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UFC 249 in jeopardy following coronavirus ban on public gatherings in New York

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New York State currently has 328 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

UFC lightweight champion Nurmagomedov defends his title Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

I’ve got some bad news for those folks who bought tickets to UFC 249.

Unless something dramatic changes within the next few weeks, the promotion will have no choice but to stage its “Khabib vs Ferguson” pay-per-view (PPV) event at the APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, or some other closed-door venue with no fans in attendance.

That’s because New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statewide ban on public gatherings comprised of more than 500 people, effective March 13, in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has turned the world upside down since it was first discovered last December in Wuhan, China.

“This is about science, this is about data,” Cuomo said at today’s news conference. “Let the science, let the data make the decisions.”

UFC 249 is scheduled for Sat., April 19, 2020 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, a venue that seats nearly 20,000 spectators. For those of you who are equally bad at math, Google calculator tells me that’s roughly 19,499 over the legal limit.

Any and all UFC events that move to APEX can still air on both ESPN+ and PPV, but the promotion will have to sacrifice ticket sales. The last time UFC brought Khabib Nurmagomedov to the Barclays Center, courtesy of UFC 223, the result was a $3 million live gate.

That’s a tough hit for an organization trying to establish its economic might.

It’s hard to call the Khabib-Ferguson title fight “cursed” without trivializing the global impact of coronavirus, but UFC has already tried — and failed — to book this lightweight title fight multiple times, so at this stage of the game, it’s APEX or bust.

UFC has yet to make an official announcement.