Saturday night was one of the strangest spectacles you will see in sports. For the first time in nearly two months we witnessed a live sporting event on television as opposed to replays of big games from our past. It sort of seemed like business as usual except for one glaring difference... there were no fans in attendance.
While the UFC has never been one of the most popular leagues in sports, it still packs tens of thousands of people into their events on a consistent basis. Last night, however, was an eerily different look with 90 per cent of the arena sitting in darkness from start to finish.
Things got off to a bit of a comical start, when Sam Alvey sort of mocked the situation, walking out hyping up "the crowd" and acting as if he was waving to everyone in attendance. It was a funny moment that made light of a pretty tough situation and sort of relaxed the atmosphere right from the beginning.
From that moment on however, things weren't all that different. Obviously the walkouts were strange to watch given the lack of crowd hype and the pre fight stuff really wasn't the same; once the fights started however, it felt a lot more like the UFC was back and not much had changed.
Obviously some things were a little different, and the fights didn't quite give anyone the exhilaration that you would in front of tens of thousands, but even Daniel Cormier mentioned on the broadcast that "[his] heart was beating just as fast as if there were a crowd in [there]." When one of the sports best is saying that, you know the average fan should be enjoying themselves from the comfort of their own home.
It might've helped that the card turned out to be one of the more exciting and "brawler focused" cards in a long time. Whether it was Francis Ngannou showing off how powerful he can be, Henry Cejudo proving he is pound for pound one of the best in the sport before announcing his retirement, or the incredible performance from Justin Gaethje against one of the best in the lightweight division, the night had no shortage of excitement.
It was a night that if you were willing to look past the crowd then you would've had a blast from start to finish. It also became an experience that if you're a sports fan, you may want to get used to for the next little while.
If any major sports are to return anytime soon, they will have to return to empty stadiums and minimal staff in the arenas for the foreseeable future. Obviously this wouldn't be an ideal situation for playoff matchups, but it would be a very reasonable option if league are looking to finish out seasons and recuperate a little bit of lost profit from television revenue.
Naturally, it would be a strange sight to watch at first, given that it is something we have only seen a small handful of times and never for an extended period of time. Arguably though, UFC fights feed off of fans just as much, if not more, than any of the four major sports across North America. If they are able to produce great content the way that they did on Saturday, then there is nor reason playoff hockey or basketball won't be able to do the same.