FALCON POINTS

UFC provides blueprint for what sports might look like this year

UFC provides blueprint for what sports might look like this year
Photo by Getty Images

The UFC 249 card is in the books, and we learned a lot about how sports will look this year if it exists.

There we no fans, nor will there likely be for a long time. But it was the process leading up to it that should provide some confidence for other events going forward.

The UFC tested over 1,200 times with 300 people. One fighter, Ronaldo Souza, tested positive, and his fight was called off. The rest, however, went off and watching it on TV, it looked like a normal card.

Dana White said the testing worked.

"It's not unexpected one person would test positive," he said. "The system works. And what's good about this is now we know Jacare tested positive, he's doing what he needs to do, and we're in a position to help him if he needs it."

The other sports where physical contact is necessary now have a blueprint: No fans, constant testing and as few people in the building as possible.

Sports like football, basketball and hockey are similar in that there is physical contact. But fighting limits it to the two combatants and the referee; that is impossible in the other sports.

Still, if they follow the UFC's example, games could conceivably be played. The real issue is what happens if several players on one team test positive? Is the entire team quarantined? Is the opponent they just played? The other issue is should tests be used for this when many people still don't have access?

Having said all that, the fights were a nice escape, something many of us could use right now.

White, for his part, has offered to share how they did things with other sports leaders. "We're willing to share our information with anybody," he told TMZ.

More sports will roll out over the next few weeks. NASCAR, Bundesliga soccer in Germany. The EPL could be back on June 1, but the league is still weighing whether or not it will. The choice is the same all of them will face - safety versus the need for normalcy.

"We want to get the seasons back going for the commercial reasons, for the moral reasons, for people to enjoy it," the head of the UK football police unit, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, told Sky Sports.

"But we have to remind ourselves that cannot be at the risk of putting a single further life at jeopardy."

The UFC has taken the first step. Now, others will follow. Let's hope it all works out.

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Allen had high praise for Diggs. Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images.

Impersonal as it might seem to have their dynamic on-field relationship end with an exchange of phone texts, Bills quarterback Josh Allen made it clear on Thursday how much receiver Stefon Diggs meant to him during their four seasons together in Buffalo.

Allen made no mention of Diggs’ mercurial temperament or the occasional sideline flare-ups by expressing only praise in his first opportunity to discuss his now-former teammate being traded to the Houston Texans earlier this month.

“Just thanking him for everything that he did for me, and (I’ll) always have a spot in my heart for him. I’ll always love that guy like a brother. And I wish him nothing but the best,” Allen said, in disclosing what he texted to Diggs. “My lasting memory of Stef will be the receiver that helped me become the quarterback that I am today.”

Brought together in March 2020, when Buffalo gave up a first-round draft pick to acquire Diggs in a trade with Minnesota, the duo went on to re-write many of Buffalo's single-season passing and scoring records, and lead the team to four straight AFC East titles.

Diggs, now 30, also brought an inescapable sense of drama with him in raising questions about his commitment to the Bills and whether his tight relationship with Allen had soured.

A day before being traded, Diggs posted a message, “You sure?” on the social media platform X in response to someone suggesting he wasn’t essential to Allen’s success.

Whatever hard feelings, if any, lingered as Buffalo opened its voluntary workout sessions this week were not apparent from Allen or coach Sean McDermott, who also addressed reporters for the first time since Diggs was traded.

“Stef’s a great player, really enjoyed our time together. Won a lot of games and he was a huge factor in winning those games. We’ll miss him,” McDermott said. “You never replace a player like Stef Diggs, and we wish him well.”

Allen turned his focus to the future and a Bills team that spent much of the offseason retooling an aging and expensive roster.

Aside from trading Diggs, salary cap restrictions led to Buffalo cutting respected center Mitch Morse, the breakup of a veteran secondary that had been together since 2017, and the team unable to afford re-signing No. 2 receiver Gabe Davis.

“I don’t think it’s a wrong thing or a bad thing to get younger,” said Allen, entering his seventh NFL season. “I think it’s an opportunity for myself to grow as a leader. And to bring along some of these young guys and new guys that we’ve brought in to our team. And that’s an opportunity, frankly, that I’m very excited about."

Despite the departures, the Bills offense is not exactly lacking even though general manager Brandon Beane is expected to target selecting a receiver with his first pick — currently 28th overall — in the draft next week.

Receiver Khalil Shakir enters his third year and tight end Dalton Kincaid enter his second following promising seasons. Buffalo also added veteran experience in signing free agent receiver Curtis Samuel and Mack Hollins.

While Beane acknowledged the Bills lack a true No. 1 receiver, he noted there’s less urgency to fill that spot now than in 2020 because of how much the offense has developed under Allen.

“Now that Josh has ascended to the player he is, is that a requirement? I don’t think so,” Beane said.

Diggs’ role also began diminishing in the second half of last season, which coincided with Joe Brady replacing Ken Dorsey as offensive coordinator. Brady placed an emphasis on adding balance to a pass-heavy attack and getting more receivers involved, which led to an uptick in production for Shakir and Kincaid.

While Diggs’ numbers dropped, Buffalo’s win total increased.

With the Bills at 6-6, Diggs ranked third in the NFL with 83 catches, seventh with 969 yards and tied for third with eight TDs receiving. Buffalo then closed the season with five straight wins in which Diggs combined for 24 catches for 214 yards and no scores.

”(Diggs) meant a lot. You look at the statistics, they don’t lie,” Allen said, in referring to Diggs topping 100 catches and 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons in Buffalo. “I don’t get paid to make changes on the team. I get paid to be the best quarterback that I can be and try to lead the guys on this team.”

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