UFC president Dana White has announced plans for three events in Jacksonville, Florida, next month. They will be closed to the public and “produced with only essential personnel in attendance”. UFC 249 is now scheduled for 9 May, with top-ranked lightweight contender Tony Ferguson facing fellow American Justin Gaethje for the interim championship. There are also plans to hold shows on 13 May and 16 May at the same arena.
White insisted there would be an “overabundance of safety” for UFC 249, which was postponed this month, at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville. The death toll from coronavirus in the US has passed 51,000 but three states have allowed some shops to reopen. Ferguson was originally scheduled to face Russia’s Khabib Nurmagomedov, who withdrew because of travel restrictions. Asked about the new 9 May date, White said UFC would do “whatever it costs to make sure the fighters, their camps, the commission, the referees, our production people and everybody is safe”. He added: “We’re going to do everything and then we’re gonna go even another level above that.” There has been no UFC since a full fight card in an empty arena in Brazil on 14 March. “Health and safety protocols will be in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all individuals who are helping to make these events possible,” said Florida state boxing commission executive director, Patrick Cunningham. UFC fighter Trevin Giles, who is also a police officer in Houston, said: “It’s a business and most sports aren’t able to do anything, so if you can be that main source of entertainment and keep that going then it can be good for business. I am sure you get plenty of views especially with people being at home and watching TV. “At the same time I understand with getting the athletes paid because a lot of people are struggling right now as far as work, so i think it is a great thing if you can find a safe way to do that. “To me it will always be a bit too risky to go travelling right now. I somewhat understand some of the guys who do it but not for me, I have to take every precaution I can.”