After a complete unwillingness to join other major sports leagues and organizations in cancelling events/seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic, the UFC finally caved in and postponed its next three Fight Night shows from March 21st-April 11th.
Just how far was the UFC willing to go to keep at least this weekend’s card alive? Well, I’ll let Dana White explain in his latest interview on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
“We were ready to go on Saturday. We’re ready to go live on ESPN on Saturday night from FireLake Arena, [from an] Indian Reservation in Oklahoma City,” White said. “We have the card, we have the fighters, we have everything, but the President just spoke to the country and basically said no.
“It started at 50 people in a room, which made it difficult,” he continued. “We complied, we took all the fans out and we made sure that there was as few production people in the room as possible. We pulled it off last Saturday [at UFC Brasilia]. Now they’re saying there should be no more than 10 in a room, and that’s just impossible—we can’t do it. We’ve complied with everything that the government and these doctors have said to do, and we have no choice now but to postpone these fights.”
The March 21st show was set for London, United Kingdom before government restrictions made that card an impossibility. They had sought to hold the event in the United States, with a hastily put together undercard after 11 of 13 bouts (main event of Leon Edwards vs. Tyron Woodley) were scratched from the lineup. President Trump’s newly announced guidelines to bar gatherings of more than 10 people proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, apparently. It’s not quite a government shutdown, but close enough.
White also insists that UFC 249: Khabib vs. Ferguson will proceed as scheduled on April 18th, but that it’s “probably not even going to be in the United States.” The event was slotted for Barclays Center in New York City, which is now the epicenter for the US outbreak based on overall number of positive cases.
In case you’re wondering, ESPN did not ask White if fighters who are no longer scheduled to compete will be compensated.