Former two-division UFC champion Randy Couture has stated that Dana White’s proposal to hold events on a so-called “Fight Island” represents a serious health and safety hazard to his fighters during the COVID-19 crisis.
White has remained steadfast in his stance of keeping his show on the road, despite the various coronavirus restrictions that have prompted most major sporting bodies to shut up shop for an indefinite period of time.
But White’s plans were dealt a blow when he was forced to shelve plans to hold UFC 249 on tribal land in California following pressure from senior ESPN and Disney executives.
Undaunted, White has pledged that his “Fight Island” idea – where fighters will compete against each other on an as-yet-unnamed island to ease COVID-19 concerns – will be up and running before long.
Couture, though, isn’t a fan of the plan.
“I had such mixed feelings,” he explained to former UFC and Strikeforce fighter Josh Thomson and former MMA referee John McCarthy on their “Weighing In” podcast.
“You start balancing, how much of this is hype? You start talking about the real numbers, look at the flu that happens every year, or so many other ways that people die. Where does this register on that same scale? We’re making such a huge deal and, literally, tanking our economy on a worldwide level over it.
“At the same time, everybody else is on lockdown. Why do you think it’s OK to go out and try and put on a show and put athletes in harm’s way, potentially, with so many unknowns? I don’t know. I had mixed feelings about it.”
Check weighing in w/ Big John and Josh !! https://youtu.be/9-7tbiyczQs
Couture was one of the most famous names in the halcyon days of the UFC, where his rivalry with Chuck Liddell proved to be a strong foundation for the upstart sports league to build from. Since then, Couture and White have had a strained relationship and the ex-pro has never been shy to stand up for what he sees as infringements on fighters’ rights.
“I felt like there was some selfishness going on in pushing this as far as they did,” Couture continued.
“Finally, ESPN had to step up and, literally, pull the plug on it and say, ‘We’re not gonna broadcast it,’ to get it shut down.
“Now, we’re still hearing talks about ‘Fighter Island’ and all of this other crazy stuff. ‘Pandemic Island’ is what we should call it. I think we’re all in this together, so why should anyone be exempt? The UFC is no different than any of the rest of us.”
It is unlikely that Dana White will be perturbed by Couture’s comments, particularly after receiving a particularly effusive shout-out from Donald Trump during his Rose Garden press conference on Tuesday evening. But White’s former world heavyweight champion said he remains uncertain of the motivations behind his former boss’s idea.
“It’s tough to decipher what’s real and what’s not,” said Couture.
“What’s a power grab and a money grab, and what’s the genuine precautions to keep people safe? There’s a very fine line there.”