Covid-19 and Fighter Performance

Covid-19 and Fighter Performance
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 12: (L-R) Kamaru Usman of Nigeria punches Jorge Masvidal in their UFC welterweight championship fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Six months have passed since Covid-19 ravaged communities and shut down the world. For some, it is a deadly viral contagion, but for high-performance athletes, it’s less impactful. The disease harms the fighter primarily through camp disruptions, and less impact on the athlete’s body. It is meaningful to understand how Covid-19 damages fight camps. Also to note is observing impressive performances from athletes who previously tested positive for the disease. The residual effects on the body are less contingent to the outcome. Covid-19 and fighter performance are not dependent on each other. Further, it erodes fight camps, stifles preparation but displays a negligent effect on performance.

The damage caused by Covid-19 erodes the camp. In some of the most pivotal moments in an athlete’s career, social distancing has dismantled teams. A glaring example came when Jorge Masvidal took a short-notice bout against the welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman. Masvidal took his first title bout on short notice. The backyard fighter lost head coach, Mike Brown after a positive test for the inaugural Fight Island card. Ultimately losing the fight, Masvidal reiterated the importance of preparation and the struggles married to the pandemic. Covid-19 and fighter performance are damaged more by camp disruptions than actually contracting the disease.

Covid-19 and the Effects on Fighter Performance

I was thinking, “Wait, Gerald Meerschaert got flatlined and he tested positive for Covid-19 before his fight”. The statement is accurate but it cannot be independently verified as the reason for losing. Khazmat Chimaev came in with so much hype, after the press conference, all the attention was on his fight. Meerschaert crumbled under the pressure, losing by knockout in a mere 17-seconds. It remains unknown the extent to which the virus affects strike absorption. One measurable factor though is cardiovascular strength. At UFC Vegas 7 Frankie Edgar and Pedro Munhoz went to war. Despite Munhoz testing positive, he landed more significant strikes than ever before. A five-round fight can inflate numbers, but activity and significant strike output demonstrate elite cardio levels.

Fighters have a new atmosphere to compete in that awards short-notice activity and stifles preparation. The plan was for Deiveson Figueiredo to run it back with Joseph Benavidez for the flyweight title at UFC Fight Island 2. Unfortunately, Figueiredo would contract the disease and the fight was postponed. Much like the first vacant title fight against Benavidez, Figueiredo destroyed him, just quicker this time. Although teams are disrupted by Covid-19, it is impossible to isolate the disease as the primary reason for poor fighter performance.

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