The UFC once again continued on during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with UFC 249 on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla. In an empty arena, an unexpected conundrum took place.
UFC commentators sit ringside and have their eyes and ears on the action. This brings great reactions and smart analysis. But Saturday night, it also made for extra coaching.
Carla Esparza and Greg Hardy both admitted to hearing former light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier's commentary and using it to their advantage.
"Thank god for not having the crowd," Hardy said. "Shout out to DC, I heard him tell me to go out and check it and I need to figure out how to check it. So I started trying to check him and ... game changer."
As the rest of the sports world waits to return, they can learn valuable lessons from this. There's no doubt games will be played without fans in attendance, so what does a sport like basketball do with announcers sitting courtside? Mark Jackson might unintentionally become a coach again without even trying.
Imagine if an announcer is critiquing a player's defense or is pointing out how a team's offense can exploit a hole in the opposition's defense. In these odd circumstances, this might be the time for leagues to allow arenas/stadiums to pump up fake crowd noise. That wouldn't come without controversy, though.
Of course, teams would pump up more noise when the other team has the ball, or if the other team is at bat in the case of baseball, too. Without fans in the stands, home-field advantage somewhat is out the door. This could be a way to bring that back and bring more of a sense of normalcy for players, as long as there are restrictions on when teams are allowed to play doctored fan noise and music.
Cormier couldn't avoid being heard. He was doing his job and needs to give the proper analysis. This won't be a problem in football, and likely not in baseball, but that could change when broadcast booth windows are opened on a warm day or if announcers are moved to the stands to maintain social distancing.
The Korean Baseball Organization is using cardboard cutouts of fans at games right now to make the viewing experience from home a bit more normal. Perhaps American sports will do something of that sort when they resume as well.
the KBO has cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands and it's kind of genius 😂 pic.twitter.com/g5CcXDWict— SB Nation (@SBNation) May 10, 2020
Sports have fans. They have noise, music, food vendors and announcers alike. There will be ways to make games feel somewhat more "normal."
Pump up crowd noise. Play music. Have a recording of a food vendor yelling "Hot dogs!" and "Beer, $16!" There was plenty to learn from a bloody night in Florida.
And Cormier doing his job was a lesson that can't be overlooked.