As the world continues to reel over the increasingly aggressive spread of the Coronavirus / COVID-19 virus, nearly every major sports organization has called off their events ... except the UFC. The promotion’s outspoken president Dana White has made it a point of downplaying the effect the pandemic will have on the upcoming slate of UFC cards. And while some early bluster was to be expected, he’s taking things to a whole new level at this point.
As the NHL and NBA shut down, White said he’d talked to US president Donald Trump and was deciding to move forward with his upcoming shows. UFC Brasilia would be closed to the public, while UFC London would continue as scheduled. When Ohio and Oregon banned public gatherings due to the outbreak, White announced the upcoming shows in those states would be moved to the company’s Apex facilities in Las Vegas.
But things continue to get worse. On Saturday the US government added the UK and Ireland to their travel ban. Then the British government announced that all sporting events were being shut down. And now the Nevada State Athletic Commission has revoked the licenses of every combat sports event being held in the state over the next two weeks.
Is Dana White throwing in the towel?
Appearing on ESPN, White made it clear that all upcoming UFC events would go on in one form or another, especially the much anticipated Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson fight.
”So as of now, the fights can’t happen at the Apex here in Las Vegas,” White said. “So we’re working to find new locations. But the fights will go on, they will continue. We’re not stopping, we’re going to keep finding a way to put on the fights. I’m in the fight business. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. So this stuff happens to me every weekend. So I’m used to this stuff ... not at this level, obviously. But this is what we do and we always make sure that the fights happen, and they’ll continue to happen.”
”Obviously things are changing by the hour,” he said when asked specifically about UFC London, set to go down on March 21st. “This morning they announced new travel restrictions for the UK so the fights can’t continue in London. But the fights will go on. We’re working on finding a new venue, likely in the United States, and I have my matchmakers literally working right now to put on the undercard. So the bottom line is that fight is happening, and that main event will go on.”
As for UFC 249, which was originally set to happen in New York? That state barely allows fights to go down under the best of circumstances, so you can forget the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But White claims he’s got options.
”So we had possibly a couple of different venues for that fight, including Nevada,” he said. “So now the whole Nevada thing went down so we’re looking for another venue. I hope by 10 o’clock tomorrow morning I should have two venue options for that fight .That fight will happen, it will go on. And the fans are all freaking out about that - do not worry. Khabib vs. Tony will happen.”
Lest you think this is like other leagues where grand declarations are made mere hours before the plug is pulled, Dana White made it clear just how far he’s willing to go to keep holding fights. Nothing short of a complete government mandated nationwide quarantine will stop the UFC from holding their next four events.
”Unless there’s a total shutdown of the country where people can’t leave their houses and things like that, these fights will happen,” White said. “We’re going to move on, these fights will happen, these guys will compete, we will find venues, and we will figure this thing out. The only thing that’s going to stop us is a compete government shutdown where everyone is confined to their homes.”
MMA mania indeed.
You feeling this dedication to Saturday night fights, Maniacs?