It's official, we now have preliminary talks, at the very least, for each major American sports league whose season was disrupted by COVID-19 to return to play.
Here are each league's plans, listed in order of aggression
UFC President Dana White says UFC 249 is happening on April 18th.
"I have this venue locked down for two months, I'm setting up shop here. We're gonna be pumping out fights every week," White said in an interview with TMZ.
He also said he is days away from securing a private island, and building infrastructure there, so that he can host international fighters who wouldn't be able to make it into the US due to travel restrictions.
"As of April 18th, the UFC is back up and running."
The MLB is creating a gameplan which would allow teams to use the greater Phoenix spring training infrastructure, as well as Chase Field, for games played by all 30 teams as early as May. There is also hope that mostly-empty hotels in surrounding areas could house players.
The plan - predicated on fast and available testing, strong physical isolation, transportation and player buy-in - is supported by federal officials at the CDC and NIH.
Although this would mean players sacrificing freedoms and family time for several months, it would enable the league to reap some of the money lost from a delayed season, and a projected loss of ticket sales and other gate revenue.
The NHL is looking for the most viable facility - which appears to be in Grand Forks, North Dakota - and is in preliminary discussions with its players. The league would need the buy-in of its players, and there would be significant lodging hurdles if Grand Forks ended up being the venue of choice.
The NBA has had preliminary talks about holding its postseason in Las Vegas, where NBA Summer League is played, but most of the official word we've gotten focuses on immediate testing, as Adrian Wojnarowski points out here:
So, here's what this tells us: These leagues aren't in a financial position to just stop. As much as we'd like to think they're doing this to bring normalcy to the public, or show resilience in a pandemic, what this really means is that the damage of billions in lost revenue is so great for these leagues that resuming play takes precedent over any risk incurred in the process. Not that the UFC, MLB, NBA and NHL are unique. Almost no business operates in a manner that allows them to shut down some or most of their operations. Restaurants across the country are going belly up. Entertainment and events companies are furloughing the majority of their staff. Only essential employees remain across many industries. Our economy is not predicated on sustainability, it is predicated on growth.
For White, Manfred, Bettman and Silver, the race to get back to sports may be a race to keep their jobs.