If 2020 was a car, it would be an '82 El Camino. If it was a type of meat, it would be spam. If 2020 was a family member, it would be the weird uncle who always drank too much. If 2020 was a beer, it would be Pabst Blue Ribbon. If it was a MMA referee, it would be Mario Yamasaki with his stupid hand-heart gang sign. You get the point. 2020 has really sucked....
It has sucked on so many levels! I'm sure we all know this, but who I really feel for is the young MMA fighter who's trying to make their mark on the regional scene in order to get a shot at the big time. In full discrepancy, we work with quite a few fighters when it comes to managing their careers, and we are also in close talks with promotions all over the country, attempting to match these fighters for bouts. We understand the landscape, and have a pretty in-depth knowledge of what's going. This isn't to toot our own horn, but to give some credibility to this article.
We work with many fighters who are in different spots in their careers, and all of them are positioned differently in this covid MMA world. These guys just want to fight, but there are very few opportunities for them to showcase their talents, and the fights that are offered up are much more difficult than what they would normally find on the regional scene during a "normal" year.
There are very few promotions that are putting on shows right now, but the ones that do have the means to put these events on are in a very powerful position. They can almost pick and choose who they want fighting on their cards, and also dictate the price that they'll have to pay for said fighter's services. In no way is this me shitting on the promotions. This is me telling it how it is. And I give these promotions that are active a TON of credit! They are pushing the envelope and taking risks in order to keep this sport progressing during a very tumultuous time in our society. There is very little incentive for promotions to put on cards right now. Financially they'll be lucky if they break even. The hassle of putting on an event cannot be understated. Travel restrictions, testing requirements, and medical issues are just a few hurdles we are mentioning. The only promotions that can afford to put on shows right now are those that have a streaming deal with FightPass. Others who don't, would see themselves "go under" quickly.
Promotions have it tough, but regional fighters have it the toughest. In a normal year, most young fighters will look to fight 3-4 times per year, but in 2020 most fighters haven't had the opportunity to step into the cage a single time. This is a big concern, as many are stagnant in their evolution as a fighter. Most gyms in New England are operating on a very limited basis, and this prevents these young fighters from getting the necessary gym work in that is needed to hone their skills.
Only time will tell how much this downtime will hinder these fighters in the future, and how it effects the sport as a whole. Without regional promotions putting on shows and gyms being limited, these young fighters who are looking to make a career of this are stuck in an extremely difficult position. The few fights that are available to them are typically against steeper competition than what they would normally see on the regional level. This isn't a bad thing, but it definitely makes it more difficult for them to build up their records in order to get noticed by the major promotions in the sport. They are forced with making a decision of taking these tougher fights in order to stay active, or being patient and waiting for regional promotions to get back to work where these fighters can have more control of their futures.
Fighters want to fight. It's that simple, but fighting during these times might not be the best decision for their careers in the long run. Patience is key right now, but it is difficult for these young fighters to say no to these opportunities when all they want to do is scrap. This is where discussions with their management team and coaches is incredibly important. As a fighter, you must remove emotion from the decision making process when deciding whether to take these opportunities, and this is close to impossible for a young fighter to do, so relying on objective opinions, such as managers and coaches, is invaluable. Comparing the short-term risks with the long-term goals of a fighter's career must be paramount during this process, and it's often difficult for fighters to analyze things in this manner when all they want to do is compete. You can't blame them, but that is when it's incredibly important for them to have open and honest conversations with their management team and their coaches.
The young fighters who will prosper most during these difficult times are the ones who are staying active in the gym (as best as they can), maintaining patience, and keeping the bigger picture in mind during this downtime. Keeping a normal training schedule is important, and working on the marketing side of their careers is also an important aspect that can be enhanced while not fighting.
All-in-all, 2020 has been an absolute dumpster fire on so many levels! The best these young fighters can do right now is to stay positive, stay in shape, and keep grinding. Eventually things will open back up and we'll all get back to work within this beautiful sport, but don't expect things to be close to normal on the regional level until next summer at the earliest. Until then, keep the energy and know that this too shall pass.