Top Rank promoter Bob Arum: Dana White 'ought to be ashamed' for promoting UFC fights during pandemic
Arum is putting his business on hold while White is relentlessly pushing for MMA to fill the live sports void
Bob Arum, born into the Great Depression and someone who came of age during World War II, believes the fear and uncertainty caused by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak is largely unprecedented. The 88-year-old also believes we all have a role to play during such a dangerous global pandemic. From the perspective of the Hall of Fame boxing promoter and Top Rank founder, he's practicing in his role by making it clear the remaining fights on the 2020 calendar will happen when they happen, and not anytime sooner.
"People ask me what plans I'm making for these fights when we will get the all clear. Because I don't know when the all clear is going to be and I have no idea whether it will be two months, three months or even the rest of the year, I'm not making any plans right now," Arum told CBS Sports' "State of Combat" podcast on Tuesday. "When this thing looks like it's clearing up, we will start making plans."
In light of those comments, it should come as little surprise that Arum hasn't taken to kindly to UFC president Dana White's refusal to relent in promoting his UFC 249 card on April 18, despite the facts that headlinerand the U.S. government has enforced strict self-quarantine guidelines.
"[White] ought to be ashamed of himself," Arum said. "What's going on in this country and the world with this virus, the last thing we need is for an event to take place with no spectators just to get the event to take place. But the truth is Dana White is somebody with a flawed intelligence."
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Arum and White have plenty of history trading public insults over the past 15 years. The two have been forced to play nice of late due their respective promotions signing exclusive, long-term deals with ESPN to televise fights across the network's platforms.
That hasn't stopped Arum, who celebrated 54 years in boxing during Sunday's anniversary of the first fight he promoted -- Muhammad Ali and George Chuvalo for the heavyweight world title on March 29, 1966, in Toronto -- from predicting White won't be able to pull off his ambitious plans.
"He's not going to move forward with the card, and if the card happens with people dying in hospitals all over the United States, he ought to be ashamed of himself," Arum said. "The message should be stay home and stand down until this is over. Let's not spread the virus, let's control the virus and do what we can to staff these hospitals and take care of people who go into intensive care.
"Let's all be big people and big boys about it and stop the grandstanding. This will end when it ends, and it will end quicker if we all stick together and do what we are supposed to do, not go and shout from the rafters that, 'I'm not a p---y and I'm going to put this fight on. I don't care.' That is absolutely the wrong message to send."
Although White has teased his transition into boxing promotion for over two years through spinoff company, Zuffa Boxing, progress has been minimal. Arum believes it will stay that way.
"Dana has been a good promoter for UFC, but UFC is a monopoly. He tells the fighters who they are going to fight and when they are going to fight, and he pays them very little against what professional boxers get. So he's a monopolist, and it's not easy for a monopolist to go into a sport like boxing, which is anti-monopolist.
"We have very little barriers of entry [in boxing] and we have a lot of promoters. Everybody is looking to promote for the best way that they can for themselves. Dana White could not exist in that type of milieu. He can only exist in an avenue where he is the dominant monopolistic person; where he is manager, promoter, rules maker for the participants, everything."
The reason White won't be able to duplicate the success he has had in mixed martial arts, according to Arum, is because of boxing's Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.
"I'm telling you, there is something about the operation of the UFC which is a violation of a federal law," Arum said. "You can't do that in boxing because of the Muhammad Ali Act, which to reasons only known to [White] doesn't apply to the UFC. Why? I don't know. The Muhammad Ali Act at least gives rights to fighters, managers and prevents a monopoly-like situation."
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