Sports leagues around the world are being affected by the coronavirus, forcing them to postpone the end of their seasons and suspend the start of others for the sake of social distancing.
While some sports have switched to online entertainment, such as the NBA hosting tournaments with their players on the video game NBA 2K20, the UFC has similarly been looking into ways to resume their fighting and to give fans some entertainment during the quarantine. On Saturday, April 11, UFC President Dana White said that he is close to purchasing a private island that would host private UFC fights that could be streamed for the public to watch. Looking into the logistics, White said that he plans to bring the fighters in on a private jet from their hometowns to the isolated island to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout the UFC. White plans on testing each fighter upon their arrival to the island and keeping everyone separated leading up to the fights in an effort to reduce any chance of contracting the virus.
While this seems a bit far-fetched to be pulled off quickly White’s statement on Saturday shows that he must’ve been planning to buy the private island regardless of the shutdown of all sports, as the island is already well under construction, with plans set for the arena to be ready to host fighters by the end of the month.
While the organization itself is taking control of the planning, the broadcasting companies UFC primarily works with, such as ESPN, have told White not to pursue this plan as it poses a risk to the athletes and the people that will be working with them. ESPN has gone as far as to issue a statement directed to White saying that they do not support his idea of starting back up this early and they will not broadcast the fights.
Prior to the pandemic, the organization had planned UFC 249 for April 18 which would feature multiple title matchups. Rather than delaying the title matchups and wasting all of the work each of the competitors had put in preparing for their fights, White intends to still host the bouts in some capacity, though he had yet to clarify if he would break up the fights or still hold a larger stream of continuous fights.
UFC and White never got the chance to make that decision, as ESPN and Disney announced they had canceled UFC 249 on ESPN pay-per-view. Against the nature of the sport he commissions, White isn’t fighting ESPN on their decision about the cancellation of the event, but he did fire back with retorts that his “fight island” would bring sports back in a safe manner for people all over the world to enjoy in the coming months. There is no outlook on when the next fight will broadcast, but White and the UFC are building the proposed “fight island” to give fans something to hold out hope for.