UFC APEX – ‘a massive game changer’ during the COVID era

Deiveson Figueiredo victorious at UFC Apex
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 21: Deiveson Figueiredo of Brazil celebrates his submission victory over Alex Perez in their flyweight championship bout during the UFC 255 event at UFC APEX on November 21, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

UFC APEX a ‘state-of-the-art’ facility

Constructing the new UFC APEX may have turned out to be one of the best things UFC has done as a company. Opened back in June 2019, who would have thought the facility would become the UFC’s savior during the COVID era. 

Well no one did because nobody in 2019 would have guessed the pandemic turmoil that was going to wreak havoc on the world, back when the facility was constructed. However, the APEX facility has come to the promotion’s aid massively as it has allowed the UFC to host fight events in the Nevada state during 2020.

For those that don’t know, it is a state-of-the-art 130,000 square-foot production facility which was built to host live events, studio shows and more. Situated in Las Vegas, the building contains more than 50,000 square feet of production space and 70,000 square feet of office space.  

UFC APEX is “a massive game changer” – Dana White

Back when it first opened, UFC president Dana White claimed that the UFC APEX was going to become a ‘game changer’ and nothing has ever rung truer than this quote especially with how the APEX has been able to shine throughout the pandemic.  

“UFC APEX is going to be a massive game changer for combat sports and for UFC,” said the UFC president. “This facility gives us the flexibility to try new things and push the envelope on producing and distributing combat sports all over the world. We are limited only by my imagination. When you think of where we started and where we are now, it’s pretty incredible, but we haven’t even scratched the surface of how big this will become.”

Even that statement by White now seems like an understatement knowing how the sport of MMA panned out this year with all the success the UFC achieved despite the chaos that transpired in the COVID era of 2020. The APEX was a massive part of that success with the persistent continuity of events at the facility as well as on “Fight Island” and initially at Jacksonville, Florida; during a time when all other sports was seemingly cancelled.

What was crucial was the installation of a new IP-based control room in 2020 as this allowed the UFC to produce live events remotely from any location in the world and broadcast in an impressive 4K resolution. This was central to UFC’s plan amidst the pandemic as the UFC could host fights for the world to watch.  

“Immediately you thought about the UFC APEX,” said lead staff reporter for MMA Junkie John Morgan. “It’s like ‘holy cow’ they’ve got their own production facility here!  You’re going to have do it without fans but they’re totally going to be able to pull this off like this is crazy!  So, I knew they were going to get back to it at some point, it’s just that we had to get the same bans lifted here in Nevada first as well which is obviously why we ended up going to Florida first.”

The Nevada State Athletic Commission ended their suspension of combat sports and approved the return of UFC events in the state on the promise that health protocols would be checked closely by the authorities. The APEX facility was ready and the UFC was primed to return in Nevada.

The events in Jacksonville prior had already established a blueprint for the health and safety procedures which included testing, quarantine, social distancing, etc. Morgan who covered the events at the UFC APEX, claimed that the protocols were made even more strict for the events at the facility and actually improved from the ones in Florida.   

“They tightened up on some of the restrictions and how they expected people to act,” said Morgan. “In Florida you had a little bit more freedom…(for the APEX) they were way more strict about the bubble being secure and just tightening up the procedures a little bit in terms of making sure the social distancing was being followed.”  

Built for self-sufficiency, savior of the UFC

The “state-of-the-art facility” was built in order for the company to be self-sufficient and that’s exactly what the UFC have been this year. They held their first UFC fight night at the APEX (first of many) with UFC Vegas: Woodley vs Burns in May and continued to put on shows at the production facility until UFC Vegas 17: Thompson vs Neal in December. 

The APEX produced some incredible fights with Fight of the Year candidates like Hooker vs Poirier and Figuieredo vs Moreno. There is an argument that the smaller cage used in the APEX produces more action-packed fights but that’s for another article. 

In hindsight, the decision to create the UFC APEX probably stands as one of White’s best business moves and one that gets better with time. It is hard to think what 2020 would have been like for the UFC if there was no APEX, considering they put on a tremendous 21 events at the facility which is truly remarkable. A testament to the tenacity of Dana White, his team around him and of course the fighters willing to step on short-notice fights (Kevin Holland, take a bow).  

While Fight Island may be the highlight for many fans and perhaps the more memorable, the APEX was truly the savior of the UFC, as the bulk of their events during the COVID era were held in Vegas. I know a lot of people want the regular venues like the T-Mobile Arena back and of course the crowd too but me personally I don’t mind seeing more events in the APEX facility play out as we’ll see in 2021 (maybe because I prefer the smaller cage…Shhh).

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