The UFC is playing musical chairs with its cards, but Dana White is adamant that they won’t let the coronavirus pandemic cancel any of his promotion’s upcoming fights.
In another interview with ESPN’s SportsCenter, hours after UFC Brasilia was held in an empty arena, White revealed that next Saturday’s UFC London card (headlined by Tyron Woodley and Leon Edwards) is moving elsewhere. Which country? We don’t know yet. This comes after US President Donald Trump extended the European travel ban to the United Kingdom and Ireland, plus it is expected that the British government will ban mass gatherings in response to the outbreak.
“Obviously things are changing by the hour,” White said. “This morning they announced new travel restrictions for the UK, so [Woodley vs. Edwards] obviously can’t continue in London, but the fight will go on. We’re working on finding a new venue, likely in the United States. I have my matchmakers literally working right now to put together the undercard. The bottom line is that fight is happening and that main event will go on.”
Considering the aforementioned travel ban, a ton of fights are surely going to fall apart if they move to the United States. That seems to be implied based on White’s statement about how his matchmakers are putting together the undercard on a week’s notice. Some fighters such as Ashlee Evans-Smith have already flown to London, only to find out this news.
Furthermore, the UFC’s previous announcement that they’re holding the March 28th and April 11th Fight Night cards at the APEX facility in Las Vegas is all for naught. With the Nevada Athletic Commission suspending combat sports events through March 25th and a report that this ban will last beyond that date, APEX is no longer an option.
“As of now, the fights can’t happen at the APEX here in Las Vegas,” White said. “We’re working to find new locations but the fights will go on. They will continue. We’re not stopping, we will keep finding a way to put on the fights.
“I’m in the fight business. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and this stuff happens to me every weekend, so I’m used to this stuff—not at this level obviously but this is what we do. We always make sure that the fights happen and they’re continue to happen.”
Lastly, there’s UFC 249: Khabib vs. Ferguson. This particular fight has been booked umpteen times and been cancelled every single time. With New York in a state of emergency and New York City cases skyrocketing as we speak, there’s a high chance that Barclays Center and other venues will be closed off for months to come. White has assured everyone that the UFC lightweight title bout is going to happen,
“We had possibly a couple of different venues for that fight, including Nevada, so now the whole Nevada thing went down, so we’re looking for another venue,” White said. “I hope by 10 o’clock tomorrow morning I should have two venue options for that fight. That fight will happen, it will go on. The fans are all freakin’ out about that—do not worry, Khabib vs. Tony will happen.”
Postponement isn’t even a thought in White’s mind, so it’ll take total lockdown for UFC cards not to move forward in his world.
“Unless there’s a total shutdown of the country where people can’t leave their houses and things like that, these fights will happen,” White said. “We’re going to move on, these fights will happen, these guys will compete, we will find venues, we will figure this thing out.
“The only thing that’s going to stop us is a complete government shutdown where everybody is confined to their homes.”
Given virtually every major sports league or organization in the world has suspended seasons and/or cancelled tournaments, the UFC is essentially the only notable organization that intends to keep its shows intact even during this global health crisis. No doubt broadcast partners ESPN will take that as a welcome sign, seeing as they have practically no live sports content at the moment to offer.