The UFC is feverishly attempting to get back to regularly scheduled programming despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. That means many fighters will be getting the call to compete during the pandemic. Not all fighters, of course, are going to be willing to put themselves and their loved ones at risk of infection.
Speaking to MMA Fighting, MMA manager Brian Butler-Au explained that, to his knowledge, fighters aren’t being penalized or punished if they decline to fight during the pandemic.
“They don’t want to fight, it’s completely understood,” said Butler, who operates Suckerpunch Entertainment and manages many UFC stars, including strawweight champ Weili Zhang. “We’ve been asked to basically put together a list of our athletes that are domestic that are interested in fighting and that’s it. Even if there are fighters who had signed bout agreements and contracts before all of this went down, if they don’t want to fight in this time period, it’s not like anybody’s upset with anybody. It’s completely understood.
“At the same time, I understand why the UFC wants to get things going again. Like [Suckerpunch manager Bryan] Hamper said, the country needs something right now, because everybody’s just stuck. Watching Netflix is getting old. I applaud the UFC for trying to get it going, and I hope they find a safe way to get it going, because a lot of fighters want to do it and a lot of people want to watch it.”
Butler continued, sharing his belief that athletes should be allowed to compete if that’s what they want and it’s safe to do so.
“We manage so many fighters that we have the athletes that are across the spectrum,” he said. “Some want to get back in there and some are a little bit paranoid because of a virus. The reality is everybody wants the country to get back on track as fast possible and get things back to normal as fast as possible. I think that if the athlete wants to compete, and the UFC wants to put on or can put on an event safely, I think they should compete.
“If an athlete doesn’t want to compete because they’re paranoid of the situation, nobody’s holding it against them if they decide not to [fight]. It’s just one of those types of situations where it’s a tough call. You’ve got some people who are like, this is so messed up, we want to get things back to normal, we need some answers – but there are no answers. Things are changing day by day.”
What are your thoughts on the UFC continuing to operate during the coronavirus pandemic?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 4/24/2020.