The UFC will bounce back to action with UFC 249 in Jacksonville, Florida, then follow up with two more events within the following eight days as they look to reignite their 2020 calendar following the coronavirus outbreak.
An official press release from the UFC confirmed the promotion’s plans to bounce back with a bang, with three events in the space of eight days at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
The three cards will take place on Saturday May 9, Wednesday May 13 and Saturday May 16, starting with a blockbuster pay-per-view card for the twice-rearranged UFC 249.
All three shows will be held behind closed doors, with only essential personnel permitted on site for the event.
Originally, UFC 249 was due to feature a lightweight title main event between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson but, for the sixth time, the fight fell through, this time due to travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak.
But, with Khabib stuck in Dagestan, the show will roll on with an interim title fight between Ferguson and fellow hard-hitting contender Justin Gaethje. The winner will pick up an interim championship belt and will be thrust into a title unification fight with Khabib later this year.
It represents the second time the UFC has attempted to stage a show while the COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing, with their first attempt – a planned event on tribal land in Lemoore, California eventually scrapped following pressure from the UFC’s broadcast partners ESPN, and the TV network’s parent company, Disney.
However, there appear to be no such issues this time around, with the UFC formally unveiling its plans on Friday.
“I can’t wait to deliver some great fights for the fans,” said UFC President Dana White.
“I want to give a big thanks to Mayor Curry, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena and Florida State Boxing Commission Executive Director Patrick Cunningham for getting this thing done and giving us a venue to put on these incredible cards, as well our media partners including ESPN and ESPN+, for bringing it to fans.
“My team is ready to go and the fighters are excited to get back in there with these back-to-back events.”
Florida has been earmarked by the United States government as a hub from which to kickstart the nation’s economy, using sport as a driving force.
The WWE has been allowed to continue running behind-closed-doors shows in the state, and now the UFC is being permitted similar latitude.
The Mayor of Jacksonville, Lenny Curry, said the UFC’s plans are “safe and sensible,” and the city is “thrilled” to be featured nationally on ESPN.
“With Jacksonville continuing to outpace other cities and regions, we are excited to continue to lead as host to these world-class, international sports entertainment organizations.”
Meanwhile, the Florida State Boxing Commision, which will oversee the running of the event, said it had worked closely with the UFC to put together a safe, achievable framework together to host the three upcoming events.
“Florida’s State Commission and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation have been in continued coordination with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to identify options for bringing the UFC to Florida for upcoming events,” said the FSBC’s 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.
“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.
“With this triple date feature of UFC events coming in May, Florida is continuing to build a strong collaboration with UFC that sets the foundation for more opportunities that we hope UFC will choose to host in our state in the months to come.”
The second and third events, on May 13 and 16, have no confirmed fight cards to date, but fights for those events will be confirmed in due course.