New England’s Justin Sumter was set to take on an undefeated prospect in Romero Cotton at Bellator 241. Sumter would have been fighting in his own backyard at the event, set to take place at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT on Friday March 13. It was on fight day that Bellator CEO Scott Coker made an announcement that the fights would no longer take place due to the COVID-19 situation occurring around the world.
Nearly every sporting entity cancelled events that week. Most if not all are currently in limbo.
“I had just finished my sweat out, the usual routine on fight day” Sumter told Cageside Press regarding the event falling through. “I was all amped up and ready to head to the arena in a few hours when I got the call from my manager that the whole event was off.”
Just the night before, Coker and Bellator PR had officially announced that the fans would not be allowed to enter the arena. Later that evening it was made official the media would likewise be barred from the venue. During all of that, it seemed as though the fights would go on as planned regardless of whether the media or fans were in attendance. Less than 24 hours later Coker decided to scratch the card as a whole, as most other national sporting events had done prior.
“It was disappointing, I mean we were all ready to go, but in the end it was the right decision and I applaud Coker for that,” Sumter stated. “Who knows, a lot of people have it without symptoms, if it gets passed on from an opponent and someone brings it home to their families or friends, who knows who could get it, it was the right decision and the safest for everyone.”
While Justin Sumter (7-3-0) was looking forward to getting back into the win column after his second stint with Dana White’s Contender Series last year, he believes Scott Coker’s call was for the best. Sumter did admit to disappointment when first hearing the news, simply out of all the hard work put into a fight camp and weight cut.
“I felt great, my coaches were very impressed with me this camp. I wanted to show the world how explosive I can be,” Sumter told Cageside Press. “My morning workout, I felt so clean and ready. I’ve had bad luck with Contender Series so I wanted to show everyone that I am back and ready for anything.”
A fighter doesn’t have the easiest of lives. Fight camps take them away from their families, their friends. Much of their days are spent inside the gym, with their second family compiled of coaches and training partners. The pay isn’t always glorious, and most of the time if you don’t fight you don’t make money. This time was different.
“I didn’t really think about money at first. You know I was more upset that I couldn’t fight,” Sumter explained. “Believe it or not most of us don’t really think about the money often, this is about getting in the cage and putting on a show whether fans are in the arena or not. When I did find out we were all getting paid don’t get me wrong I was pleased, but getting the hand raised is worth more than the check most of the time.”
As was no doubt the case with most fighters on the Bellator 241 card, the first reaction was disappointment. It is not easy to train for weeks or months sacrificing so much, only to find out on fight day that you are not seeing the end result of all the hard work. Yet as Sumter stated, the overall decision to cancel the event was the right one, even if it meant the sacrifice came without reward. The fighters knew that this was not only safest for them and the fans but for their families back home. Sumter is using this time to be with his family as most of us are during this difficult time.
“I’m safe with my family. We are all at home just having family time. I wish we could all go out to eat together to be honest after that weight cut,” Sumter laughed. “At the end of the day this is family time we all need, and I hope we get some normalization from all of this soon. But until then my goal is to be with my family and keep us all safe.”
As for what the future holds with Bellator and Sumter’s next opponent, there is nothing as of now, as Bellator and the rest of the world try to figure out the next move in all of this madness.
“I hope it is the same opponent, I loved that match-up, but whatever they ask of me and whenever it is that is fine by me,” Sumter finished.