Just before Dana White heads off to some warm corner of the globe for winter vacation, the UFC’s head honcho finds himself in the crosshairs of considerable criticism, again.
Covid-19 single-handedly knocked out a handful of UFC main events, along with numerous other matchups, and the promotion’s final show of 2020, UFC Vegas 17, couldn’t escape the virus’ destructive path. While fans were disheartened to lose what was scheduled to actually be the main event—the rising prospect Khamzat Chimaev versus Leon Edwards, a proven veteran—the buzz didn’t diminish much when Stephen Thompson and Geoff Neal were bumped into the headlining spot.
For five full rounds, neither the ageless “Wonderboy” nor Neal disappointed. Thompson razzle-dazzled the audience and stifled Neal’s pressure with countless Karate chops; Neal, however, never halted his forward movement.
Though both were awarded $50,000 for a Fight of the Night Performance Bonus, nobody—aside from Neal’s team, the UFC’s medical staff, and Dana White—had a clue that Neal was also fighting for his life.
In an Instagram post, Neal revealed a stint of sepsis led to congestive heart failure prior to being locked inside the Octagon.
When asked about the incident, a couple members from Neal’s camp, both of whom wish to remain unnamed, pulled back the curtain. Apparently, the doctors observed some irregularities with Neal’s heart and believed it was best if he didn’t compete. Neal refused to sit on the sidelines after coming this far. Doctors, then, approached Dana White about the issue, advising him to scrap the contest. White was heard throughout the UFC Apex, “But does he have that Covid shit?” Upon learning that Neal was Covid-free, White went into the welterweight’s locker room, offering encouragement.
A reenactment, based on the information provided to MMA Storytime, of what occurred:
All of our messages to White about the matter have received the robotic response, “I will be out of the office until Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar meet on January 16, 2021. Happy Holidays, ya goof!”