Top 5 Sporting Moments of the Week:
5. The MotoGP seasons continues to amaze. The San Marino and Catalan GP have both taken place since the last roundup, and the races have continued to leave me on the edge of my seat. The loss of Marc Marquez at the start of the season due to injury was disappointing for him, but it has resulted in more than 5 riders fighting for the championship. The latest driver to take a fall was Dovizioso on Lap 1 of the Catalan GP, giving the current championship lead to Quartararo; however, based on the season so far, that seems likely to change.
4. The NRL and AFL finished the regular season with the Penrith Panthers and Port Adelaide Power taking out the respective minor premierships. Both codes have taken the pandemic incredibly seriously and not been afraid to deal extreme punishments for players or staff breaking COVID-19 rules. The final series for both codes now approaches, and hopefully, many tight and entertaining games are to come. I’ve got the Melbourne Storm and Richmond Tigers to win the Premiership in their respective codes.
3. Rajasthan Royals pull off the highest successful run chase in the history of the Indian Premier League. The Royals defeated Kings XI Punjab by 4 wickets by chasing down a target of 224 runs. The case was led by Australian Steve Smith and finished off by Sanju Samson and Rahul Tewatia who scored 5 sixes off a single over! The IPL is continuing to live up to its brand, the best players in the world coming together to play cricket.
2. The Miami Heat advanced to the NBA Finals to face the Los Angeles Lakers for the championship. The Heat finished the regular season as the number 5 seed and will be one of only a few teams in the NBA’s history to make the NBA Finals from the number 5 seed. If they can overcome the Lakers, they will become one of the lowest-seeded teams in NBA history to win the championship with only the 1995 Rockets the only team lower than the Number 4 seed to win a championship. Miami has perfectly balanced the experience of Andre Iguodala, Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder with the youth and energy of Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson. What an NBA Finals series we have to come!
1. Israel Adesanya defends his UFC Middleweight Belt against Paulo Costa. Adesanya performed a kickboxing masterclass to utterly embarrass Paulo Costa who failed to adapt his game plan when it evidently was failing. Adesanya is now beginning to clean out the middleweight division, and it seems like Jared Cannonier is the only other current contender. A move up to Light Heavyweight may be forced sooner than later, and I’m not mad about that. Jon Jones vs Israel Adesanya may be the biggest UFC fight of all time.
Feature Article: The Courage of the UFC
Now, I understand that the UFC may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is quite a polarising sport, and the thought of two people fighting each other and attempting to knock someone out is understandably unattractive for some people. However, the UFC has demonstrated extreme courage during 2020, led by Dana White, and I think we should recognise how no matter how much disapproval they receive from the media, they have led the charge in returning sport back into our lives.
When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in March, I can imagine the UFC was incredibly concerned. What began as a small American fighting organisation, the UFC is now an international organisation with 11 out of the 12 current division champions representing a nation outside the United States. Travel bans meant that no athletes could enter America, let alone exit their own countries. So, the UFC needed new options.
Firstly, they created a plan. A 40+ page document on how they would ensure fighter and staff safety if a UFC event took place. They presented this plan to Florida who accepted it and allowed the organisation to hold 3 fight cards in Jacksonville. This event was a huge success, and although one fighter caught COVID-19, it was detected before exposure to other members of the community and the athlete was able to be effectively quarantined.
Then the UFC did something crazy. They began to promote ‘fight island’—a place where fighters from around the world could come to fight. Fight island was revealed to be a private, quarantined, section of Abu Dhabi, where only people connected with the UFC could enter. They held incredibly successful events on fight island in July and have now returned for the next month.
Going to fight island cost an extreme amount of money. The UFC put millions into this project, and it could have been an utter failure. If fighters couldn’t travel or the virus got out of control, that could jeopardise the event and leave the UFC in crippling debt. However, they took the chance. They weren’t willing to sit down and sulk, but took charge and were courageous enough to try something that no one else considered.
This has been the attitude of Dana White and the UFC for over two decades. They have never been willing to accept normality and mediocrity. They have always challenged themselves and aimed to set new boundaries for what can be achieved by a sporting organisation. Whether you like the MMA or not, we can learn a lot from the courage and resilience of the UFC.