The UFC hasn’t had fans at an event since March, yet president Dana White told Yahoo Sports last week that the company has a chance to make 2020 its best year ever.
If that occurs, it would be quite the feat, and beyond anyone’s imagination when the coronavirus shut the world down in the spring.
When the UFC in May became the first major sport to resume competition, it had the audience all to itself and, judging by its television ratings and pay-per-view numbers, took advantage of the pandemic to attract new fans.
Bantamweight contender Marlon Moraes was a fan throughout the summer, watching in awe as fighters pushed the sport’s level increasingly higher.
“What you realize by what is going on here is that the sport is really and truly evolving, and the level [of competition] is getting better all the time,” Moraes told Yahoo Sports via telephone before his fight Saturday in Abu Dhabi against Cory Sandhagen. “There is a lot of new blood coming in, and they’re desperate to make their mark and you see those guys laying it all on the line.
“And what I’ve seen is that the veterans have responded to that. They’ve worked so hard to get to where they are, and they see these news guys coming in and taking advantage of an opportunity and it pushes them. The fans obviously love it. I’m a fan, too, and I love to watch a good fight. And I will give everyone a good one [on Saturday].”
The Moraes-Sandhagen fight is about as significant as can get in the division. Newly crowned champion Petr Yan is expected to defend first against Aljamain Sterling, and while no one has called this a No.