Gladiatorial atmosphere missing but fights go on

Sports | REUTERS 16 Mar 2020

The sporting calendar has taken a beating, with few events surviving the battle to contain Covid-19. And though yesterday's UFC mixed martial arts in Brasilia went ahead it was amid eerie silence in an empty arena.

In the main event, underdog Charles Oliveira from Sao Paolo scored a shock submission win over American Kevin Lee with a guillotine choke that would have raised the roof at the Ginasio Nilson Nelson Arena - if there had been fans to see it.

With authorities banning large gatherings in a bid to contain the virus, the gladiatorial atmosphere of a fight night was absent.

Watched only by the coaches and officials, Sweden's Bea Malecki and Veronica Macedo of Venezuela were the first to make the walk to the octagon. The usual thundering music intro for each fighter was cut short. With no fans there was no atmosphere on which to build.

Octagon announcer Joe Martinez did his best to inject some life into the proceedings, but his fairground-style announcements of each fighter entrance met with near silence.

Occasionally the sounds of combat were then pierced by the shouts of coaches and corner personnel.

For the bouts lacked nothing in intensity but, without a live audience, they took on the feel of glorified sparring sessions. The lack of atmosphere clearly affected some fighters, "but I could hear everything my coaches were saying, so that was good," said Malecki after she scored a decision victory.

The first nine fights on the 12-fight card all went the distance before Renato Moicano beat Damir Hadzovic inside the allotted time with a submission victory .

The UFC's next event in London may yet be cancelled.


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