While the UFC attempted to push its schedule through during the coronavirus pandemic before eventually being shut down, Bellator MMA opted for a different approach, quickly canceling all events through May.
That included a massive Bellator 242 event on May 9 that included a showdown between Gegard Mousasi and Douglas Lima for the vacant middleweight crown. However, if Bellator had given Mousasi the chance to fight, he would have accepted the opportunity. That said, the Armenian-born Dutchman understands that safety precautions must be taken during a crisis has forced the shutdown of all major sports organizations across the world.
"All the fighters are gonna fight anyway, so no one says no,” Mousasi recently told ESPN. “Obviously if they would have offered me, I would have fought too.
“I don’t think the promotion can guarantee the safety of the fighters. Let’s say the commentator or the cameraman is sick, or one of the fighters is sick -- you’re gonna make everybody sick. I don’t see how they can guarantee the safety. If they would have asked me, I would have said yes, but I can understand that other sports events canceled all their events.”
At the moment, Mousasi is staying safe at his home in the Netherlands, where he says lockdown restrictions are “not that strict.” Finding the motivatoin to train with an uncertain schedule has been difficult, he admits.
“I stopped right away when they said the lockdown started,” Mousasi said. “The way it looks the virus is not gonna go away any time soon…I don’t know if it’s safe for fighters to fight again.”
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Despite those safety concerns, Mousasi reiterated that he would fight if requested by the promotion. The way he sees it, it’s no different than anyone else who has to work doing these trying times.
“That’s your job. It’s like asking a nurse to go to the hospital and work. This virus is gonna be here for a long time,” he said. “You’re gonna have to start anyway. It just depends on when. Now, too many people are infected. They’re trying to get it down, and slowly they’re gonna reopen…If they’re gonna start sporting events and they ask, I’m gonna say yes.
“I think Bellator is gonna look for June and July to start again. It all depends on how the virus continues. You take it day by day, week by week. You can’t say anything is 100 percent.”
The 34-year-old Mousasi has not competed since taking a split verdict in a rematch with Lyoto Machida at Bellator 228 in September. After fighting twice a year for the past three years, Mousasi was hoping for an even more active campaign in 2020. That goal looks unrealistic now.
“I really wanted to fight three times this year,” he said. “This year three, next year three. I’m not the youngest. I’m almost going to be out for a year. It’s one good year of your career maybe that’s going away. But it’s safety first. What can I do? Bellator has to guarantee the safety of fighters and staff. Whenever the government and the organization thinks it’s safe and they ask me to fight, I will be ready.”
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