UFC emerges as leader in the return of live sports

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UFC on Saturday became the first American sports league to return to action since the coronavirus shutdown.

Jaiman White, Multimedia Editor

Dana White is unlike any other executive in professional sports. He’s brash, unfiltered, and aggressive. With that being said, the president of the UFC is a leader. Over the past 20 years, White has taken the sport of mixed-martial arts and put it in the limelight. 

When he first purchased the company with the Fertitta brothers, the UFC was told not to come to certain cities, with the late Sen. John McCain famously calling it “human cockfighting.” Now, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, White and UFC are leaders in successfully bringing back live sports, and are being congratulated by the president of the United States.

The UFC is the first American sports league to return to live action since the shutdown of the country, and its first event was as close to perfect as possible.

Obviously there are bigger things in the world than sports, but the leadership Dana White and the UFC have shown sets a path for what could take place in the country.”

On Saturday, the league held UFC 249 in Jacksonville, and what was described as “the most stacked card ever” delivered, giving fight fans the escape from the troubles in the world that sports are supposed to provide. Aside from an incredibly exciting card, the way the event was handled was amazing in itself.

Testing took place all week leading up to the fight in Florida, with every precaution being taken. Now obviously this is not an exact science, because the world has never dealt with something like this. However, the leadership role the UFC has taken on this shows it is absolutely possible.

All fighters, analysts, coaches, and event workers received several tests, sometimes several per day, and were then isolated from everyone else in their hotel rooms leading up to the fight. Fighter Jacare Souza tested positive for the coronavirus the day of the fight, and he was dropped from the event. With 1,200 tests being conducted during the week on 300 people, it’s not unexpected that one person would test positive, but the system the UFC put in place worked.

The fights that took place were exactly what fans wanted to see as well. The main event featured a huge upset, with Justin Gaethje finishing Tony Ferguson for the interim lightweight title. Gaethje is expected to challenge undisputed lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov sometime this summer. The co-main event was also really exciting, as Henry Cejudo defended his bantamweight title against the legend Dominick Cruz, becoming one of very few fighters to successfully defend titles in two different weight classes. 

Moving forward, the UFC plans to hold two more events this week in Jacksonville, with more exciting fights. Wednesday will feature a main event of two light heavyweights, with Anthony Smith taking on Glover Teixeira. Saturday will have Alistair Overeem taking on Walt Harris in what should be a brawl between the two heavyweights.

Obviously there are bigger things in the world than sports, but the leadership Dana White and the UFC have shown sets a path for what could take place in the country. President Trump called White following UFC 249 to congratulate the league, and tell him this is the kind of step the country is looking to make with getting sports back, getting people back to work, and getting kids back to school. It’s a small step in the right direction, and the once-shunned sport and company should be praised for taking that step.