COVID-19 has flipped the world upside down for the most part, but it can be argued that MMA has continued its tradition of staying abnormal. The UFC has persisted that they will haven events no matter what, only standing down when ESPN and Disney intervened. But now the UFC has permission to put on events and even an island to put them on. The first UFC event since the pandemic swept the nation is scheduled to take place on May 9 in Jacksonville, FL. With so many fighters looking to fight, the card is loaded, even the opening preliminary bout which features featherweights Charles Rosa and Bryce Mitchell.
But fighting in today’s world brings unique challenges to the forefront, not only are fighters at risk for contracting the disease but are limited in their training and nutrition services to name a few resources. The challenges aren’t uniquely physical either, the mental challenges of competing during a pandemic can be grueling as well. Those challenges include a host of uncertainty as there is no guarantee that the event will even happen or if the pandemic will cause other unknown distractions or problems.
So why go through all of this at all? As Rosa’s coach Charles McCarthy explains, that it’s possible to be sensitive to the situation and give back how they know how to.
“I’m not insensitive to this situation,” said McCarthy. “I recognize that there are a lot of people out there suffering and dying and I think all the fighters, our hearts go out to everybody suffering from this. In addition to that, there are hundreds of millions of people suffering, their businesses, their paychecks, their life, they are lonely, they are separated from loved ones who are sick. It’s just a really, really tough time for everyone. I think as far as the fighters, everyone wants to put on a show. I think we all really want to do our part. Are we essential workers or doctors? Absolutely not. But we bring something to the table that makes life better for the average person and that’s what we are trying to do. We are trying to entertain people, keep people’s minds off of the suffering and hopefully provide a way back to recovery for everybody.”
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The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights. -Muhammad Ali #riseNGrind #teamRosa #UFC #hardwork #dedication #BostonStrong #MMA #Kickboxing #Boxing #jiujitsu #wrestling #RosaNation #paidinfull
Keeping people’s minds off of the suffering is a wonderful thing, but getting to the point of putting on the fights can make one’s head spin. For instance, knowing if the fights are happening is something no one can truly predict until they happen. There have been positive signs so far, Jacksonville was recently announced as the location for the fights and a few states have started to ease restrictions. But depending on who you ask depends on what answer you will receive and that can make anyone’s head spin. Just ask Rosa.
“I don’t watch a lot of normal news so when I see this, it’s a little hard to understand it all,” said Rosa. We had a conference call with Dana White two days ago, we had a conference call with him and he told us that everything is going to be fine, not to believe all the stuff you hear, you guys are going to be safe, everything is good. I want to believe him it sounds right, but then you turn on the news and it’s the worst thing ever, everyone is dying. It hasn’t directly affected me yet but I’m still being cautious of it and still taking precautions cause I don’t want it to affect me or anyone I know.”
Thankfully, COVID-19 hasn’t affected Rosa or the people he cares about but it has affected his profession. However, Rosa hasn’t been nearly as affected as many other fighters. He trains at American Top Team which is allowing fighters training for fights into the gym in small groups and he is a trained chef so he isn’t in need of much help when it comes to his nutrition. Though it definitely isn’t a normal situation, Rosa has been able to take care of what he needs ahead of his fight.
“I’m able to make the food for myself that I need, I’m able eat healthy and get everything I need. It’s important for the weight cut, if you don’t do the weight cut the right way it can be an issue. Some people have to hire a nutritionist and lots of people to help them out but I’m pretty much able to make my food. I do work with a nutritionist to bounce ideas off of too but it definitely helps for me to be able to make my own food especially since a lot of restaurants that I go to and a lot of people go to you can’t go and sit down and get food and stuff. You can pick up but it’s definitely not the same.”
Thankfully for Rosa, he is able to have the support he needs to put on a performance he and his coach believes will be at 100 percent of his potential. But as uncertainty hits with fights being cancelled and then rescheduled, its tough for fighters to know if they are truly going to fight. But McCarthy makes it clear, train as if you have a fight and if circumstances prevent it from happening, its better than not fully training for a fight and the fight taking place.
“I think the objective for everyone is to train with one hundred percent certainty that it is happening and if It’s not happening deal with it, you can’t half train for a UFC fight.”
McCarthy further explains that as of now, fighters can deal with training with uncertainty, the one caveat is that they don’t have to go through a weight cut and then try to train again.
“The thing is they’re not going in and they’re not going through a weight cut. The weight cut takes so much out of you that week,” said McCarthy. “So if they go through and go through the whole weight cut and everything, the weight cut really drains you. If they’re not going through that to try and push back another week or two and as long as you’re not going through any injuries, its sometimes a blessing to get that extra weekend.”
But will the fans see the same quality of fights despite the circumstances? Rosa believes that it isn’t an issue at all.
“Every fighter on the card has been training for another fight, if anything they have more time,” said Rosa.” As fighters, you always get what you need, fighters get what they need, they make things happen. There is a reason all of these guys are fighting here in the UFC is because they made sure to get what they need even though there are no resources. These are guys and girls that know how to work around problems like this and it’s an even playing field for everybody cause everybody is in the same position.”
If Rosa defeats Mitchell on May 9, he will be on a two-fight win streak, the first win streak of his UFC career and in a position to be talked about in the upper echelon of UFC featherweights. But before discussing his jump into the upper echelon of UFC featherweights, Rosa does have to get by the undefeated Mitchell. Mitchell made his name on the regional circuit and through season 27 of The Ultimate Fighter. Since then, he has gone on to win three fights in the UFC. However, Rosa, doesn’t believe the two are evenly matched skill wise.
“I’m better than this kid on every single spot on the mat, I have better cardio than him, stronger than him, better wrestling, better jiu jitsu, better striking, I don’t see one spot in the fight where he can beat me. I think he has a lot of confidence but I have a lot of confidence too. So its going to be interesting to see what he brings, I’m excited to fight him.”
The American Top Team product believes he will knock Mitchell out in the first round or submit him if Mitchell survives the early knockdown, and if Rosa is right, he will prove his coach’s prediction right.
“I think this is going to be a breaking out party for him.”