A Return Worth Praise
It’s been about a month and a half since we’ve had live sports, until last night. UFC 249 took place in front of an empty arena, a sight that sports fans will likely have to get used to for the immediate future. However, the lack of fans actually enhanced the event and brought new features to sports that we haven’t seen in the past.
First off, the event itself was fantastic. Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone put on a terrific fight to lead in to the PPV, Francis Ngannou and Calvin Kattar both had highlight reel knockouts that actually came off even better because the impacts could be heard through the broadcast, Henry Cejudo surprisingly retired following his victory over Dominick Cruz (thanks to a questionable stoppage) and the night was topped off unexpectedly as Justin Gaethje dominated #1 lightweight contender Tony Ferguson to the point where the referee had to stop the fight because Ferguson had absorbed so much punishment.
However, that’s not what the focus should be on. The focus should be on how the absence of screaming fans affected how the matches turned out. One example was revealed during a post-fight interview during the prelims with winner Carla Esparza. She was convinced to change her tactics in the middle of a round when she overheard the announcers talking about her lack of aggression. She said that she took this criticism in stride, changed her approach, and became more aggressive, which ultimately saw her be victorious via decision.
Also, it was interesting throughout to hear coaches talking to their fighters, providing tips and critiques. Normally, these are inaudible because of crowd noise, but this might actually start a trend where networks actually give more of a platform to what the coaches are saying during the action, and not just in between rounds.
Overall, I thought UFC 249 was a great way to bring live sports back into the limelight. The event went spectacularly and I’m looking forward to seeing how future events sans fans go.