35-13). Maia went on to beat Masvidal and Dana was forced to make the title fight but voiced his reservations on the stylistic match-up. When the Maia vs Woodley fight turned out to be a lacklustre affair, the UFC president reacted in typical ‘I told you so’ fashion.
The question is, will the UFC still make a profit on an event with no fans, particularly with the extra cost involved in transporting fighters to events. That’s without considering the cost of a private island. Is the fight card likely to promote more PPV buys than usual? Ferguson vs Gaethje is a phenomenal fight and one sure to deliver in violence and entertainment, but with just an interim belt on the line, is it worthy of a PPV headliner?
So, is it pride that will’s Dana to proceed with events? Is it stubbornness? At present, it seems the promotion is attributing the decision to proceed with events as a service to the fans worldwide, an ethos which the WWE are currently operating under. Sure, fan’s will be pleased to enjoy these events and will look forward to them as a way to break up the monotony of the current situation, but is that worth the risk these events pose?
Either way, UFC 249 is set to proceed on April 18th, not on UFC Island, but in a secret venue more akin to an action movie than an arena. Whether you agree or disagree with the UFC’s decision in this, the next few months are sure to memorable.
Let me know what you think in the comments!