As the COVID-19 outbreak has caused considerable changes to everyone’s lives, it has also brought about changes in the sport of MMA.

These events that have been known to fill the most lauded sports arenas worldwide have been forced to be held in empty arenas with only the most necessary personnel in the buildings.

Because of this, one incredible finding from the COVID-19 pandemic has been how well MMA in an empty arena has translated to television. This raises the question, “is MMA better in an empty arena?”


Why has MMA translated so well?


MMA: UFC Fight Night
Photo: Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

We must first begin with the quality of the broadcast presented to us by ESPN’s streaming services. Because of major team sports just now starting back up, ESPN, which is the home of the UFC, has been able to advertise as well as air all of the UFC’s events on either the ESPN channel or their ESPN+ subscription streaming service. Being the only show in town has brought a tremendous number of eyes to the sport and to the UFC. This is due in no small part to ESPN. That helps us understand why MMA has been seen so often, but the reliability of ESPN doesn’t paint the full picture as to why it’s been so well received.

The UFC’s product has done so well, in part due to ESPN, but also because of its presentation.

Starting first with the fights and the fighters, there have been some incredible bouts in the past few months. UFC 249’s entire main card was incredible to kick-off the return of UFC events and every event following it has had some outstanding performances. The commentary teams have also made the product easily digestible. Headed by lead commentator Jon Anik, the UFC’s commentary team has been both informative and entertaining especially for the casual MMA fan who may not be able to grasp every word or term used throughout a broadcast. The production value of the entire broadcast has looked incredible as well. Maintaining a visually stimulating product is just as important as the fights.

If the value of the production is inadequate, it won’t matter what the quality of each fight is.

Finally, the biggest takeaway from these empty arenas has been the sound. The sounds of each punch, kick, take-down, and slam have echoed around the arenas. This sound has translated so well to the broadcasts. Being able to hear a kick so clearly, it makes you wince as you imagine what that must feel like has been an awe-inspiring experience.


Would a promotion like the UFC ever consider holding events in an empty arena once the world returns to normal?


Probably not. At the end of the day, MMA is a business. Businesses tend to have a desire to make as much money as possible. Once the world returns to normal, the UFC will be even more eager to rake in the money they have been missing out on in the live gates.

Because these events have been so well received, it is possible the UFC may hold some events in places like the UFC Apex Center and only have a few hundred fans as opposed to thousands in a packed arena. This wouldn’t give the exact same feeling as an empty arena, but it would probably be as close as we could get.


What do you think about these events with no fans?

Featured Image: Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports
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