The combat-sports pipeline has been severely damaged by the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the collective futures of MMA, boxing and professional wrestling in doubt, according to ESPN.
Gym closures thanks to COVID-19 concerns have done great damage to the regional and local scenes in combat sports and left many athletes without the ability to train, let alone hone their craft against other combatants.
“It bothers me,” UFC president Dana White told ESPN’s Hallie Grossman last week. “It’s a problem … It might not affect me this year or next year, but it’s gonna affect me. It’s gonna affect my business. It’s not a good thing that that’s happening right now. It’s absolutely, positively something that is a concern to me.”
According to record-keeper Tapology, the number of MMA fights went from 5,377 between March 1 and September 1 of last year to 861 during that same time span this year in the United States.
While a big organization like UFC will probably ultimately be fine, the ongoing combination of a lack of ticket sales and the medical costs of COVID-19 testing are doing damage that it may not be possible to undo to the combat sports “club” scene.
“The lifeblood of our industry — both MMA and boxing — are the club promoters,” said Fight Club OC owner Roy Englebrecht. “COVID-19 has put a lot of club promoters maybe out of business forever. At our level, without any TV money or live-streaming money coming in, when you have to make it off of ticket sales and fighter ticket sales and sponsorships … it’s tough to cover your show expenses.”