UFC president Dana White insisted he would find a way to hold UFC 249 and future cards after canceling three events due to the coronavirus pandemic. It appears that White is living up to that promise, as he claims to have secured a venue in the US for UFC 249, and a private island that can host additional international events.
White told ESPN and TMZ Sports on Monday that UFC 249 is definitively happening on April 18, while he was nearing a more creative solution that could allow him to bring in fighters even if they can’t travel to the United States.
UFC 249 Confirmed, Ferguson vs. Gaethje to Headline
First, White has locked in a location in the US for UFC 249. That event originally featured Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson for the lightweight title as a main event. But with Nurmagomedov stuck in Russia, Justin Gaethje will step in instead, and the fight will be for an interim title. Ferguson stands as the -200 favorite over Gaethje (+170), according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
White told TMZ that fans shouldn’t blame Nurmagomedov for missing the fight.
“Khabib, just like all of us, was caught in the middle of this thing as the world continued to change day by day, and as I was trying to book venues,” White said. “It is not Khabib’s fault, it’s not anybody’s fault. This is something you could never prepare for, plan for, or even dream that any of this is possible.”
White hasn’t revealed the location for UFC 249, but has confirmed that no fans will be in attendance. He also suggested that the UFC will screen the fighters, referees, judges, and other minimal staff regularly for everyone’s safety.
“Health and safety is something we worry about all the time, not just during the coronavirus,” White told ESPN. “Obviously, this has made our jobs a little tougher, but we’re going to do everything above and beyond to make sure everybody is safe, just like we always do. A lot of things will be different.”
White Reveals Existence of Private Island
According to White, the UFC 249 venue will be available to host fights for at least the next two months. After that, he’s come up with a more ambitious solution, one that is vaguely reminiscent of the 1988 Jean-Claude Van Damme film “Bloodsport.”
“I also secured an island,” White told ESPN. “I’ve got an island. The infrastructure is being built right now. We’re going to do all of our international fights on this island.”
The UFC has revealed the full 12-fight card, which pay-per-view outlets will distribute as normal. Other fights on the main card include a women’s strawweight title bout between Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas, a heavyweight bout featuring Greg Hardy and Yorgan de Castro, and a welterweight tilt that sees Jeremy Stephens take on Calvin Kattar.
ESPN will air the preliminary card in the United States – a heavyweight bout between Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik serves as the preliminary headliner – with UFC Fight Pass showing the first bouts of the night.
White says that he hopes the UFC can give people something to look forward to during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You keep people in their houses for too long without entertainment, people are going to start losing their minds,” White told ESPN. “We need to start figuring out solutions. That’s what we’re doing. We’re going to keep everyone safe, and we’re going to pull this thing off.”