Rico Verhoeven (James Law/GLORY)

The Impact of Coronavirus on the World of Combat Sports

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has essentially brought the world of sports as a whole to a standstill. ESPN has published a list of cancellations or postponements made by sports organizations around the world. All of the major sports consumed by U.S. audiences have been impacted.

Combat sports are not immune.

The Coronavirus: What Is It?

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are “a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.”


Measures to prevent spreading include “regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.”

Worldometer is a website keeping a continually updating count of the number of cases and deaths along with information from media outlets. As of 7:26 p.m. CT on March 12, there have been 134,558 cases and 4,972 deaths from the pandemic globally. The U.S. has had 1,715 cases and 41 deaths at this time.

COVID-19’s Affect on Combat Sports and Pro Wrestling


  • GLORY Postpones Two Events

The world’s largest kickboxing organization has announced that its next two events, GLORY 76: Antwerp and GLORY 77: Miami, scheduled for March 28 and May 30, respectively, have both been postponed.

“The health and safety of our fans, athletes, staff and the wider public are of paramount importance,” said GLORY CEO Marshall Zelaznik.

“Fans in possession of tickets will have their seats reserved for the rescheduled event, but if they are unable to attend on the rescheduled date, they are being given the option to receive a refund or have the value of their ticket used as a credit toward a future GLORY event.”

The GLORY event currently scheduled for June 20 in Rotterdam, Netherlands is as-yet unaffected.

Boxing/2020 Olympics

  • American Olympic Boxing Qualifier Canceled

The summer Olympics include the combat sports of boxing, freestyle and Greco-Roman Wrestling, taekwondo and now karate.

According to Olympic.org, “Karate will make its full Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 after being on the program at the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018, where Japan topped the medal table with one gold and three silver medals.

“It will feature Kumite and Kata events, with 80 athletes overall competing, 60 in the former and 20 in the latter, with a 50/50 split between men and women.”

There has been speculation over the possible cancellation of the 2020 games, something Japan’s Olympic Minister called “inconceivable” according to CBS News.

However, combat sports took a hit recently as it was announced boxing’s Olympic qualifier for the Americas has been canceled. The event had been scheduled for March 26 to April 3 in Buenos Aires.

The cancellation is a result of a decision made by government officials to restrict “all types of international events.”

The International Olympic Committee Boxing Task Force formed in 2019 to take over for the AIBIA, boxing’s suspended Olympic sanctioning body, amid concerns about finance, governance, ethics, refereeing, and judging according to the IOC’s Athlete 365 Boxing website.

The task force said in a statement, “We are searching for the appropriate solution for this unexpected situation and will immediately inform the National Olympic Committees, National Federations, and other impacted parties as soon as further information is available.”

  • Stevenson-Marriaga and Conlan-Preciado Postponed

After initially announcing that events would take place behind closed doors, Top Rank has announced that Shakur Stevenson’s featherweight title defense against Miguel Marriaga on March 14 and Michael Conlan’s St. Patrick’s Day bout against Belmar Preciado — both slated for the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York — have been postponed indefinitely.

  • Top Rank Moves Event

Top Rank Boxing moved the Jose Ramirez-Viktor Postol junior welterweight title fight to California, setting a new date of May 9. The bout had been scheduled for February 1 in China.

  • Matchroom Cancels Card

Matchroom Boxing recently canceled its March 27 card which would have been in Verona, Italy. The promotion also canceled a Milan event last month.

  • Wilder-Fury III

Worldometer has recorded 590 cases of the coronavirus and 10 deaths in the UK as of March 12. Top Rank’s Bob Arum would first like the Wilder-Fury trilogy fight to take place in Las Vegas in July. Cases have been reported in Las Vegas.

  • Joshua vs. Fury or Wilder

Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn serves as the promoter for Anthony Joshua and there is no word yet on how a fight between Joshua and the winner of Wilder-Fury III might be affected. Both Tyson Fury and Joshua would like for the fight to take place in the U.K.

The bout has been rumored to take place in December but there have been conflicting statements from Hearn and those at Top Rank as to if preliminary discussions have even taken place.


  • Bellator 241

Friday night’s Bellator 241 card will go on as scheduled but is closed to the public media.

  • UFC Brasilia

UFC’s fight card in Brazil featuring Kevin Lee and Charles Olivera will also be a closed event.

  • UFC Columbus and UFC Portland

Appearing on Sportscenter, UFC President Dana White has announced that the upcoming UFC show in Columbus, Ohio on March 28 is being moved to  the Apex in Las Vegas. The promotion’s April 11 date in Portland will also be moved to Las Vegas.

  • UFC 249

There had been some concern UFC 249: Khabib vs. Ferguson will be affected as well. The bout has been scheduled and canceled four times to date. The fight is set for April 9 at Barclays Center in New York. However, New York is in a state of emergency. As of March 12, the New York Times reported the state has had 328 cases with 96 in New York City.

UFC President Dana White released a video statement on the situation on March 12.

  • ONE Championship

ONE Championship events will be closed-door until at least May 29 according to Yahoo Sports.

  • Around MMA

KSW 53 has been canceled and three Combate Americas events have been moved to closed-door events.


In the neighboring realm of pro wrestling, the Super Bowl of the performance art, WWE’s Wrestlemania, is still going to occur at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on April 5. Company and government officials reportedly met Thursday afternoon. There are contingency plans being put into place.

“We came to the conclusion that at this point, we don’t want to pull that plug. However we wanted to give it at least a week to see what was going to happen if WWE was going to do anything at all,” Hillsborough Commissioner Les Miller said at a press conference.

“If they don’t, at that point, I will suggest that we do come together for an emergency meeting to discuss what we do at that particular point in time.”

Elsewhere in Sports

The NBA, NHL, and MLS postponed their season indefinitely. Major League Baseball canceled remaining spring training games and delayed the start of the regular season by at least two weeks. At the college level, the NCAA canceled all championships including March Madness. Upstart football league XFL has also canceled its season.