John Oliver and “Last Week Tonight” took on sports in the age of COVID-19 on Sunday night, focusing on how leagues can plausibly return to game action. As is always the case, Oliver took swipes at a bevy of characters — including calling Philadelphia fans a “horde of inhuman monsters” — but the focus of the segment came down to the UFC and Florida’s choice to host sporting events.
Jacksonville hosted three events for UFC and president Dana White, but it was the promotion’s decision to host a “Fight Island” sometime later this year that got him going.
Oliver goes in on ‘Fight Island’
The thesis for Oliver was that it’s far easier to say we’re bringing sports back than to actually do it as COVID-19 continues to spread. In discussing how certain sports leaders are planning comebacks earlier than what may be in everyone’s best interest, he turned his attention to the UFC.
White plans to hold events on a private island this summer in what Oliver called an “insane workaround.” Since international fighters can’t fly into the United States due to travel restrictions, the fights will all be held at the private location White is already working out details for.
The UFC portion starts at the 10:14 mark.
“Yes, the UFC is apparently building a facility on a private island that they’re calling ‘Fight Island.’ Now, is that a clever name? No. Is it the perfect name? Yes! Because it’s the first thought an idiot would have if they wanted to name a private island where fights happen.”
Oliver offered alternatives: Puerto Ruckus, Slam Miguel, Brawlhamas, Owie Maui and UF-Sea.
UFC 249: Fighter, cornermen tested positive
This all to get to the point of the matter for Oliver: it’s risky to hold events right now, even with the precautions the UFC put in place. Oliver noted that Ronaldo Souza and two cornermen tested positive ahead of UFC 249 the weekend prior. As part of the protocol, Souza was pulled from his fight.
“[That is] underscoring the fact that if you want to come back completely without risk, that’s just not possible right now. And yet many sports organizations are feeling real pressure to ignore that risk.”
That led into college football and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s assessment of the situation.
White: Oliver used ‘selective facts’
White took to Twitter on Monday to offer his thoughts on the clip.
I like John Oliver, I think he's funny.— danawhite (@danawhite) May 18, 2020
But this is a perfect example of how you can control the narrative by using selective facts. We did approximately 1,100 tests, only 3 were positive, it was a fighter and his 2 trainers and we had 3 events NOT 1 (via @LastWeekTonight) pic.twitter.com/h605hNnLtd
White reiterated UFC’s official statement after the positive tests that praised the “effectiveness of the health and safety measures” the company put into place. Those who tested positive were not involved in the card and had been following social distancing protocols and self-isolation to make sure no one else was infected.
While the event went off without many hitches, a report shows it did violate multiple health and safety plans. That included White not wearing a mask during weigh-ins.
And Now This: Ocho 8 edition
Oliver always ends on a good note and this week it was a familiar one for those who watch ESPN’s annual ESPN The Ocho day. Oliver and team finished the episode by showcasing marble racing, an activity that has taken off during the past two months of lockdown without live sports to watch.
Get ready for the most exciting sport not involving any human-on-human contact! Premiering June 21st. pic.twitter.com/Nh5smLtzlN— Last Week Tonight (@LastWeekTonight) May 18, 2020
And if you’re interested in watching more of it even when The Ocho isn’t on TV for special appearances, Oliver took care of that.
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