Dana White: UFC Close To Securing Private Island To Host Fights
UFC President Dana White said he is "a day or two away from securing a private island" in an unknown location to host weekly events amid the coronavirus pandemic. White said, "I locked this venue up for two months. I'm setting up shop here. We're going to be pumping out fights every week." He added the MMA outfit is "getting the infrastructure put in now" on the island. White said the reasoning behind getting the private island is because he "won't be able to get international fighters, all of them, into the U.S." for potential events. White: "I'm going to start flying them into the private island and doing international fights from there." White said UFC will be "back up and running" by April 18 for UFC 249, but they are taking all necessary precautions. White added there "won't be any fans" at UFC 249 and "everybody is going to be pretested and tested and tested and tested." White said UFC is "going to make sure" that we have "100% healthy athletes, healthy athletic commission people, healthy judges, referees." White: "We're going to make sure that everyone's going to be safe before, during and after the fights" ("TMZ Sports," TMZ, 4/6).
ISLAND OF ADVENTURE: ESPN's Brett Okamoto notes White "doesn't want to tell anybody" where the island is, including the participants themselves. White wants to collect the fighters “in a few areas around the country, get them on a plane (or) transport of some nature, take them to the location of the fight, have them compete and then leave not even knowing where they were." White over the last three weeks has been "working meticulously" to keep UFC 249 together. Okamoto: "One thing that he realizes is any leaks of information made his job more difficult because there was just more attention, more of a spotlight, people looking under a microscope and contacting the people putting that are putting this together” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 4/7). YAHOO SPORTS' Jack Baer wrote as far as coronavirus solutions go, the private island idea is a "new one." The NBA, MLB and EPL all have "reportedly discussed, with varying progress, the idea of holding games or matches in isolated stadiums." However, the venues in mind all are "essentially training areas already used by the leagues," not a private island (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/6).
OTHER FACTORS AT PLAY: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Soma Biswas notes "behind efforts to keep UFC fights going" are the outfit's $1.5B contract with ESPN and $2.3B in "debt the UFC took on in recent years." The deal with ESPN "gives the network exclusive rights to air UFC fights and added on rights" to PPV fights. UFC "took on debt when it was bought" by Endeavor and private-equity firms KKR & Co. and Silver Lake. UFC's contract with ESPN "requires the company to put on 42 events" in '20, but so far, the UFC only "has held seven" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/7).
IS THIS NECESSARY? YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Iole wrote the "risk/reward ratio" for UFC putting on its event on April 18 "seems way out of whack." As much as people "love sports, no one can seriously argue that the UFC or the NFL or NBA or whatever sport you want to name is essential." So for White and the others to "leave home to put on this show will mean violating" Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak's stay-at-home order. Iole: "It just seems the risks in going ahead with this fight aren't appropriate" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/6).