Eddie Hearn Talks MMA, UFC And The Impact The Coronavirus Will Have
Eddie Hearn has long proclaimed to be a fan of the UFC and the job Dana White does for the promotion and the sport of MMA. As a promoter himself for Matchroom Boxing, the son Barry Hearn has a huge amount of respect for the UFC president’s business model.
“I’m that casual fan of MMA, I don’t know a lot about it. I could probably name you half a dozen fighters. I will watch the bigger fights, but I’m that casual fan who tunes in for the big ones. But I love what [the UFC has] done as a brand, I love their expansion into territories. I’m jealous because they control the sport and fighters in a way where the fighters are basically told who they’re going to fight.
“In boxing it’s exactly the opposite. [Fighters] tell us [who they are going to fight]. From that perspective, Dana White has always talked about going into boxing but it’s going to be really frustrating because you don’t just phone up Canelo [Alvarez] and say, ‘Right, you’re fighting [Gennadiy Golovkin] in September. I’ll see you there’. [In boxing] you have to negotiate with managers, advisors, networks, it’s frustrating. So, I’m an MMA fan – the sport and also the business.”
While Hearn may be jealous of the control the UFC has over its fighters, there are obviously many fighters and fans who are not in favour of the system. To the extent that there is an ongoing anti-trust lawsuit currently going on over fighter pay.
Asked if he would ever consider entering the world of MMA, Hearn confirmed that there was a strong possibility.
“I think so, yeah. A lot of people are asking me to do it. Whether it’s broadcasters or other organisations that would like to grow and [are] trying to rival the UFC.
“It’s very difficult to rival the UFC, and if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it with all guns blazing. I don’t want to go in and be number two. Being number one in that space is very, very difficult, you know. Let me crack boxing first, and then we’ll see abut MMA.”
Before he is able to crack on with boxing however, there is the small issue of the coronavirus to overcome. In the last week, the sporting world has come to a crashing holt, as the world goes into lockdown to try and slow down the pandemic.
“Having spoken to Robert Smith yesterday, the British Boxing Board of Control, it was clear that — then it becomes a problem with doctors and potential access into hospitals. If a fighter’s injured on the evening, and then it becomes a complete no-go, you know, removing from the pandemic, we then come into putting fighters at risk.
“And of course that’s a non-starter for us at all. So, you know, various ideas for moving from mass gathering to behind closed doors to studios. But all of those right now put on hold as we wait to see. I do believe there is a chance over the coming weeks where. The medical side can be approved by the British Boxing Board of control, and we could go back to looking at events in studios and behind closed doors.
“Boxing, for me, is that’s not an ideal environment. You know, these are guys that they have to peak at the right moment. They’re putting themselves through a process that many couldn’t and wouldn’t. And to do that, sometimes you need the energy of the arena. You need the energy of the fans. For the board of control, medically, we can’t provide the necessities needed for what is a dangerous sport.”
Hearn sympathised with all businesses and sports right now.
“Well, I think it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about boxing, football, um, you know, the stock market, the shop on the corner, everybody’s going to be struggling through this situation.
“People are going to be spending less money. You know, the market is going to be changing. Exchange rates can be changing for us. From a logistical point of view, there’ll be problems flying people in, you know, travel bans, etcetera. So to be honest with you. It’s a complete mess. Every business, but every sport is a complete mess. For us, really at the moment [it] looks like a delay of a schedule so there’s no immediate panic.”
Do you think MMA and boxing promotions should be doing everything they can to carry on with the show? Or do you think that their events can wait until we’re over the worse of the coronavirus?