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25th Mar 2020

Dana White delivers Coronavirus speech of staggering ineptitude

Patrick McCarry

Dana White

“I’ve had a great run. If the coronavirus is what’s going to get me, bring it! I’m ready.”

Dana White must not have read up on any materials about ‘Flattening the Curve’.

Tuesday, March 24 saw the Tokyo Olympics postponed until the summer of 2021 and, in Ireland, horse racing join the lengthy list of sporting events cancelled until April 19 at the earliest. In reality, that cancellation looks set to extend into May.

On the same day, over in America, UFC president Dana White was boasting that UFC 249 – headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov’s lightweight title fight with Tony Ferguson – would go ahead. The state athletic commissions from New York and Nevada told the UFC they would not sanction the event to go ahead on April 18 but White is not giving this one up.

White spoke with several MMA outlets on Tuesday but his lengthy interview with Yahoo’s Kevin Iole was the most revealing, and disturbing of all. White believes the show must go on, and does not want to lay off any UFC employees [temporarily or otherwise], but his brashness about how he feels the world should tackle the Covid-19 pandemic is unsettling.

The main points from White’s interview are such:

  • The Coronavirus is like cancer and the regular flu and ‘we can’t run from it’
  • The UFC wants to hold mid-week events, with no fans in attendance, at their Apex arena in Las Vegas
  • ‘The less the media knows, the better’
  • A Nurmagomedov versus Conor McGregor rematch would be the biggest fight in sports history
  • The UFC has yet to lay off any staff members since the Coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic

Dana White

“Since when do Americans run and hide in their friggin’ houses?” White asked, “Instead of taking this thing head-on and finding solutions.

“You find solutions, and how do we continue to live our lives. Protect the people that need to be protected.

“I don’t think I’m a high risk guy for this thing. Maybe I’m wrong. And if I’m wrong, then the corona’s going to get me, alright? It is what it is. There’s nothing you can do… I’m not going to hide. I won’t do it.”

“Yeah,” he added, “but whether you’re a Coronavirus expert or not, it’s like hiding from cancer. You can’t hide from this thing. You can’t hide.

“If you are a high-risk person, this thing is going to get you. What’s going to happen next flu season? This thing’s going to just disappear? No, it’s going to come back, like the flu. And if this is what’s going to get you, it’s going to get you.”

The 50-year-old wants to get out of his house, where he says he has been since March 15, and start living his life again. The latest mortality rate for those aged 50 to 59 with Covid-19 is 1.3% so White may fancy his chances. What he is blithely ignoring, though, is the medical advice as to how contagious this virus is.

Health experts say that, in a worst case scenario, one Covid-19 sufferer could potential spread the virus to 59,000 other people. No matter what White may choose to believe, we cannot lock away our sick, vulnerable and elderly indefinitely while the rest of us get about our lives an add to an already rampant spread of this nasty Covid-19 strain.

The other point White is ignoring – and this is the most important one – is that staying at home is helping to stop the spread and ease the workload on our doctors, nurses and hospital staff. As many of us have witnessed in Spain and Italy, an overrun health service is leading to a much higher death rate. That is why the health experts are asking for the public’s health to ‘Flatten the Curve’ and lessen the workload for hospitals.

During the same interview with Iole, on Yahoo Sports, White was asked on a couple of occasions if all of those scheduled to take part in UFC 249 on April 18 – even if it is held behind closed doors – would be tested for Covid-19.

The UFC president refused to answer and declared, “The less the media knows, the better.”

White has spoken, in recent days and weeks, about how the promotion has battled adversity and threats to its future before and come out the other side.

It may have been somewhat understandable a fortnight ago, when the United States was relatively unscathed from the pandemic (under 1,000 confirmed cases). However, at the time of White’s round of Tuesday interviews, the country had 54,881 confirmed cases of Coronavirus with 780 deaths.

America is on course to replace mainland Europe as the new epicentre of a global pandemic that has, to date, killed over 19,000 people. White may be impressed by his own machismo but his take on the situation is horribly wrong.

The majority of the world’s medical experts are recommending that people stay at home and that all non-essential businesses should close down, and that everyone should practice physical distancing of two metres from others that are not in your own household.

On Tuesday, as White was making his ill-informed comments on living our lives and accepting the consequences, India ordered that its’ population of over 1.3 billion citizens lock down at home for the next three weeks.

It also came on the day that former UFC feather- and lightweight champion Conor McGregor was calling on Ireland to go on full lockdown in order to combat the spread of Covid-19.

US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, was taking up the baton from White and proclaiming that he would like for the US lockdown, which is far from stringent in many states, to end by Easter Sunday (April 19) for no other reason than liking the symbolism.

“I think Easter Sunday,” he told FOX News, “and you’ll have packed churches all over our country, I think it would be a beautiful time. And it’s just about the timeline I think is right.”

Trump and White are close bedfellows so it is unsurprising to hear them preaching from the same hymn-sheet. Disappointing, yes, but unsurprisingly.