JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) – UFC President Dana White still wants ‘Fight Island’.
He temporarily settles for a peninsula – and had to cancel a fight after a hunter was found positive for the coronavirus.
UFC 249 will serve as the first major sporting event to take place since the pandemic closed much of the country nearly two months ago. Saturday night’s fights in Jacksonville – the main event is scheduled for pay-per-view – are expected to attract large viewing audiences as the nation longing for sports is seemingly fed up with reruns and video game events.
There is nothing virtual about the reality of being slapped in the face.
“There are no Olympic Games at the moment. There is no Wimbledon. There are no NBA concepts. Not an NFL tour, ”said lightweight contender Tony Ferguson. “There is no (vigorous) tennis. There is no football, hockey. There is no baseball. We bring this to the table man and we go out and do our best and we keep sports alive. ‘
More like bringing sport back to life.
Ferguson (25-3) and co-lightweight contender Justin Gaethje (21-2) will headline the mixed martial arts chart behind closed doors at Veterans Memorial Arena.
“This will make people feel normal,” said Gaethje. “Proud to be part of it, you know the opportunity to inspire. People need to be inspired now. They don’t have to get depressed or emotional because they have no control over what’s going on right now.
“We have to drive through it, and they have to be inspired in a way and we can do that. We have the opportunity. ‘
Jacaré Souza, tested positive on Friday. His middleweight bout against Uriah Hall was called off. Souza’s two Cornermen also tested positive, the UFC said in a statement.
“All three men have left the host hotel and will isolate themselves outside the premises, where the UFC medical team will monitor their conditions remotely and provide assistance with any necessary treatment,” said the UFC.
The UFC returns after an involuntary eight-week hiatus that messed up White’s desire to keep fighting amid the COVID-19 health crisis. The series hosts three shows in a fanless arena in Florida in eight days, where state officials exempt professional sports with a national audience from a home stay as long as the venue is closed to the general public. ”
The UFC released a 25-page document to address health and safety protocols. UFC executives and physicians have consulted regulatory officials and outside experts to develop the procedures, including testing everyone working on the event.
Those present, perhaps even referees, will have to wear masks and gloves. The cage floor, inevitably sprinkled with sweat and blood, is regularly disinfected.
“It’s going to be a much more intimate situation, strange as it may sound,” said Gaethje. “The fans hear the shots when we land our shots. They are going to hear the breath. They will hear the conversation from the coaches. … I can’t wait to see this fight when it’s over, because I know it can’t disappoint. ”
The undercard is broadcast on ESPN, with the most recent live sports reduced to Korean baseball and cornhole.
Other battles on the map include:
—Henry Cejudo (15-2) will defend his UFC bantamweight champion against former title holder Dominick Cruz (22-2).
– Francis Ngannou (14-3) fights undefeated Jairzinho Rozenstruik (10-0) in a heavyweight match.
—Jeremy Stephens (28-17) and Calvin Kattar (20-4) in a match of featherweight contenders.
– Former NFL defensive finish Greg Hardy (6-2) against unbeaten Yorgan De Castro (5-0) in another heavyweight fight.
—And Donald Cerrone (36-14) will face Anthony Pettis (22-10) in a welterweight fight.
UFC 249 was originally scheduled for April 18 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The next two major events – UFC 250 in Sao Paulo, Brazil and UFC 251 in Perth, Australia – have already been postponed due to the global pandemic.
White, meanwhile, continues to organize international competitions on a private island.
Unbeaten lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov initially planned to fight Ferguson for the lightweight title, but travel restrictions forced Nurmagomedov to be replaced by Gaethje.
Ferguson and Gaethje compete for the title of ‘interim lightweight champion’.
“You are recognized as the number 2 man in the world,” said Ferguson. “Khabib is currently unable to fight, so these are the two worst men in the world in this weight class who are fighting this weekend for the right to call themselves the best and ultimately challenge Khabib.
“I think we are fighting for the opportunity to represent America against Khabib and I am fighting for that.”