Top Rank CEO Bob Arum criticizes UFC's Dana White over 'cowboy' behavior amid coronavirus pandemic

Jack Baer

Legendary boxing promoter Bob Arum isn’t sure about what he’s seeing from the mixed martial arts world and its most powerful man’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

The Top Rank CEO had some warnings for UFC president Dana White on restarting his fights in an interview with

“Good luck to them,” Arum told “I just hope that they’re not endangering the safety of anyone. But this kind of cowboy behavior doesn’t do anybody any good.”

White recently announced plans to hold three UFC events in Jacksonville, Florida, this month, taking advantage of the state’s lax restrictions for sports during the pandemic. UFC 249, headlined by Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje, is now scheduled for May 9, while UFC Fight Nights will be held on May 13 and May 16.

White has been persistent in attempting to hold events throughout the pandemic, refusing to cancel events when worries about the virus were shutting down every other league and previously trying to hold UFC 249 on California tribal land to circumvent stay-at-home mandates. He’s still working to get his private island venture off the ground.

Despite those efforts, the UFC has not held a single event since March 14, which was closed off from fans in Brazil.

Arum has blasted White’s behavior in the past, saying White had a “flawed intelligence” and “ought to be ashamed of himself.” By contrast, Arum has delayed the rematch between WBC heavyweight champ Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder — which figures to be highly lucrative — to November at the earliest.

Dana White has fought tooth and nail to hold UFC events during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Arum has previously signaled interest in staging events Florida, but told that he won’t put together a boxing card until late June at the earliest:

“We’re looking now with Nevada, which we’ll do in a sensible way, or California,” Arum said. “We’re working with [Nevada’s] Bob Bennett and [California’s] Andy Foster, and we’re talking to the Texas commission. We’re only gonna do this if it’s safe for the fighters and everyone involved, and if it’s approved by the medical authorities. We’re not gonna be cowboys, like Dana White. I don’t wanna get politics involved, but I have really very little respect for Dana and what he’s doing.”

Instead of White’s example, Arum pointed to that of NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and their cautious approach to holding sporting events. Silver has refused to entertain the idea of returning to action until it’s safe, while Goodell recently wrapped a virtual NFL draft that was well-received and well-rated.

Arum also noted that a UFC fighter previously slated for UFC 249 tested positive for the coronavirus, which the UFC kept quiet until after the event had been shut down.

“I think the behavior of people in sports we should be following,” Arum said, “are Adam Silver of the NBA, Roger Goodell of the NFL, people who are proceeding cautiously and safely, not people who are acting like cowboys. For example, [the UFC] wanted to do this fight in California and they were prevented by the governor [Gavin Newsom], and by senator [Dianne] Feinstein going to ESPN and having Dana pull [the plug].

“It turned out one of the fighters, in fact, tested positive afterwards for coronavirus. You know, if we get something like that on one of Dana’s shows, and God forbid there’s a serious incident of spreading the disease, it doesn’t do well for anybody who’s involved with sports.”

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