As COVID-19 has spread across the United States and abroad, all major sports leagues have halted operations for the foreseeable future, and the UFC fell in line just a week ago. But the organization wasn’t quick to pull the trigger, first hosting a no-fans Fight Night in Brazil, then trying its best to keep a Tyron Woodley-Leon Edwards main event alive before eventually postponing that card (and two others) altogether.
While there have been mixed reactions on whether UFC made the right call in pushing forward to hold the Fight Night in Brazil, you can count former light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier among those in favor of moving forward with the card.
“I liked it,” Cormier said, in an interview with UPROXX Sports. “Over the course of the weekend as everything was starting to explode, what we needed was something that was normal. Every weekend, we’re used to seeing UFC fights. It was odd, watching the fights with no crowd. I watched the walkouts and it was so different. It’s something we’ll look back on. It’ll be a weird blip in history where things really changed.”
Since then, situations have escalated across the country, with “social distancing” taking place and most major events shifting dramatically as the virus spreads. Despite concerns over how long the outbreak will last, UFC president Dana White is insistent that April 18’s super fight between reigning lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson will take place. That has resulted in Nurmagomedov’s camp taking extreme measures and training in self isolation.
“We had to do that as a team for Khabib,” Cormier said of his American Kickboxing Academy teammate. “As teammates, the best way to support him is from afar. Even if just one of us came in contact, we could give this to someone else. If you touch one person, you’re infecting 5-10 people. In an MMA setting, when you’re training for a fight, multiply that and you’re almost responsible for 15-20 people. It’s scary.
“It’s tough for Khabib, but he’s a professional and he’s going to train to the best of his ability, whether it’s with 30 of us or just him and a training partner. He’s a pro and he’ll be ready to go.”
While Cormier recognizes the difficulties of training under these circumstances — and with the COVID-19 situation seemingly changing daily — he believes Nurmagomedov and Ferguson will be ready to go should the fight carry on, wherever it might be and with or without fans.
“You know it’s going to be difficult, but when you’re at this level, you’ve got to stay the course. It doesn’t matter what you’re feeling or what’s happening, you’ve got to stay the course until they tell you it’s ok to change,” Cormier said. “You don’t know if it’s a month, two weeks, a week or a day — if they tell Khabib to head back to Dagestan, until you get that call, you just have to continue doing what you do. This situation is going to test the idea of laser focused.”
As of now, Nurmagomedov is slated to defend his belt against Ferguson at UFC 249 on April 18. The UFC 249 card was slated to take place in Brooklyn, New York, but it has since been moved to an undetermined location due to the COVID-19 outbreak.