When the UFC leads North America’s main sports activities again into motion Saturday evening with a pay-per-view present in Florida, Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje know they can not do something tentatively.
“We’ve bought to go on the market and hold sports activities alive,” Ferguson stated Tuesday after he flew into Jacksonville and was rapidly examined for COVID-19.
The 24 fighters at UFC 249 all understand they added one other threat to their already hazardous professions after they agreed to compete amid the rising coronavirus pandemic. Whereas the UFC has strict security protocols in place, nobody may be sure of the hazards concerned when the combined martial arts promotion returns from an eight-week break with three exhibits in eight days in Jacksonville.
Ferguson and Gaethje each imagine their dangers are outweighed by the sporting rewards they’ll reap and the instance they’ll present after they combat for the interim UFC light-weight title in a fan-free enviornment.
“We’re going to convey a way of normalcy to folks,” Gaethje stated in a cellphone interview. “I’m proud to be part of it. It’s the chance to encourage. Folks have to be impressed proper now. They should not let themselves turn into depressed (or) emotional as a result of they’ll’t management what’s happening proper now. We’ve bought to experience it via. They have to be impressed, and we will do this.”
“I truthfully had no reservations,” Ferguson added. “Preventing could be very harmful, so I believe we’ll be simply superb.”
The UFC by no means needed to cease competitors whereas the pandemic grew, and president Dana White was by no means in need of fighters prepared to compete whereas he scrambled desperately to maintain holding combat playing cards amid the unprecedented public well being disaster. Now that White has discovered a state and an athletic fee prepared to host him, UFC 249 will likely be adopted by extra exhibits on Could 13, Could 16 and possibly Could 23 from Jacksonville.
“There’s not fairly often you’re going to get to combat for a world title, a lot much less throughout a pandemic when there’s zero sports activities happening and also you’re going to be the one one on TV,” Gaethje stated. “It’s important to face your fears. You’ve bought to go on the market and take the possibilities after they’re introduced. … We get to place paychecks in our personal pocket, and we get to place a paycheck in each UFC worker’s pocket that’s going to work this occasion, and we get to encourage folks to not hand over proper now.””
Whereas many athletes world wide have voiced issues about being compelled to play their sports activities in such unsure occasions, the UFC’s fighters — who usually do not receives a commission except they compete — have been virtually unanimously desperate to return.
Even seasoned veterans like ex-champion Dominick Cruz have jumped on the alternative regardless of being properly conscious of the well being dangers concerned. Like Gaethje, Cruz sees UFC 249 as a chance to beat worry.
“Realistically, anyone can contract this virus,” stated Cruz, who will return from a three-year cage absence to combat bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo on Saturday. “I believe that’s partially the purpose, is knowing that anyone on the market can get this, however you may’t simply freeze up whenever you see one thing that’s scary. You’ve bought to take the precautions, be as secure as doable, however reside your life. That’s what I’m doing.”
Some MMA fighters want to coach in busy gyms with a number of teammates, whereas others work out with solely their coaches and sparring companions. The mandatory adjustments over the previous two months have not bothered Cejudo, an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler and champion of two UFC divisions.
“I actually don’t know the distinction between the COVID-19 quarantine and me in my coaching camp,” Cejudo stated. “I’m an expert. I prepare each day. I attempt to do every little thing proper. This complete quarantine, I believe by the point the U.S. comes again collectively, I’m simply not going to know the distinction.”
Cruz feels significantly strongly in regards to the symbolic significance of the UFC’s return to competitors. The previous 135-pound champion needs to reclaim the belt to make use of it as an instrument for social change, even citing Muhammad Ali’s activism towards the Vietnam Battle as his inspiration.
“What’s the worth of championship belts or Olympic gold medals when there’s 33 million People that simply filed for unemployment advantages, that may’t see their households since mid-March?” Cruz stated. “There’s no vaccine for COVID-19 coming, in all probability no finish in sight. So I’ve been (considering) the query of what’s the worth of belts and even Olympic gold medals except you employ it to make a distinction within the lives and the service of humanity?”
However after listening to Cruz’s passionate ideas in regards to the state of the world throughout their joint cellphone interview, Cejudo introduced the dialogue again to common MMA ranges of discourse.
“You’d higher join these unemployment checks, as a result of I’m taking you out,” Cejudo stated. “Dominick, you sound like Miss Universe.”
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