As the coronavirus pandemic throws the sporting world into a holding pattern, UFC president Dana White stressed the world’s premier fighting promotion is choosing to push ahead with upcoming events as much as possible. This while the NCAA has canceled the men’s and women’s basketball championships, the NBA has suspended the season and MLB have pushed back the start of their regular season.
“I talked to the president and the vice president,” White told ESPN’s SportsCenter of meetings with Donald Trump and Mike Pence. “They said be careful, be cautious, but live your life and stop panicking. Instead of panicking, we’re working with health officials and the government.”
Can’t get enough UFC? Subscribe to our podcast State of Combat with Brian Campbell where we break down everything you need to know in the Octagon with UFC Hall of Famer ‘Suga’ Rashad Evans.
Up next for the UFC is UFC Fight Night 170 from Ginasio Nilson Nelson in Brasilia, Brazil. After government declarations banning gatherings of more than 100 people, White confirmed previous reports the event will now take place in an empty arena with only fighters, cornermen, referees, judges, crew for the ESPN and ESPN+ broadcast and other necessary staff. The start time was also moved up two hours.
UFC Fight Night 171 from O2 Arena in London is next on March 21. England has yet to institute large scale restrictions on gatherings. As such, White said the event will “proceed as planned” with fans in attendance. That situation likely will remain fluid as things continue to develop and additional measures are put in place.
Ohio, one of the states currently most heavily affected by the virus, was set to host UFC on ESPN 8 on March 28. That event has seen a major change with White confirming the event will now be held at the UFC’s Apex in Las Vegas as they work with the Nevada State Athletic Commission on the details.
“We’re going to make sure that two healthy athletes are competing and we’re good to go,” White told ESPN when pressed on how he intends to keep athletes safe as they compete in a close-contact physical sport. “We’ve talked to everybody about this. Every time we put on an event, we always go overboard. In the over 25 years that the UFC has been around, there’s never been a death or serious injury.”
White did not speak to UFC 249, headlined by the long-awaited fight between lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson and scheduled for April 18 in Brooklyn. New York today put a ban in place for gatherings of 500 people or more, which will likely directly impact the event — and a fight that has already been canceled in four previous cases.