Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has a big week coming up, as the promotion will make its long-awaited return to action by staging three events in the span of eight days, starting with UFC 249 this weekend (Sat., May 9, 2020) in Jacksonville, Florida.
And with the promotion being the first major sports league (other than WWE) to stage an event amidst the coronavirus pandemic, all eyes are on Dana White and Co. to see if they can pull it off without a hitch ... especially when it comes to fighter safety.
As we’ve seen already, fighters, media and all UFC staff involved with the upcoming events are being tested for COVID-19 (examples here and here). Furthermore, social distancing efforts are being made by staging virtual media day, time-specific weigh-ins and prohibiting in-cage interviews after the fight. So to say the promotion has been on top of things would be an understatement.
That said, we are still a few more days way from fight night, so there is still plenty of work to be done. And if the promotion hopes to see its biggest star on the roster, Conor McGregor, return this summer, all things have to keep running smoothly. According to McGregor’s manager, Audie Attar, “Notorious” will be an interested observer come fight night to see how everything unfolds to determine if he's comfortable to plot his return.
“Conor is very curious to see whether the health and safety of the athletes and staff are ensured,” Attar said. “He wants to make sure everyone is taken care of properly,” said Audie Attar in a conversation with ESPN.
McGregor has been a very active advocate in his homeland of Ireland, dishing out several PSA’s encouraging people to practice good hygiene, social distancing and staying under quarantine whenever possible. He’s even put his money where his mouth is, spending more than $1 million euros on personal protective equipment for health workers.
According to Attar, McGregor would obviously prefer to fight in front of a large sold out crowd, which means his return could be delayed longer if he chooses to do that. But “Notorious” is willing to perhaps return in July to fight in an empty arena as long as proper fighter safety remains on track.
“While Conor’s desire would be to fight in front of another sold-out crowd,” Attar said, “he does understand what him fighting in an empty arena could do for people at home and would consider if he is comfortable with the way the UFC is holding these events from a health and safety standpoint.”
Interestingly enough, Khabib Nurmagomedov recently stated he could also return in July to unify the titles against this weekend’s winner. But if travel restrictions prevent Khabib from flying into the states, another option would be to send Justin Gaethje or Tony Ferguson to “Fight Island” to face “The Eagle.” The same goes for McGregor, who is currently in Ireland.
McGregor made his triumphant return this past January, scoring a first round knockout over Donald Cerrone in just 40 seconds at UFC 246.
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+.
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