The UFC has announced plans to hold three shows in Florida over an eight-day period, starting with the delayed UFC 249 card on May 9.
The UFC announced the May 9 card in an official statement released on the company’s website on Friday, while UFC president Dana White revealed the three-show plan to ESPN on the same day.
Ferguson vs. Gaethje Highlights UFC 249
The promotion is putting together two more shows on May 13 and May 16. The Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida will hold all three events. The shows will take place without fans in attendance.
“I can’t wait to deliver some great fights for the fans,” White said in the release. “My team is ready to go and the fighters are excited to get back in there with these back-to-back events.”
As previously indicated, an interim lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje will headline UFC 249. White made it clear that Khabib Nurmagomedov – who is in Russia and cannot travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic – isn’t being punished for missing his planned bout against Ferguson.
“Ferguson vs. Gaethje will be one of the most violent fights you’ll ever see, I can guarantee that,” White told ESPN. “They’re two of the best in the world, and the winner will fight Khabib for the title. Khabib will be back in September-October.”
— UFC (@ufc) April 24, 2020
White originally tried to hold UFC 249 on April 18 at the Tachi Palace Casino Resort in California, a tribal venue that has a long history of hosting MMA events. However, White backed down after pressure from ESPN, Disney, and other entities.
This time around, ESPN appears to be more supportive of the UFC venture.
“Sports play an important role in people’s lives and can bring moments of escape in challenging times,” ESPN said in a statement. “We look forward to bringing UFC to fans again.”
Florida Gives Warm Welcome to UFC
The UFC press release contained statements of support from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Florida State Boxing Commission Executive Director Patrick Cunningham.
“Florida welcomes the UFC to the Sunshine State, and our commission stands ready to sanction the events to be held on May 9, 13, and 16,” Cunningham said. “Health and safety protocols will be in place to ensure the safety and well-being of all individuals who are helping to make these events possible.”
PointsBet lists Ferguson (-167) as the favorite over Gaethje (+135) in the main event.
UFC 249 will also feature a bantamweight title bout between two-division champion Henry Cejudo and former titleholder, Dominick Cruz. Cejudo comes in as a -250 favorite to hold on to his championship, with Cruz listed at +195 to regain the belt.
The UFC 249 card nearly included a third title fight, as Amanda Nunes and Felicia Spencer were preparing to battle for the women’s featherweight belt. However, Nunes dropped out of the date, saying that she wants to go through a full training camp before fighting Spencer.
The UFC cards in Florida will likely feature only US-based fighters due to travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. However, White told ESPN that “Fight Island” – an unannounced international location where the UFC is building infrastructure to hold international bouts – should be ready in June.