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‘I don’t need a crowd’ - Dana White isn’t expecting a UFC live gate for ‘a very long time’

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UFC president Dana White foresees an entirely different experience for live events because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It may take a while before a large crowd once again gathers to watch a UFC event in person. According to Zeke Emanuel, a bioethicist and brother of UFC co-owner Ari, that likely won’t happen until the fall of 2021, at the earliest.

It is a new normal that Dana White is starting to embrace. But according to the UFC president, having a live audience doesn’t really matter that much.

“Obviously, the world is going to be different and I’ve been thinking far ahead into the future,” White told Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports. “I don’t expect to have a gate for a very long time. I’ve already thrown that out the window. You have to look at all the different things.

“People think that I don’t take this seriously because I want to come back so fast and all this other stuff.

“It’s not that I don’t take it seriously. I take it very seriously,” he clarified. “I don’t plan on having a gate for a very long time. … I’m already thinking way ahead of these types of things. All I need to worry about is making sure everybody is safe and I can put on these events. I don’t need a crowd.”

With four events already lined up for May, the UFC is looking to resume operations. From his end, White once again assured that the company is taking steps to do things the right way.

He is also willing to be the first major sports figure to show that it can be done.

“At some point, we have to figure out, ‘How do we get things back to normal,’ but do it in a really safe way,” he said. “The only way to find out is to get out there and start doing it. We’re going to spend a lot of money. It’s not going to be cheap. It’s going to be expensive.

“You’re worried about the health and safety of everybody: The health and safety of the fighters, the commission, the referees, my staff that’s going to be there. It’s not cheap. It’s expensive. It’s hard, but somebody’s got to take the first step and get out there.

“Everyone who has quarantined has a family. Everyone wants everyone to be safe,” he added. “It’s not like ‘Money means everything; let’s get out there and open it.’ Everybody wants to be safe and do it the right way.”

Compared to previous years, UFC used to rely heavily on PPV buys and ticket sales as their major sources of revenue. That isn’t the case these days, as they now make most of their money from contracted deals.

UFC 249 is planned to be their first event to take place. It is scheduled for May 9th in Jacksonville, Florida, and they plan to pump out back-to-back shows immediately after without a crowd. Losing gate numbers would cost them millions, but UFC can still reportedly earn around $750 million if they can complete their contracts and reach their event quota for the year.