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MMA manager Tyson Chartier describes relationship between media, fighters as ‘very symbiotic’

Tyson Chartier heard about the big news just like the rest of us.

With his client Calvin Kattar preparing to fight Jeremy Stephens at UFC 249, it fell upon Chartier to keep up to date with the status of a card that was thrown into turmoil by the coronavirus pandemic. Fights were being canceled, the original Brooklyn location was long out of the picture, and despite UFC President Dana White’s unwavering confidence, there was no way to know for sure if the event was even happening.

This past Thursday, it was announced that UFC 249 was officially postponed after ESPN asked White to call off the show. Kattar would not be fighting Stephens on April 18. Chartier, who works as an agent for TopGame Management as well as serving as Kattar’s head coach, said he saw the news break publicly before hearing it from anyone else. He was actually waiting to fulfill the first part of the promotion’s COVID-19 precautions when he had to call Kattar and give an update.

“At that point we were all in,” Chartier said on the What the Heck show. “We thought it was really finally happening. The UFC’s telling us they’re mailing the coronavirus tests out to us the next day, and that they’ll have instructions on how to self-administer. There’s one of the safety precautions that they were gonna have. The next thing you know, an hour later, the show’s off.”

To Kattar’s credit, he told Chartier they should just get back to training as soon as possible; he remained confident he’d be fighting soon. Sure enough, his fight with Stephens was later one of a dozen reportedly added to the UFC’s planned event on May 9.

Chartier agreed not to dwell on the negative, especially when it came to outcry over the postponement that led to finger-pointing toward the media. While some fighters and managers questioned why there was so much criticism written about White’s insistence on going forward despite the COVID-19 outbreak, Chartier believes there is no one to blame and that the media isn’t always going to write what people want to hear.

“At the end of the day you’re supposed to be unbiased and just report on what’s going on, and I think that’s what some people did,” Chartier said. “I think the backlash was probably just because you want to blame somebody, but you don’t know who to blame, and you’re just so frustrated that it’s not happening, so people just lash out. I think you guys might have been an easy target. I think it was kind of a little bit of groupthink – once one person points in that direction, everybody kind of jumps on board.

“It was unfortunate, because at the end of the day, we’re one of the fastest growing sports in the world. But we’re still pretty small; we’ve got our little niche. I think as a community we all have to stick together and support each other, because without you guys it would be harder to get those ESPN deals. Without the fighters, you guys wouldn’t exist. It’s very symbiotic, and I think we have to remember that sometimes, and sometimes you guys aren’t always gonna say everything we agree with.”

The plan was for UFC 249 to take place on tribal land in California, though company officials did not make this information public until California politicians reportedly became involved, prompting the UFC’s broadcasting partner ESPN to step in at the behest of parent company Disney.

The May 9 show is also without an official location, though White has suggested that the UFC APEX in Las Vegas could host events in the near future (he did not specify when the facility could start doing so). Florida has also emerged as a possible option given that its governor recently deemed the sports entertainment company WWE to be an essential service.

Asked how confident he feels that Kattar’s next fight will proceed as scheduled, Chartier is optimistic.

“Obviously, there’s that part of your brain that goes, ‘Hey, we’re doing this again,’” Chartier said. “But given some of the changes that have been happening, the Florida governor saying that athletes are essential, and it even sounds like Vegas is talking about things. Dana had done another interview saying that Vegas would be back open mid-May to do shows at the APEX, and I guess Top Rank is even talking about doing shows at the APEX for boxing. So it’s a lot more encouraging now today for for three weeks than it was when we heard, ‘Hey, April 18 is gonna happen, we’ll figure it out.’

“I think I’m a lot more confident now than I was in the last one, but we’ve just gotta be prepared for anything at this point. All we can do is focus on what we can control and right now that is train hard for the next three weeks, get ready to make weight on May 8, and get in the eight-sided cage regardless of what state it’s in and fight Jeremy Stephens.”

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