Somiong Luktupfah had just beaten the body of Sok Rith to a pulp.
Dropping his opponent five times in quick succession during the pair’s second round, Luktupfah had put on a dazzling display of accuracy and ferocity. Despite a valiant effort from Rith to return to his feet time and time again, Luktupfah proved to simply be too much for the Cambodian.
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The referee called off the action after the fifth time Luktupfah’s punches, knees, and kicks had sent Rith to the canvas, and Somiong was declared the victor.
He climbed the ropes of the square ring, waving and raising his arms in celebration to a raucous crowd. At the corner of the ring, he made his way to the top ropes and flipped back down to Earth. After checking on his downed opponent alongside the event’s medical personnel, he sauntered over to another corner of the ring to flip once more.
As Luktupfah performed his aerial acrobatics for a second time, broadcaster Teddy Mulvagh exclaimed that the Myanmar native was “so sick with it, it’s like he was born in Wuhan, China! My god, disgusting!”
It wasn’t the first time on the broadcast that the commentary team had poked fun at Wuhan, China, the site of the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier in the event, during a fight between lightweights Hein Tun Aung and Em Sothy, the broadcast cameras panned to the crowd at the conclusion of an entertaining round.
The camera focused on a section of the crowd, showing fans cheering and clapping intensely. Several fans were wearing medical-grade facemasks, at times worn by the public in the event of disease outbreaks.
“Look at the fan reaction: lovin’ it. It’s hard to see the reactions, though. Thanks, Wuhan!” was the call from a sarcastic Mulvagh.
“I mean, the excitement’s infectious,” quipped fellow commentator Andrew Whitelaw, to which Mulvagh responded with a fit of laughter.
“This excitement here is so infectious, we might as well be in Wuhan,” concluded Mulvagh with a chuckle.
The novel coronavirus, which originated in the city of Wuhan, China, has become the object of international concern as the number of people infected with the virus has continued to climb.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that they are “closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China,” and that there are “thousands of confirmed cases in China, including cases outside Wuhan City.”
At press time, the New York Times has reported that there are over 12,000 infections confirmed worldwide, with an international death toll of over 250. The paper adds that “Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, Malaysia, Macau, Russia, France, the United States, South Korea, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Britain, Vietnam, Italy, India, the Philippines, Nepal, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Finland, and Sweden” have all reported coronavirus cases.
Multiple countries, including the United States, Vietnam, and Australia, have imposed travel restrictions to varying extents on individuals traveling from China, and several countries, including the U.S. and Italy, have declared emergency directives.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled the situation a “public health emergency of international concern.”
The comments made during the WLC 11: Battlebones broadcast on UFC Fight Pass were not the first time that the coronavirus has appeared to be used in a humorous setting within the combat sports world.
Just days prior, former UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk made headlines after posting a now-deleted meme involving UFC strawweight champion and upcoming Jedrzejczyk opponent Weili Zhang on her Instagram.
i just learned who weili zhang is, but her message to joanna jedrzejczyk's racist meme is so G, i have to stan. "i wish you good health until march 7th. i will see you soon" lmaoo yoo!!! pic.twitter.com/GfI8wCeMye
— scott (@_scottjohnson) January 30, 2020
In the image, Jedrzejczyk is portrayed wearing a heavy-duty gas mask while standing behind Zhang, who is Chinese. Posted with a series of emojis, the meme appeared to reference China’s struggles with the coronavirus despite Zhang hailing from Handan, Hebei, China, which is roughly 460 miles from Wuhan.
Zhang responded on Instagram by questioning the character of Jedrzejczyk, adding, “People are dying, someones father, someones mother, someones child. Say what you want about me if it makes you feel stronger but do not joke about what’s happening here.”
As reported by ESPN, Jedrzejczyk walked back her comments and offered an apology to Zhang, telling the Chinese champion, “I would never make fun of sick people with illness or virus. So, I didn’t want you to get offended. But I just made fun of the funny internet meme. So, so sorry,” in an Instagram story.
Mulvagh, too, would offer an apology for his comments.
On Twitter, The Fight Site’s Mark Schroeder – a noted Lethwei analyst and historian – took issue with the WLC broadcast team’s Wuhan jokes.
Really, Wuhan jokes on broadcast..
— inxxane (@inxxane) January 31, 2020
In a subsequent tweet, Mulvagh would respond outright, saying that he was “caught up in the moment” and “didn’t want to upset [Schroeder].”
Sorry man. I got caught up in the moment. Didnt want to upset u.
— Teddy (@teddymuaythai) January 31, 2020
Mulvagh continued, “Im on the mic every week. Sometimes twice a week. I try to change it up and of course i fall flat sometimes. Again, sorry to have ruined a fight for u. Never my intention, i still have a lot to learn. Thanks”
Sure man. Im on the mic every week. Sometimes twice a week. I try to change it up and of course i fall flat sometimes. Again, sorry to have ruined a fight for u. Never my intention, i still have a lot to learn. Thanks
— Teddy (@teddymuaythai) February 2, 2020
The WLC 11 event took place in Myanmar, which borders China on its northern boundary. Friday, the government of Myanmar turned back a China Southern flight over coronavirus fears.
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.