The current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption globally on a scale never seen before. One of the sectors which has been hit the worst by this is the live sports business. There was a period of time earlier this year, where there were virtually no live sporting events taking place anywhere on the planet for more than two months. We have seen some of the biggest and most prestigious sporting events get cancelled or postponed due to this virus. The Olympics, which were scheduled to be held this year in Tokyo, were pushed back by a year, as were the European Football Championships. Wimbledon was not held for the first time since the Second World War, while various golf tournaments have also been either suspended or postponed. These are just a few examples; every sport has felt the impact, with national leagues and competitions having to be suspended or pushed back as well. However, from June onwards, we have been seeing some easing of restrictions, which has also been allowing sporting competitions to come back, albeit in the absence of fans and with extremely strict testing, hygiene and isolation protocols. One of the sports which has been consistently trying to return to action has been the UFC.
UFC was actually one of the first sports brands to stage matches after the virus broke out, hosting three events in early May in Florida. However, the worsening of the outbreak in the USA, and Florida in particular, made further events impossible for some time. However, UFC was then able to move across to Las Vegas, with the governing body releasing its guidelines and rules for the events to be able to take place safely. All fighters and their entourage members were tested upon arrival in Vegas, where they then had to self-isolate in their hotel rooms till the test results were available. Only if athletes tested negative were they allowed to begin preparing for the weekend’s fights, with those who may have tested positive asked to stay in their rooms and wait for local healthcare authorities to contact them. Players and staff were tested again after weigh-ins on Friday, ahead of the weekend’s fights, with the same rules as earlier in place. In fact, the only time the athletes or their staff members were allowed out of self-isolation was when they travelled from the hotel to the fight arena, which goes to show just how strict the guidelines needed to be to pull off an event like this during these times.
In fact, the UFC was so desperate to host fights again that it even attempted to book a private island for this purpose. The mysterious fight island was finally confirmed as the Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, which has previously hosted UFC events as well, and eventually played host to UFC 251 in July. The fact that the original event, which was supposed to be held in Perth, Australia, had to be moved halfway across the world at short notice shows just how difficult it is to host sports events at this time.
Casinos, however, were hoping to benefit by hosting UFC events. Despite some of them turning into the best internet casino and providing their customers with online casino games during this time, there has still been a huge loss of revenue all around the industry, and so hosting a high-profile event like a UFC fight night would help them in making some money. At the same time, some online casino and internet bookies had been riding on the UFC, as it provided them with a live sporting event to provide odds on. Many sports betting providers had promotional campaigns and offers in place to try and get more customers to place bets during UFC 253, for example.