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Florida Governor defends decision to host UFC 249 amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Gov. Ron DeSantis backed his government’s decision to deem professional sports as “essential services.”

On Monday, May 4, Florida will commence Phase 1 of its plans to reopen the state, which includes restaurants and retail outlets working at limited capacity. Professional sports will also return to the state next weekend, after being deemed “essential” services by state officials.

Among the organizations that took advantage of Florida’s loosening regulations is the UFC, which is scheduled to host its upcoming Pay-Per-View event headlined by Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje next weekend in Jacksonville. Yet while Florida’s decision to host professional sports has been criticized by epidemiologists, politicians, and media alike, Governor Ron DeSantis defended the decision to reintroduce sports.

“There’s not going to be any fans but I think that [UFC 249] is going to be a good event for people,” Gov. DeSantis said during a recent press conference.

The governor added that sports such as the UFC and WWE help boost the state’s economy and that he is encouraging them to “invest in Florida.”

“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.”

As of Friday, Florida has 33, 690 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 1268 deaths. Overall, there are approximately 1.1 million confirmed cases across the United States and nearly 64,000 deaths. Yet even as the death toll continues to soar across the country, several states are initiating plans to reopen their local economies. Oklahoma, Georgia and Alaska are among some of the other states who have taken steps to lessen preventative measures.

Despite the worsening situation and continued spread of the disease, Gov. DeSantis suggested that fans may soon be welcomed back into stadiums for sports events.

“I do think if the trends are good as you get into June-July. I think there is a window to have some fans.”