With UFC 249 finally scheduled to take place in Florida next weekend, state governor Ron DeSantis says he hopes to welcome more live sporting events to the state, with fans in attendance as soon as June.
Having already hosted several WWE events from within its state borders during the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida’s Republican governor DeSantis looks as though he wants a head start on the competition when it comes to the further roll-out of live sports and announced at a press conference this week that this is among his state’s top priorities.
“I helped recruit,” DeSantis said. “I wanted the wrestling to be filmed in Orlando. I’d like them to do WrestleMania. They were going to do WrestleMania in April. That was hundreds of millions of dollars. I want to keep that good relationship. I want them to invest in Florida.”
The lockdown restrictions announced in the United States during the coronavirus health crisis have placed a heavy burden on the US economy, with the lack of live sport (and the resulting income from them) being among the larger financial burdens experienced by states in recent months.
DeSantis notes that the UFC 249 card set for Jacksonville on May 9 will be a welcome boost for Florida, even if fans are prohibited from attending – something he hopes may end as soon as next month.
“I do think if the trends are good as you get into June-July. I think there is a window to have some fans. You’re not going to have everyone packed in.
“But man, in 90-degree weather in the state of Florida … if you’re out there and someone’s 10 feet away from you and you want to watch a ball game or something? You may be able to do that.”
Critics have stated that a premature return to a sporting status quo could significantly cause a setback to the fight against coronavirus, potentially leading to a spate of new infections.
DeSantis, though, says that moves will only be made if their decision-making is backed up by scientific data.
“We’re going to be driven by the facts, driven by the data,” he said.
WWE instituted a series of safeguards against infection for their shows within the state, while the UFC are set to do the same next week.
But any spike in infections, or if a high profile athlete was exposed to the virus, could result in a public relations nightmare for state leaders, who will be accused of having jumped the gun during the country’s biggest health crisis in a century.