UFC set to resume May 9, fighters eager to compete despite risk of COVID-19

With the sports world at a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UFC is looking to get back on track and fighters are eager compete again.

Combatants say they need the money as Florida will play host to MMA card on May 9

Lyman Good, standing after knocking out Chance Rencountre at UFC 244, was the first UFC fighter to contract COVID-19 and is already itching to return. (Frank Franklin II/The Associated Press)

With the sports world at a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic the UFC is looking to get back on track.

The mixed martial arts promotion will return with UFC 249 on May 9 in Jacksonville, Fla. Although many have been critical of the organization's desire to continue staging events, many fighters are happy that UFC president Dana White is pushing ahead.

UFC 249 is the organization's first event since March 14, a show in Brasilia, Brazil, that was held without spectators. Six subsequent events were cancelled due to the pandemic.

Daily temperature readings and symptom checks will take place, and the teams will be provided private workout rooms for training and cutting weight. Meals will be delivered to the fighters' hotel rooms and the housekeeping staff will be equipped with hospital-grade sanitizer and personal protective gear.

"Anybody that says the UFC shouldn't be putting on events should keep their nose out of my business," UFC light heavyweight Sam Alvey, who will fight on Saturday, told CBC Sports. "I'm thrilled because I'm getting the opportunity to fight. I'm going to be the first fight on the first sporting event in the last month, that's exciting. The testing also adds some security, so that's good. But, man, I'm just excited to fight."

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For Lyman Good, the first UFC fighter to contract the virus, he knows why it's so important to get back to fighting.

"Through and through I'm a fighter. This is what I'm designed to do. So, to be told I can't fight simply because of what's going on is removing me of my purpose," said Good, who is now fully recovered after it was revealed last month he tested positive. "I'm not going to live my life in fear and I'm not going to let something stop me from doing what I'm designed to do.

"At the end of the day, we need to fight in order to live and provide for our families. This isn't just leisure for us, this is how we survive. To getting the virus, beating the virus and now fighting makes perfect sense. It's no different than a soldier getting shot in the thigh, they patch him up and he's going back out to war."

Despite contracting the virus, Good hopes he can fight again in the near future.

"I'm in talks with my management who are talking to the UFC to fight in June," he said. "I want to do this because it shows everyone that even if you get the virus you can beat it and live your normal life right after. As fighters, this is what we do — we overcome adversity. This is not stopping my plans. I will die for my sport."

Providing for family

Although fighting during a pandemic is not something everyone wants to do, most UFC fighters say it's a necessity. Unlike in the NHL or NBA, fighters do not get paid a yearly salary — instead getting paid only when they fight.

So, for parents like strawweight contender Michelle Waterson, who has a nine-year-old, and bantamweight Marlon Vera, who has two daughters, the thought of contracting the virus is scary. But they realize they need to compete in order to provide for their families.

"My mom and my daughter usually come to all of my fights. Since my daughter has been born she's been to every single one," said Waterson, another combatant on Saturday's card. "My mom is also my biggest fan, but she is older and diabetic so my main concern is her safety. Unfortunately, her or my daughter won't be able to come. I still want to fight because it is a way to provide for my family and do what I love. If I have the chance to fight, I will."

Vera echoes that sentiment and says people who are critical of the UFC don't understand fighter pay and what they make.

"I'm definitely worried about getting the virus, I have kids and I have a family. But I've been training every day so nothing has changed," said Vera, who is scheduled to fight on May 16. "My coaches send me my workouts and I do it. I fight for my family and I need the money for my family. I put so much effort in to provide for my family. I want to fight, that's it. 

"We don't get paid by month or salary. We get paid per fight and I don't see my bills getting deferred. I need to go out and work and look after my family," he said. "A lot of people are going to hate on it, but f--k it, we are going to fight. I want to fight, if somebody doesn't like it they can f--k off."

"We are going to get past this thing and putting on a UFC show is the first step of normalcy. We are heading in the right direction," Good said.

with files from Field Level Media

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