JACKSONVILLE — UFC president Dana White nonetheless desires “Combat Island.”
He’s briefly settling for a peninsula.
UFC 249 will function the primary reside main sporting occasion to happen because the coronavirus pandemic shut down a lot of the nation almost two months in the past. The bouts Saturday evening in Jacksonville — the primary occasion is about for pay-per-view — are anticipated to attract a big viewing viewers contemplating the sports-craved nation has seemingly grown bored with replays and online game occasions.
There’s nothing digital in regards to the actuality of getting punched within the face.
“Proper now there isn’t a Olympics. There isn’t any Wimbledon. There isn’t any NBA drafts. No NFL drafts,” mentioned light-weight contender Tony Ferguson. “There isn’t any (expletive) tennis. There isn’t any soccer, hockey. There isn’t any baseball. This what we deliver to the desk, man, and we’re going on the market and do our greatest, and we’re going to preserve sports activities alive.”
Extra like deliver sports activities again to life.
Ferguson and fellow light-weight contender Justin Gaethje will headline the blended martial arts card behind closed doorways at Veterans Memorial Enviornment.
“That is going to deliver a way of normalcy to individuals,” Gaethje mentioned. “Proud to be part of it, you recognize the chance to encourage. Individuals have to be impressed proper now. They should not let themselves grow to be depressed, emotional as a result of they will’t management what’s going on proper now.
“We’ve obtained to experience it by, and so they have to be impressed in a means and we will do this. We’ve the chance.”
The UFC is returning after an involuntary eight-week break that upended White’s need to maintain combating amid the COVID-19 well being disaster. The sequence is holding three exhibits in eight days in a fan-free area in Florida, the place state officers deemed skilled sports activities with a nationwide viewers exempt from a stay-at-home order so long as “the placement is closed to most people.”
The UFC got here up with a 25-page doc to handle well being and security protocols. UFC executives and physicians consulted regulatory officers and out of doors consultants to develop its procedures, which embody testing everybody working the occasion.
These in attendance will, maybe even referees, must put on masks and gloves. The cage ground, inevitably sprinkled with sweat and blood, shall be disinfected often.
“It will be way more of an intimate scenario, as bizarre as that sounds,” Gaethje mentioned. “The followers are going to get to listen to the pictures once we land our pictures. They will hear the respiratory. They will hear the speaking from the coaches. … I can’t wait to look at this struggle when it’s over as a result of I do know that it can not disappoint.”
The undercard shall be broadcast on ESPN (eight p.m.), whose most up-to-date reside sports activities have been decreased to Korean baseball and cornhole.
Different fights on the cardboard embody:
• Henry Cejudo (15-2) will defend his UFC bantamweight champion towards former titleholder Dominick Cruz (22-2).
• Francis Ngannou (14-3) fights undefeated Jairzinho Rozenstruik (10-0) in a heavyweight bout.
• Jeremy Stephens (28-17) and Calvin Kattar (20-4) in a matchup of featherweight contenders.
• Former NFL defensive finish Greg Hardy (6-2) towards unbeaten Yorgan De Castro (5-0) in one other heavyweight bout.
• And Donald Cerrone (36-14) takes on Anthony Pettis (22-10) in a welterweight struggle.
UFC 249 was initially scheduled for April 18 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The subsequent two main occasions — UFC 250 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and UFC 251 in Perth, Australia — have already got been postponed due to the worldwide pandemic.
White, in the meantime, continues to work to attempt to stage worldwide bouts on a personal island.
Unbeaten light-weight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov initially was slated to struggle Ferguson for the light-weight title, however journey restrictions pressured Nurmagomedov to get replaced by Gaethje.
Ferguson and Gaethje will vie for the title of “interim light-weight champion.”
“You’ll be acknowledged because the No. 2 man on the earth,” Ferguson mentioned. “Khabib can’t struggle proper now, so these are the 2 baddest males on the planet on this weight class combating this weekend for the best to name themselves the very best after which finally problem Khabib.
“I believe we’re combating for the chance to symbolize America towards Khabib and that’s what I’m combating for.”
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