Bob Arum fully understands that people are concerned with much more important issues these days than scheduling boxing events.
The Hall-of-Fame promoter can’t comprehend why Dana White hasn’t taken the same compassionate, pragmatic approach to UFC 249. The UFC president hopes to go forward with that mixed martial arts card April 18 at an undetermined venue, even if it doesn’t include Russian star Khabib Nurmagomedov.
White reportedly is seeking a replacement for Nurmagomedov because the UFC lightweight champion cannot leave Russia for a fight against Tony Ferguson, which didn’t officially have a site as of Tuesday afternoon.
Nurmagomedov and Ferguson were supposed to headline UFC 249 two weeks from Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. That venue no longer is an option because New York has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.
Nevertheless, White wants to hold UFC 249 without fans in attendance.
“I don’t know know what the hell he’s doing,” Arum told BoxingScene.com on Tuesday. “I don’t know why, with all that’s going on, with people dying, Dana White has the idea that this fight must go on. Why? What’s behind it? He canceled all the fights that are on ESPN. What is it about this fight, which can’t even happen because the Russian guy can’t even get out of Russia? Why does he have to have a show in April? There has to be some kind of economic reason, some other reason, which I’m not aware of, as to why he’s so insistent.
“It doesn’t help UFC. It doesn’t help his company. He’s making a fool of himself, particularly in a situation where people have much greater problems to deal with. People are dying. They’re dealing with the isolation. They’re dealing with losing jobs, dealing with businesses being in trouble. What is motivating him to carry it to this point? I just don’t know. I just can’t even guess what it could be.”
Every scheduled sporting event in the United States except UFC 249 has been postponed or canceled over the past three weeks due the coronavirus crisis.
Arum’s company, Top Rank Inc., officially postponed the only boxing card that remained on its schedule – a show headlined by Jose Ramirez and Viktor Postol – on Tuesday. That 140-pound title fight, which was set for May 9 at Save Mart Center in Fresno, California, has been postponed twice due to the spread of the coronavirus (https://www.boxingscene.com/ramirez-postol-postponed-second-time-due-coronavirus-pandemic--147982).
The 88-year-old Arum believes it’s irresponsible of UFC or anyone else to hold a professional sporting event until this pandemic is under control.
“There’s something wrong with holding an event where you don’t have adequate testing,” Arum said, “where you’re exposing television crews to the virus and you’re exposing participants to the virus. Why? What is the reason? Why can’t you be patient and do it two months from now? What is the magic in doing it on this date?”
Nurmagomedov said on Monday he has been informed UFC is looking to replace him in the main event of UFC 249 because Russia has closed its borders. ESPN.com reported Monday that Ferguson’s representatives have been asked about facing Justin Gaethje instead of Nurmagomedov on April 18.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.