When restrictions on the numbers allowed for mass gathering first started tightening because of the coronavirus pandemic, the UFC was one of the few sports that found a way to roll ahead when other sports were shutting down.
UFC President Dana White and Company were on site at a large arena in Brasilia, Brazil, for a fight card featuring Kevin Lee vs. Charles Oliveira. The Brazilian government put in place restrictions on gatherings larger than 100 people the week of the event. UFC officials scrambled and held the fights, following the restriction, with an empty 11,000-seat arena.
Now White plans to move forward, kickstarting the remainder of the promotions year with a revamped UFC 249 fight card moved from April 18 in Brooklyn, N.Y., to May 9 in Jacksonville, Fla.
Truth be told, White never would have stopped holding events if given his druthers. He tried to hold UFC 249 on April 18 as planned, but stood down at the request of his broadcast partners at ESPN.
“It’s not even about being first.” White told Yahoo Sports about returning to regularly scheduled events beginning with UFC 249. “I was ready to continue rolling. If it were up to me, we would have kept going this entire thing. [Expletive]. I can’t wait, man.”
Of course, the UFC will be taking numerous precautions on the health front. Only limited necessary staff, as well as fighters and their corners will be allowed on site, and everyone will be subject to daily medical screenings. The events will also continue to be held without a audience in attendance for the foreseeable future.
White is prepared for all of that. In addition to UFC 249, he will hold at least two more events at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville over the course of the following week on May 13 and May 16. He hopes to be able to host events at his own facility, the UFC Apex, in Las Vegas soon. There, he was already set up for a television production, fight friendly environment. He also is working on outfitting an island – though he refuses to even hint at its location – where he can host international fighters for those that are unable to gain entry into the United States as COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.
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The UFC and White, in particular, are of course taking a lot of flack from the naysayers that believe it is still too soon to be moving folks around the country for the purposes of entertainment. At the same time, there is a growing number of people that are praising White for not backing down and being part of the number of businesses working to restart the U.S. economy.
Praise him or damn him, White is ready to move forward and get his fighters back to work.
“The UFC is back. Our schedule is back on, and we’re rolling right through the rest of the year,” White said.
“I’ve just come to the realization that there’s people out there that are just negative, [expletive] pieces of [expletive]. And no matter what you do, they’re never going to be happy. Ever.”
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