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Dana White hopes UFC 249 inspires other sports leagues to return during COVID-19 pandemic

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With UFC 249 set to go down this weekend (Sat., May 9, 2020) in Jacksonville, Fla., on ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is just a few more days away from becoming the first major sports professional league to return from its hiatus as a result of COVID-19.

Excluding WWE, of course, which still hasn't taken a day off thanks to the essential loopholes Florida has to offer.

Should UFC 249 — as well as the two subsequent events set for May 13 and May 16 — go off without a hitch, Dana White hopes it will serve as a catalyst and inspiration for other sports leagues to get the ball rolling again.

“I’m kind of hoping that this gives other sports leagues the confidence to get out there to do what I am doing and figure this thing out on how to put on the sport as safely as you possibly can,” White told Brian Campbell of CBS Sports.

According to White, getting the green light wasn’t exactly easy work, but says that he is more than happy to share all of the documentation he presented to the various decision makers to get approval.

“I submitted a 30-page document to the governor of Nevada and the governor of Florida, and I’d be willing to share that document with any other of the leagues after we pull this thing out this week.”

The NBA’s season is still in limbo, though it did recently get an offer from Disney World officials to use the park in, you guessed it, Florida, to resume its games. While other major sports are still on hiatus, one of White’s goals is to show them that business can resume with modifications.

Furthermore, while the outspoken president has always gone on record to say he couldn’t care less what critics have to say about him or his moves, he did take the time to shut down any notion that he simply doesn’t care about the world’s current situation.

“I would say the worse is that people are out there saying I don’t care about the coronavirus and that we re going to do this anyway,” he said. “We know how serious the coronavirus is. We are taking this very serious, health and safety didn’t jut pop up for us a few weeks ago with the virus.

“It’s always a concern for the last 20 years,” he added. “And I am the type of person that likes to solve a problem instead of hiding from it. I think we got it figured out, but nothing is guaranteed.”

To hear White tell it, one of the major reasons other sports leagues might not be so quick to get back into the swing of things is out of fear of media backlash. And that’s something Dana doesn’t sweat.

“Are you telling me they can’t do a life golf match on TV? Of course they could. The problem is the powers that be in golf are afraid of the media. I am not afraid of the media.”

Still, UFC and White’s road to stage events has not been easy nor cheap ... coordinating safe, germ-free live events comes with a hefty price tag.

“Let me tell you what, when you come back and do something like this, it is very expensive,” he explained. “It is not cheap but we have spent the money to make sure this thing can be as safe as it can possibly be.

“Nothing is 100-percent guaranteed safe,” he continued. “When I drive home from this interview, it’s not guaranteed I am going to make it home safe, there are no guarantees. But we spent the money to make sure this event is as safe as it can possibly be.”

UFC 249 will feature an interim Lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, with a co-headlining act that will see Henry Cejudo defend his Bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 249 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+/Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 249: “Ferguson vs. Gaethje” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.