And the stakes simply couldn’t be higher.
On Saturday, the UFC is slated to become the first sport in the United States to return to action, despite the current global coronavirus pandemic, with the president of the organization perfectly aware of the increased control that is inevitably coming his way.
“Look, we also have families,” White told CNN Sport from his Las Vegas headquarters recently. “I have a family; I don’t want to hurt my family. I don’t want to die.
“This is not just a little crazy, this is a well thought out plan. We have had very, very intelligent people, doctors and people who have been involved with the UFC for a long time working on this thing relentlessly since it started. We believe to have this thing in a place where it can be as safe as possible. ”
The trio of events on May 9, 13 and 16 will be staged in Jacksonville, Florida, where the UFC – which can often attract crowds of over 20,000 – has confirmed that all fighting nights will be closed to the public at cause of the pandemic and only “essential personnel” will be present.
In a press release issued by the UFC, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry says the promotion presented a “safe and sensible” plan while Patrick Cunningham, executive director of the state’s Boxing Commission, said that “health protocols will be put in place. and security to ensure the safety and well-being of all individuals who are helping to make these events possible. ”
And in a statement to CNN Sport, Brian Hughes, chief executive of the city of Jacksonville, said: “The UFC has presented state regulators with a well thought out plan and I am aware of our guidance through local executive orders.
“Based on our discussions and ability to have security code and enforcement during events, we are confident that the events will protect athletes, managers and on-site production staff.”
As for a key component of the tests, Hughes went on to note that “everyone in the building will have gone through a test regime based on the UFC plan.”
UFC President White – who also presented a 30-page security protocol document to state authorities before this weekend’s pay-per-view event – says that the fighters want to fight, the fans are excited and that there is it was a “phenomenal” reaction, but also admits that there are no guarantees in life, inviting everyone to do their part.
“The fighters fail to show up in Florida and start going out and partying and walking up and down the street,” acknowledges White. “We will also need their help.”
White – who doesn’t think we’ll see the crowd go back to live sports for a while – also wears another hat these days. He is one of the advisers to U.S. President Donald Trump when it comes to getting the American economy back on track.
White told CNN Sport that he had participated in “big” teleconferences with Trump, adding that “everyone is motivated to try to understand and bring back the sport”.
Trying to return during the pandemic carries a high-profile risk, but White sees the UFC at the height of the challenge.
“Now I could stay at home. I could be in my swimming pool, going out, playing with my children at home,” he says.
“I’m not. I’m out here trying to understand this. I’m making sure all my employees and their families take care of me. My fighters and their families take care of us. And we’re spending a lot of money to do it. You know, this is very expensive. It is not cheap. That is why other people don’t want to go now. It is expensive. ”
While other sports remain too concerned about the potential dangers to host any type of competition, the UFC boss has also kept an eye on the future.
White says the infrastructure is being worked on, with tests to be performed on site, with the official announcement of the exact location of the island now scheduled for mid-June.
Shots and circles
As with many of us, White has had to adapt to a new kind of normalcy when it comes to riding quarantine in his Las Vegas home.
In addition to indulging in his passion for music – talking to CNN Sport with their guitars behind him, White cites the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine and the Beastie Boys as three of his all-time favorite bands – UFC the front man played basketball at home, swimming and dating loved ones.
“My daughter took me around on really cool bikes,” White beams. “I really enjoyed myself during this rest. And a lot of good quality time with my children.”
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