‘Pandemic’s over’ : UFC fighter not happy about returning to an empty APEX facility

Not every fighter at this Saturday's UFC Vegas 76 card is thrilled be fighting in the Apex Center.

By: Nate Wilcox | 3 months ago

UFC welterweight Kevin Lee is (presumably) looking forward to his return to the Octagon after a brief sojourn with Eagle FC, but one thing he’s not looking forward to: fighting in a nearly empty APEX facility in Las Vegas.

Kevin Lee wants to fight in front of ‘more fans’

“I wish it was in front of more fans,” Lee said at the UFC Vegas 76 Media Day. “I don’t know how many people are gonna be at APEX but it’s kinda stupid, I don’t know what we’re doing, you know what I mean? The pandemic’s over, I don’t know if people got the message, if they sent out the telegram. I don’t know what we’re still doing here. I get there’s money to be had but it’s kinda stupid.”

Apex became key to UFC strategy during pandemic

The UFC started booking fight events at the Apex in May of 2020 after initially holding three cards in Jacksonville, Florida. In the three years since then they have held an amazing 82 cards in the facility. The UFC’s Dana White was so aggressive in his attempts to put on fights in the very early weeks of the covid pandemic in 2020 that he drew “rebukes from powerful politicians and from his most important corporate partners, Disney and ESPN.”

Now that the pandemic is seen by most to be over, White is drawing a lot less criticism for his decisions.

UFC saved Endeavor by holding events early

As Ari Emanuel, the boss of UFC parent company Endeavor, recently told the Freakonomics podcast, Dana White’s early push to hold live events saved not only the UFC but also its parent company.

“It was bad,” Emanuel said. “I’d never had to fire that many people. Keeping the UFC on, you know, we did about — I might be wrong here — but I think about 70 percent of our revenue in the COVID year,” Emanuel said. “We had our ESPN deal. We then started making deals for writers. So we stored all the cash. We didn’t let anything out. We let people go, which was horrible, or furloughed them.”

Dana White: Holding fights at Apex is ‘lazy’

Kevin Lee might be surprised to learn that UFC boss Dana White agrees or at least he did last year.

“Listen, don’t get me wrong, this is amazing. I’m sure it’s a lot easier for you guys, too,” White told reporters during the UFC 260 post-fight presser. “We pull right in the parking lot, we roll in…

“You know what this is kinda like? Everybody who’s getting lazy and used to working at home. You leave your pajama bottoms on, put a nice top on, sit in front of your computer screen and Zoom somebody.

“It’s the easy, lazy way to do things, but this isn’t the right thing to do.

“We should be in sold-out arenas, fans packed, going crazy,” White said. “And unfortunately, we’ll all have to start traveling to all these cities again. But that’s the right thing to do.

“This is the easy, lazy thing to do, and it’s nice, and it was awesome while it lasted. But hopefully, this is over.”

Endeavor likely has another angle

Jason Leib of MMAI had a string of Tweets explaining another financial reason Endeavor might have for holding fights in the Apex.

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About the author
Nate Wilcox
Nate Wilcox

Nate Wilcox is the founding editor of BloodyElbow.com. As such he has hired every editor and writer to work for the site. Wilcox’s writing for BE is known for its emphasis on MMA history, the evolution of fighting techniques and strong opinions. Wilcox developed the SBN MMA consensus rankings which were featured in USA Today from 2009 to 2011. Before founding BE, Wilcox was a political operative working for such figures as Senators John Kerry and Mark Warner and an early political blogger. He is the co-author of Netroots Rising, a history of the political blogosphere from 2003 to 2007. Wilcox also hosts the Let It Roll podcast on music history for the Pantheon Podcast Network.

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