While most sports saw a jump in viewership in their return during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was short-lived for many. Several factors could be playing a role like so many sports taking place on television and streaming devices at the same time. There are so many options: the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, PGA, WNBA, NASCAR, UFC, Bellator, etc. The first major sport to return to scheduled events was the UFC. Two months into the national lock down, the UFC returned with UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje on May 9 at in Jacksonville, Fla. The event was originally scheduled to take place on April 18 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The state of New York banned sporting events in early March and several UFC events were postponed and rescheduled. The fight promotion moved their events to Florida after governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order on April 9 declaring professional sports as an essential service. The organization held three events in eight days at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena between May 9 and May 16. In front of an empty arena, the UFC returned and people tuned in. Since the three events in Florida, UFC president Dana White says that their viewership and social media footprint has grown tremendously. "The UFC is on fire right now," said White during the UFC 253 Post-Fight Press Conference. "Every time we're doing fights now, they're big. Our social media in the last year, the UFC social media has gained 8 million followers in the last year. 2.5 million since Florida. Mine has gained a million since Florida. The whole sport, it's on fire right now. Our numbers keep going up. Our ratings keep going up."The fight promotion moved their events to Las Vegas following their run in Florida. The next five fight cards took place at UFC APEX. Enforcing social distancing and mask mandates, while employing regular testing, the organization successfully functioned during rapidly changing circumstances. While the fights were taking place in Florida and Las Vegas, construction was underway in Abu Dhabi to create an isolated environment that could house fighters as well as host events and handle production needs. The Flash Forum aka "UFC Fight Island" held its first fight card on June 12. The venue hosted four events in 14 days. The fight promotion has had several fighters and cornermen test positive to COVID-19, but they were able to quarantine those athletes and camp members and move forward without a major outbreak or disruption. The UFC volunteered to be the litmus test for professional sports returning to the field, the court, the track, etc., and set the standard. It hasn't been perfect, but it has worked. Being the first sport to return was a calculated gamble and it paid off. Sports fans starved of sports for months tuned in that had never watched the sport. "I didn't listen to any of the bulls*** from the media, and I went. And I think people liked it and I think people who never watched the sport before got in to it and started to watch. The growth has been phenomenal," White said. "There's no - it's not a coincidence that all these numbers have gone up since Florida." * * *TRENDING > Colby Covington attended Presidential Debate as guest of President Donald Trump* * * Trending Video > UFC 253: Israel Adesanya vs Paulo Costa Recap(Subscribe to MMAWeekly.com on YouTube)
Following just his second career loss to Merab Dvalishvili at UFC on ESPN+ 25 this past February, bantamweight Casey Kenny was looking to rebound with a strong performance against Louis Smolka in his follow-up bout three months later at UFC Fight Night.For Kenny, his fight versus Smolka went just about as well as he could have hoped, picking up a first-round submission just three minutes into the fight.“I think it was honestly one of my best performances,” Kenney told MMAWeekly.com. “Even though it was short notice, I came out and did what I was supposed to do. I started off with a leg kick, landed my shot, rocked him and submitted him, so it was about as perfect as you can get.”Coming into the bout with Smolka off the heels of the coronavirus lockdown, Kenney admits it was a bit of a different feel than he normally has going into fights, but he persevered as he feels he usually does.“I think that’s one thing I do pretty well, no matter what happens I’m going to weather the storm and come out on top,” said Kenney. “It was definitely a different experience.“There wasn’t really any camp. Even in the training beforehand it was just doing little groups, doing stuff on my own mainly. Then the fight, we were kind of locked down to the hotel, no fans, but it was all great experience. Part of this sport is being able to roll with the punches and make adjustments.”On Saturday on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, Kenney (14-2-1) will look to pick up his second straight win when he faces Heili Alateng (14-7-1) in a UFC on ESPN 16: Holm vs. Aldana preliminary bantamweight bout.* * *TRENDING > UFC Fight Island Behind the Scenes: Holly Holm vs. Irene Aldana* * *“He’s a tough guy who is going to come forward, throw a big right hand, going to wrestle hard, but I think he’s pretty basic in his approach,” Kenney said of Alateng. “I think I just have too many weapons for him.“I’ll pick my shots, be creative when I need to, be strong with my basics when I need to, and wherever the fight goes I think I can beat him. I think I’m just overall too well-rounded on the feet and on the ground.”Should he come out healthy versus Alateng, Kenney is looking to get back into the Octagon right away, even while still on Fight Island if possible.“I want to get rich back in there,” said Kenney. “I’m going to try to petition to stay on Fight Island and get another in as quick as possible if everything goes well.“This will be my fifth UFC fight, and I’ve been pretty unscathed in my all four. I’m grateful for all the fights that I’m getting, but I’d like to make one more before the end of the year to cap off the year.”* * * Trending Video > UFC 253: Israel Adesanya vs Paulo Costa Recap(Subscribe to MMAWeekly.com on YouTube)
Colby Covington was one of several special guests that both Donald Trump and Joe Biden invited to the debate in Ohio on Tuesday night.