UFC: ‘I don’t want to die,’ says Dana White as sport gets back to business amid a pandemic
And the stakes simply couldn’t be higher.
Saturday, the UFC should become the first sport in the United States to resume its activities, despite the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, the president of the organization is fully aware of the increased surveillance that inevitably happens to him.
“Look, we have families too,” White recently told CNN Sport from its headquarters in Las Vegas. “I have a family; I don’t want to hurt my family. I do not want to die.
“It’s not just a little crazy, it’s a well thought out plan. We have had very, very intelligent people, doctors and people who have been working with the UFC for a very long time working tirelessly on this thing since it started. We think we 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 take place in Jacksonville, Florida, where the UFC – which can often attract more than 20,000 people – has confirmed that all fighting nights will be closed to the public due to the pandemic. and only “essential staff” will be present.
In a press release issued by the UFC, Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry said the promotion had presented a “safe and sensible” plan while Patrick Cunningham, executive director of the State Boxing Commission, said that “health and safety protocols will be in place to ensure the safety and well-being of all those who help make these events possible.”
And in a statement to CNN Sport, Brian Hughes, city manager for Jacksonville, said: “The UFC has presented state regulators with a well thought out plan and they are aware of our advice through local executive orders .
“Based on our discussions and the ability to enforce code and safety at events, we are confident that the events will protect athletes, management and on-site production personnel.”
With regard to a key component of the tests, Hughes went on to note that “everyone in the building will have undergone a test regime based on the UFC plan”.
UFC President White – who also submitted a 30-page security protocol document to state authorities ahead of this weekend’s à la carte event – says the fighters want to fight, the fans are excited and there has been a “phenomenal” reaction, but he also concedes that there are no guarantees in life, calling on everyone to play their part.
“The fighters just can’t show up in Florida and just start going out and partying and going up and down the street,” said White. “We are also going to need their help.”
White – who doesn’t think we’ll be seeing the crowds in live sports for a while – is also wearing another hat these days. He is one of the advisers to President Donald Trump when it comes to getting the American economy back on track.
White told CNN Sport that he had participated in “great” conference calls with Trump, adding that “everyone is motivated to try to understand this thing and bring the sport back.”
Trying to return during the pandemic is a high risk, but White considers the UFC to be up to the challenge.
“I could stay home right now. I could be in my pool, hanging out, playing with my kids at home,” he said.
“I am not. I am here to try to understand this thing. I make sure that each of my employees and their families are taken care of. My fighters and their families are taken care of. And we spend a lot of “money to do it. You know, it’s very expensive. It’s not cheap. That’s why other people don’t want to go now. It’s expensive.”
While other sports remain too concerned about the potential dangers to host any type of competition for now, the UFC chief has also been watching the future closely.
White says the infrastructure is being prepared and tests need to be done on site, with the official announcement of the exact location of the island now expected in mid-June.
Shots and hoops
Like many of us, White has had to adapt to a new type of normalcy when it comes to getting out of quarantine at home in Las Vegas.
In addition to his passion for music – speaking 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 front man played basketball at home, swimming and being surrounded by loved ones.
“My daughter took me on a really cool bike ride,” White beams. “I had a great time during this vacation. And a lot of good times with my children.”