Upcoming UFC broadcasts are going to be different in many ways due to coronavirus crisis precautions and that includes how interviewers interact with fighters backstage.
Veteran broadcast team member Laura Sanko was prepared to deal with these changes after originally being assigned to work UFC 249 on April 18. That event was subsequently postponed and moved to May 9 in Jacksonville, Fla., with Sanko grateful to still be in tow. As much as she respects the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak, she’s happy to get back to work.
“I got the text from my boss just moments after I saw something online,” Sanko said on the What the Heck show. “Literally, within two minutes. I was really disappointed. But I understand why it happened. I do understand the other side of the equation, but I’m very happy to say I’m headed out for May 9. I have a new goal to hit, I’m excited to go to those fights and that card looks crazy good.”
The UFC has put together a star-studded card for what will be its first show following a series of postponements and cancellations in March and April, headlined by an interim lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje. Henry Cejudo defends his bantamweight title against former champion Dominick Cruz in the co-main event, and a bevy of other notable names will also be in action including Francis Ngannou, Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Fabricio Werdum, Michelle Waterson, and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
That lineup has Sanko excited about the prospect of getting back to work, even if she understands that working conditions might not be conducive to getting up-close-and-personal interviews this time around. Based on what she was told about what the protocol would have been for April 18, Sanko is expecting it to be handled in a similar fashion on May 9.
“I would have come in a little bit later on Friday and there was going to be a medical check as soon as we got in,” Sanko said. “We were kind of instructed to stick to a room, just really limit the amount of people and objects that you come in contact [with] and be really, really smart with it. There were strict instructions even about the way that I was going to conduct my interviews, which I’m imagining would still apply to May 9.
“It’s tricky, because with the social media interviews they are filmed vertically so that they can be put up on an Instagram story. So we don’t have the benefit really of being able to stand too far apart. So I actually might be doing a number of my interviews almost in an Instagram Live format where I’m on a phone and the fighter’s on a phone in a slightly separate location. This remains to be seen and the logistics are a little clunky, but I also said I’m personally not opposed to doing interviews that would be at a reasonable distance either.”
UFC President Dana White is being coy with the media when it comes to dispensing specific details in regards to how the organization’s COVID-19 (an official UFC statement addressing health and safety was released Friday), but Sanko remains optimistic that the UFC is doing what it can to look out for those taking part in the May 9 show.
“We’ll see what happens, but they’re definitely going above and beyond to make sure that everybody is as safe as possible,” Sanko said. “I think there’s a medical check every day that you’re there. They’re arranging people’s travel to where we’re they’re on site as little as possible. Get in late, leave early, that type of thing. Come in contact with as few people as possible.”