The coronavirus pandemic was a huge blow to the combat sports industry. While the big leagues like UFC, Bellator, and WWE have managed to keep running without audiences, the smaller and regional events that majorly relied on ticket sales suffered the most.
Up-and-coming fighters also faced problems with gyms being closed and the expensive COVID-19 precautions that have to be followed.
Even though Dana White, the president of UFC, said that the pandemic was definitely going to be a concern for the business, the UFC has managed to stay alive and kicking this year even if it meant shifting some of the international fights to a man-made island in Abu Dhabi.
The Fight Island Series
The UFC was holding some events in Las Vegas and Jacksonville, Florida but in order to accommodate the international fighters and stage fights in a world with strict travel restrictions and quarantine rules.
In July 2020, the first Fight Island event was hosted by the UFC int he Yas Island located in Abu Dhabi. On the island, a safety bubble was created that protected the athletes, staff, and other visitors from the virus.
The event was massively successful, making UFC one of the first major sports to make a comeback after the outbreak of the pandemic.
UFC is also currently hosting Fight Island 2 and has claimed that even after the pandemic is over, the Fight Island series would become a part of the UFC brand with future events to be hosted on the island even after the end of the pandemic.
All fight cards hosted by UFC this year have naturally followed various safety measures to protect the fighters. Mandatory masks, relentless testing, social distancing, and quarantining are some of the mandatory safety measures the fighters and staff have to follow.
UFC has also partnered with Oura Health to make the company it’s “Official Health Wearable.” The company produces Oura smart rings which help in tracking various health statistics in real-time such as sleep, body temperature, heart rate, and respiratory issues.
Betting Action Remained Unfettered for UFC
The UFC was one of the first sporting leagues to make a comeback after the coronavirus pandemic. While all the major leagues of the majority of sports were shut down, the UFC refused to do so.
In countries like India where leagues like the IPL are associated with the most betting action, betting on UFC started becoming popular too. International online bookmakers like Royal Panda which are highly-rated for their services in India saw a significant increase in the normal betting volume for MMA.
The future for Dana White and the UFC
As for the future, Dana White remains of the opinion that the new normal is here to stay for quite a while. The safety measures and the infrastructure currently used by UFC would probably be used for the remainder of the year at the least with no immediate plans to let limited fans inside the fight arenas.