The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected us all. The UFC put on three fight cards last week in Jacksonville, Florida in front of no fans. Viewership numbers were great for those fights as the UFC became the first sport to air a live event since March. The UFC is the biggest and most popular MMA organization in the world so there was no doubt that they would bounce back but what about the smaller local and regional promotions?
Shamrock FC (Fight Club), a Missouri-based promotion, had held 328 straight events without a cancelation but that changed in March. The organization, one of the longest-tenured organizations in MMA history is owned by Jesse Finney, a former professional fighter. Finney told MMA Junkie, “We’ve never been through anything like this ever. I also think we’ve never ever canceled an event.” He added, “This isn’t a Shamrock FC problem, this was a global problem. This is about safety.”
New England combat sports promoter CES (Classic Entertainment & Sports) MMA’s Jimmy Burchfield Jr. said there will be challenges after postponing CES 61. Promoters may not suffer as much as the fighters who rely on them. Burchfield told MMA Junkie, “It’s going to be a huge challenge to get all of these fighters the fights they need in a shorter window for time. It’s going to put a lot more pressure on companies like us that are always balancing the cash flow versus the resources to put on these events. That’s definitely going to be a challenge … We’re at a lost revenue. We’ll be OK.”
On a personal note, I was going to attend LFA (Legacy Fighting Alliance) 85 at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado on April 3. I had never attended a regional MMA fight event before but a few of my friends convinced me to check it out. Plus, my interest was sparked when I found out that Cory Sandhagen had come from LFA to the UFC. Sandhagen was The Scrap’s 2019 Breakthrough Fighter of the Year.
On a side note, LFA alumni Henry Cejudo, Greg Hardy, Ryan Spann, and Bryce Mitchell went 4-0 at UFC 249.
Regional organizations may have a slow start once they can put on events again. These organizations should look at holding joint events, especially the organizations that are within the same region. For example, LFA and Shamrock FC could hold a joint event in Denver, St. Louis, or Kansas City. This way they are exposing their product to a different fan-base and possibly bigger gates. A two-day event would be a great way to re-introduce yourself back to your fans.
Another suggestion maybe a bit tougher but promoters should explore ways to have their event shown live or replayed on local TV stations. Living in Denver, we have Altitude sports and they sometimes show sporting events held in the local area to include lacrosse, soccer, and some local college and high school sports. TV stations normally like to have a contract in place before airing events but maybe in these times, local promoters can work something out that won’t put a major dent in their pockets to get more eyes on their product.
Live sports will be back at full strength at some point in time. The UFC has taken a great step forward, followed by golf and now NASCAR. I would ask that MMA fans try to get out and support your local and regional MMA organizations when they relaunch. I know I am going to attend more events and I challenge you all to do the same!