The ever-worsening coronavirus pandemic has already claimed the lives of more than 4,700 people across the globe as of Thursday afternoon, and continues to play havoc with the sporting calendar extending through the next few months and beyond.
The Italian football league, Serie A, has already been suspended for the remainder of the season owing to the outbreak of Covid-19 which began in the north regions but has since swept through the entire country. Spain’s La Liga has since announced a similar, more temporary suspension of Spanish football.
This comes as the entire Juventus and Real Madrid squads are currently in isolation players from their squads came into contact with people confirmed to be carrying the virus. Juve defender Daniele Rugani was diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday.
European football’s governing body, UEFA, have announced that they are convening a teleconference meeting with member associations on Tuesday where they are expected to confirm that this seasons Champions League and Europa League are to be cancelled, while the upcoming European Championship scheduled to begin in June are also in danger of being postponed, or called off entirely.
In the United States, the NBA season fell victim to the virus late on Wednesday after league officials announced that the season was to be postponed. Similar bodies like the MLS and NHL are expected to announce their own measures to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
The crisis is a health one, so it does seem slightly perverse to focus on the impact of the crisis on the sporting calendar but this is a mixed martial arts website, so… How indeed will this affect upcoming events, including the hugely-anticipated fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson next month?
The fight is currently slated to take place in Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center but New York City has seen a localised pocket of outbreaks which are thought to stem from a larger outbreak about 20 miles north of the city. That area — New Rochelle and surrounding locales — have implemented quarantine and isolation safeguards but problems that the United States government has had with making testing kits available has severely hampered the fight against the illness.
So, with around five weeks separating us from the event it can be assuaged to a high degree of certainty that there will be pushback, at the very least, with regard to holding this event as planned. Measure undertaken by various governments across the globe have acted to limit public gatherings, which presents obvious problems to the Brooklyn venue which boasts a capacity of 19,000.
The options suggested by social media groupthink include moving the event to a different location, or holding it in the UFC Apex — which would give the fight a strange, Ultimate Fighter feel to it.
The UFC’s event in Brasilia this weekend, per reports on Thursday, looks set to be held behind closed doors per reports, while next week’s UFC London event is highly likely to see a change from the norm, though the promotion have yet to announce if there will be any safety measures taken to limit fans attending.
So, the repercussions that the coronavirus pandemic may (or will) have on mixed martial arts have yet to be fully realised. Polish promotion KSW revealed today that all events will take place with no fans present for the indefinite future, for example, and it remains to be seen just how long the UFC will resist in implementing similar measures.
Dana White has so far resisted making any statements of note regarding the virus but judging by some of the comments from Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, any decision could be out of Dana White’s hands entirely.