UFC 249 features a main event between lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. A fight that has been deemed the most cursed matchup in the history of the octagon as it has been booked 5 times and come to fruition, never!
This 5th booking was originally scheduled to take place at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn New York on April 18th. However, due to the worldwide pandemic caused by the Coronavirus, New York City is closed for business leaving this card and this elusive main event with no place to call home.
UFC President Dana White said this event will take place on its scheduled date and he has a location, he just hasn’t told anybody yet.
The state of Florida, an Indian reservation in Oklahoma, and either Abu Dhabi or Saudi Arabia seem to be the front runners to host this event which will take place with no fans in attendance.
While all of those destinations are definitely capable of hosting this event, I would like to offer another alternative that would definitely work and would be unique just like this event will be if it takes place.
Welcome to the UFC 249 cruise ship. I am your cruise director Dana White, welcome aboard!
I know some of you are saying what? How’s this gonna work? Well read on my friends and I’ll explain my vision and why it would make sense.
A cruise ship at sea carrying the 24 fighters that will comprise this card as well as the UFC crew, the ESPN production crew, 2 corners per fighter, the Florida State Boxing Commission and all the employees they need to have to sanction this event and the essential cruise ship personnel that will sail the ship, cook, and do their best to tend to the passengers on board.
Dana White is determined to make this event happen and we all know the UFC has the money to rent out a ship for a few days, sail it out, drop anchor a mile off the coast, and put on an event that will be remembered by all!
With cruise ships offering ridiculously low fares right now just to try and drum up some business, I’m sure they would be more than willing to give the UFC a phenomenal deal to host the event and would relish in the publicity that it would bring to their brand.
The cruise ship will have all the facilities needed for the athletes to prepare. They will all have their own cabins as well as each of their cornermen which will allow them to continue to practice social distancing even at sea. The same goes for all the other people that are there to put on the show as a cruise ship has plenty of decks and cabins which will allow everybody to have their own clean and safe space leading up to fight night.
Cruise ships have huge kitchens and most have excellent chefs. The UFC could even bring in their chefs that work at the UFC performance institute to make sure that the meal plans are right in line with what the fighters are used to having when they are on land during fight week.
The fact that no fans will be in attendance means that the UFC doesn’t need to have the event inside a stadium or a huge arena. They could set the octagon up inside a ballroom on board and that will be all the space they need.
Also, with the amount of space on one of today’s cruise ships the UFC could even bring along a select group of members of the media to do scrums, get interviews, and keep a sense of normalcy that the fighters are used to during fight week.
The open-air of the sea and the sun shining down will allow the athletes to be able to warm up, get their workouts in, and again practice social distancing, which is another safeguard that is definitely needed as they get ready to make the walk on fight night.
The UFC team will only have to go so far to find any athlete they are looking for when it’s time to step on the scale for weigh-in day, sign posters or make the walk to the octagon on fight night.
On fight night it would work like this. The 3 judges will be at octagon side as well as whichever referee is assigned to the bout that is about to take place, as well as 2 cameramen on the side of the octagon and one overhead camera plus 2 doctors and a team of paramedics.
A fighter will make the walk accompanied by their two cornermen, only one of which will be allowed to actually enter the octagon between rounds, again we’re trying to keep person to person interaction at a minimum. The doctors, paramedics, and cornermen don’t even have to sit directly next to the octagon since there will be no fans onboard the cornermen can sit 10′ away from the octagon and be able to yell out clear instructions that their athlete will certainly be able to hear. Doctors and paramedics also can sit 10 to 15′ away and only approach when needed. Also of note, big cruise ships have medical facilities onboard should an athlete need more than just a couple of stitches after their fight. Since they know that a fight event will be taking place they can even add a few things just to make sure they’re covered and prepared for anything.
2 fighters, 3 judges, and a referee Will be in the octagon or at the side of the octagon totaling 6 people, which falls in the parameters of gatherings of 10 or less. Fighters that are waiting for their bout to take place will remain in their staterooms where they can work out and warm-up or they can go up on deck and warm up in the sun. I say the sun because this event could take place in the day time. Hell, with the way the world is right now this event could take place on a Thursday afternoon at 5 o’clock and it would do a huge number since most of the world is at home right now.
Members of the media can watch via closed-circuit tv in different rooms so as to keep their distance from each other, and the athletes. There can be a set location for post-fight interviews where the invited members of the media could all show up. For instance, one of the big dining rooms would suffice, and again since there won’t be many people there they can all stand 10 to 15′ from one another, 20′ away from the fighters and still get the job done.
Accommodations, and a venue all-in-one spot where the UFC can definitely keep control of everything and everyone to make it the safest event they possibly can for the people involved, and make it enjoyable for the fans who need something to distract them during this tough time that we are all going through.
My guess is that to pull this off there will be a total of 300-350 people on board, 200 of them being cruise ship personnel. These cruise ships normally can carry anywhere from 1000 to 3000 passengers and a crew of anywhere from 300 to 500 so having 350 total persons on board, and keeping them all separated and safe would be a piece of cake!
The only flaw in this plan that I see would be post-fight. From my experience attending events as a member of the media after almost every event the fighters and matchmakers end up back at the host hotel at the bar drinking and partying and just reliving the whole night. While this event would take place on a ship to try and keep everybody safe and away from each other, I believe once the fights are over the onboard after-party would break all the rules of social distancing, and while it may not be as safe as intended, it would be awesome!
Obviously, there are a few more logistics that would have to be worked out than what I have presented here, but my basic outline definitely is doable. Who knows, if this event a success without fans, imagine doing an annual UFC pay per view on a cruise ship with fans in attendance, that would be epic!
In the climate of the world today, to keep things moving with any semblance of normalcy, now more than ever, outside the box thinking is imperative.
Of course, all of this is just my opinion and an idea. While some folks may say it’s crazy or ridiculous, it truly isn’t. The fighters that would be involved I am sure would love to take part in this event on a cruise ship. They get a little fun in the sun, a unique venue, and all this would happen and allow them to continue to practice social distancing and be able to work in a safe environment!
Sometimes the craziest ideas are the ones that end up working out the best!
Christopher James has been in the MMA industry for 15 years, Working as a ring announcer for promotions like the XFC, Island Fights, Combat Night and Fight Nights Global during his career. Chris’ love for the sport and the athletes that partake in it led him to writing and doing face to face interviews with the athletes he admired and respected. Chris isn’t conventional by any stretch of the imagination, he has his own style, and takes pride in not being a “cookie-cutter” member of the media. Unique and sometimes controversial takes are what he brings to the table, forcing folks to think a little differently about the world of MMA. He also has a love for music as he has been a dj for 25 years and his love for music gets brought to the MMA world when he gets his guests to sing on his weekly show Cage Side with Christopher James which can be seen Wednesday nights on FACEBOOK LIVE, and soon via podcast.