UFC Postpones Next Three Events, Keeps UFC 249 On Schedule
The UFC has "postponed its next three events, the last of which was scheduled to take place on April 11," due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Brett Okamoto of ESPN.com. UFC President Dana White yesterday "alerted his entire staff of the decision via email." White indicated that the company was "prepared to do whatever it took to move forward with UFC Fight Night events on March 21, March 28 and April 11, but the White House's recommendation to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people made hosting events impossible." The first event scheduled after April 11 is the UFC 249 PPV set for Barclays Center on April 18 that "features a highly anticipated lightweight title fight" between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. White said that UFC "still plans to promote that event for now, either in New York or elsewhere." Okamoto noted UFC was "one of the last sports organizations in the world that had put off suspending play." The promotion "held a UFC Fight Night event on Saturday in Brasilia, Brazil, without fans in the arena." UFC's "original plan was to move the events to its Apex facility in Las Vegas," but those plans were "nixed last weekend when the Nevada State Athletic Commission temporarily suspended all combat sports in the state" (ESPN.com, 3/16). YAHOO SPORTS' Jack Baer noted UFC's decision will put the promotion "in line with nearly every other major sports league that has suspended its season or cancelled events, including the NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA, PGA Tour and several soccer leagues." The writing had "likely been on the wall for days before White made his decision" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/16). SPORTSNET.ca's Mike Johnston wrote UFC "held out as long as they could" (SPORTSNET.ca, 3/16).
A FIGHTER'S MENTALITY: ESPN's Zubin Mehenti last night wondered why UFC 249 is a go, while the "other ones right now are not going to happen." White said, "We’re going to follow these guidelines to not have more than 10 people in a room, and we’re hoping that this all clears up by April." He said of Nurmagomedov-Ferguson, "This fight is going to happen. No crowd, whatever it takes. Probably not even going to be in the United States. But this fight’s going to happen." White acknowledged there was some "blowback from the media" about the UFC's initial plans to hold all its scheduled events, but he said, "This is what we do. We put fights on every weekend. The fighters want to fight, the fans want to see it. I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from the fans and the fighters. These guys all want to continue, so we will" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/16).
WRESTLEMANIA ON THE MOVE: In Tampa, Joey Knight reports WrestleMania 36 will be "held as scheduled on April 5, but on a closed set" at the WWE's Performance Center in Orlando with "only 'essential personnel' allowed to attend." All ancillary events, "set to be held at various venues including Amalie Arena and the Tampa Convention Center in the week leading up to WrestleMania, are off." They included the WWE HOF induction ceremony and "at least two nationally televised weekly live productions" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/17). In Orlando, Jay Reddick notes the city has hosted WrestleMania twice before, in '08 and '17, "but never like this." The Performance Center has been WWE's "main training facility since it opened" in '13. It was "never intended as a performance space," but the company's various TV products "have aired from there during the past week" without fans (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/17).