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Dana White: Sporting events ‘impossible’ to pull off ‘without a bubble’

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As the president of one of the first sporting organizations to resume regular operations, Dana White is uniquely qualified to speak on what it takes to make that happen.

The UFC returned to its APEX facility in Las Vegas on Saturday for a show headlined by Derek Brunson and Edmen Shahbazyan, and though it suffered from a variety of hiccups that led to fighter withdrawals and bouts being canceled entirely, the protocol that the UFC and the Nevada State Athletic Commission established at the end of May to minimize risk amid the coronavirus pandemic continues to serve its purpose and three more events are lined up for August.

Speaking at the evening’s post-fight press conference, White spoke about why he had such confidence in his team to get events going again.

“I knew we would from day one,” White said. “I knew that we’d be able to do this. I knew that we would spend the money and get the right people involved. I believe in my staff and obviously I believe in the fighters. I knew that we could do this and I knew we would. There’s a lot of mistakes that these other leagues have made and they could do it right if they wanted to, but I don’t know.”

The other leagues that White is referring to includes three of North America’s cornerstone sporting organizations, the MLB, the NHL, and the NBA, all of which began hosting games again in recent weeks. While the NHL and NBA have implemented a bubble system similar to that initiated by the UFC (the NHL is holding events in two Canadian hub cities, Edmonton and Toronto, while the NBA has established a bubble in Orlando), the MLB attempted to begin its 2020-2021 season with limited travel and the results have not been encouraging.

Already, two MLB teams, the Florida Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals, and their respective opponents have been forced to cancel games due to positive COVID-19 tests. The season itself is in jeopardy should the situation worsen.

White emphasized that without a closed environment, he can’t imagine how holding sporting events is possible.

“You have to be in the bubble,” White said. “It’s impossible to pull this thing off without a bubble. You have to do it.”

With several events in the books and the Contender Series set to return, White was effusive in his praise of the Fight Island experience and in his excitement for what’s to come as fights continue to be held at UFC APEX.

“Everything’s good. [Abu Dhabi] was an incredible experience,” White said. “It was first class for everybody that was involved in the thing, but it’s good to be home too. It’s good to be home, I’m excited to be back, I’m excited about the Contender Series. ... They’re fun, they’re exciting, the thing’s been so successful. This one’s on ESPN+, this thing’s gonna air in Brazil, it’s airing in Canada now. This thing’s really got some legs in the last couple of seasons.

“These kids that are unsigned nobody knows, they’re literally going to be fighting in front of the whole world now. The stakes are a lot higher, it’s on a much higher level now, and I’m looking forward to it.”