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White: UFC’s three event experiment in Florida ‘a home run’

When the UFC returned on May 9th there were a lot of questions about whether they could operate safely. Dana White now feels like the proof is in the results.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) just pulled off a historic feat in Jacksonville Florida, becoming the first major sport in the country to return to action amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. And they didn’t just show up for a single event. No, they ran three events back to back from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena over the course of a week. When asked how he’d rate the experience during the post-fight press conference for the final event in the run, Dana White allowed himself a big smile.

“It was a ten and a half,” he said. “The key to this week was not a lot of people testing positive for COVID-19, or nobody getting sick during the week. It was a home run and I couldn’t be happier.”

Things almost didn’t play out that way. Coming into the first event of the run, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and his team tested positive for COVID-19. Footage from the internet showing Souza hanging out with Fabricio Werdum rather than ‘quarantined’ as the UFC claimed in press releases had people worried an outbreak might occur. But thus far, it seems like the UFC was lucky.

In an earlier statement about the week, White went more into detail on the stress of events and how hard people worked to make them as safe as possible.

“I’m happy to have them behind me, I wanted this week to be over,” he said. “And it was successful in every way it could be successful. I feel great about it. More importantly, nobody’s sick. Nobody’s sick, nobody’s gotten sick, and hopefully that’s the case. There’s no guarantees in life, but hopefully that’s the case when we all go home. It was a great event, it was a great week, and I think we picked the perfect place to do it too.”

“This town was perfect for it. The governor, the mayor, the athletic commission, everybody was great. This arena was incredible, these guys were great to us. I don’t know what your experience out in Jacksonville was, but everyone was nice, it was great, the food was awesome. I just couldn’t say enough nice things about Jacksonville and the experience here. So I’m glad we did it here first. I’m ready to go home, though.”

White credited the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena with playing a big part in keeping the arena clean.

“First of all, this arena... what’s the thing they call? Venue Shield. It’s a project they have where they literally clean the venue top to bottom which is huge,” White said. “Then there’s things like, little things, details you wouldn’t think of. You saw the guys spraying down the Octagon, wiping down the Octagon between fights. Our headphones used to just lay on the thing. Now they’re in these packages that say they’ve been sterilized.”

He also referenced his blow-up at the New York Times following Wednesday’s event, where he trashed a ‘dickhead’ reporter that was critical of the promotion’s efforts to hold events.

“Obviously, you guys know me, you’ve dealt with me long enough,” White said. “When we’re doing what we’re doing and you’re just taking unnecessary punishment, you know what I mean? You know I’m going to f**king snap eventually, and I do. But we worked hard to pull this off and get here and nothing means more to me than the safety of everyone that was involved in the event. Not just with COVID-19, but fights that weren’t stopped soon enough, or all these types of things. So every time we finish an event, I want everyone to go home safe.”

“And it’s not any different now with the COVID-19 thing. And we’ll do everything in our power, we will spend the money, we will get the best, the brightest, we’ll talk to doctors, experts in the field to figure out how to beat it. One of the things I always do is I believe that nothing is impossible, everything can be done, especially in 2020. You just have to be willing to work hard enough, spend some money, and come up with solutions. And that’s what we did this week.”

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