JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Kicks, punches and grunts echoed by way of the empty enviornment. Coaches, commentators and digicam clicks resonated like…
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Kicks, punches and grunts echoed by way of the empty enviornment. Coaches, commentators and digicam clicks resonated like by no means earlier than. Blood, sweat, swollen eyelids and face masks signaled the return of UFC, the primary main sporting occasion to renew for the reason that coronavirus shuttered a lot of the nation for practically two months.
UFC 249 ushered in a brand new search for sports activities, too. One with out followers and amid a number of security precautions.
It was undoubtedly completely different — two fighters adjusted their approaches due to what they heard announcers say — and a welcome reprieve for a sports-craved nation that went practically eight weeks with few stay occasions.
“We did this for you, to convey sports activities again,” fighter Tony Ferguson instructed followers following his loss in the principle occasion.
5 hours after President Trump congratulated UFC for restarting the sports activities world, Justin Gaethje surprised closely favored Ferguson (26-4) within the finale. Gaethje earned a TKO within the fifth and last spherical of the headliner that was deemed an interim light-weight title bout. It primarily provides Gaethje (22-2) the proper to combat titleholder Khabib Nurmagomedov subsequent. Nurmagomedov was unable to combat this weekend due to journey restrictions.
Gaethje flipped excessive of the cage and again in following the largest victory of his profession. He then screamed repeatedly.
“I need the actual one,” he stated as he threw down the interim belt. “There’s no different combat I need proper now.”
The stacked card noticed 33-year-old Henry Cejudo, with blood gushing from his brow and operating down his chest, defend his bantamweight title towards Dominick Cruz after which announce his retirement in the course of the octagon.
“I actually do wish to stroll away, however cash talks,” stated Cejudo, an Olympic gold medalist in 2008. “It will get stagnant. I wish to depart on high.”
The occasion additionally included heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou pummeling one other opponent, former NFL defensive finish Greg Hardy profitable for the sixth time in eight fights and former welterweight champion and fan favourite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone shedding his fourth straight.
Trump grabbed the highlight early. His taped message was performed throughout ESPN’s broadcast of the undercard.
“I wish to congratulate (UFC President) Dana White and the UFC,” Trump stated. “They’re going to have an enormous match. We find it irresistible. We predict it’s essential. Get the sports activities leagues again. Let’s play. Do the social distancing and no matter else it’s important to do. We want sports activities. We would like our sports activities again.”
UFC 249 was initially scheduled for April 18 in New York, however was postponed in hopes of serving to gradual the unfold of COVID-19.
The combined martial arts behemoth will maintain three reveals in eight days in Jacksonville, 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 the general public.
The UFC got here up with a 25-page doc to deal with well being and security protocols, procedures that led to Jacaré Souza testing optimistic for COVID-19 on Friday. His middleweight bout towards Uriah Corridor was canceled that night time. Souza’s two cornermen additionally examined as optimistic, the UFC stated.
All three males left the host lodge to self-isolate elsewhere, the place UFC’s medical staff will monitor their circumstances remotely and supply help with needed therapies.
The optimistic outcomes certainly elevated the concentrate on the occasion. Each different sport is watching carefully to see the way it performs out.
“The entire phrase is bizarre proper now. Every part’s bizarre. This occasion’s bizarre,” White stated. “It’s completely different. We stay in a distinct world than we did two months in the past. The underside line is the system labored. What you don’t wish to do is 2 days after the combat say, ‘Awe, Jacaré examined optimistic.’ So it labored. The system labored that we put in place.
“With out sounding like a jackass, we’re actually good at what we do. We’re very, excellent at what we do. We’ll simply get higher. The longer this goes, the higher the testing expertise’s going to get and the sooner it’s going to get. We’re going to show by subsequent Saturday that skilled sports activities can come again safely.”
White didn’t wish to postpone any fights. He tried to host the occasion on tribal land in California and nonetheless hopes to create a “Struggle Island” for future playing cards.
He settled for Jacksonville for not less than per week — with out followers and with social-distancing guidelines in place.
Judges and broadcasters labored from separate tables. Fighters, trainers, referees, judges, UFC employees and even outdoors media needed to bear COVID-19 testing to get inside Veterans Memorial Enviornment.
Lots of these in attendance Saturday wore masks and gloves, though a number of have been seemingly exempt from the mandate. Referees, ring announcer Bruce Buffer, different officers contained in the octagon and the ring woman have been unmasked. Play-by-play commentator Joe Rogan, who initially was alleged to interview winners remotely, ended up doing them contained in the octagon.
The cage ground was disinfected between bouts, and the padded components of the octagon have been wiped down between rounds.
With out followers, although, sounds that normally could be muted or fully drowned out stuffed the desolate enviornment. Fighters stated it affected their bouts. Hardy and Carla Esparza stated they altered their method after listening to commentators throughout early rounds.
“It’s onerous to evaluate with out the group,” Anthony Pettis stated after beating Cerrone in a wild welterweight combat. “Once I land stuff, I hear the group and comprehend it was a great one. This time, there was no crowd. I noticed his head pop, however there was nothing behind it, so it’s onerous to inform.”
Additionally on the cardboard:
— Cejudo (16-2) caught Cruz (22-3) with a proper knee to the face that despatched him reeling to the canvas. Cejudo then delivered practically a dozen unanswered blows earlier than the referee stopped it. Cruz argued it by no means ought to have been referred to as as a result of he was working to get again on his toes. Cejudo surprisingly ended his profession a couple of minutes later, saying he needs to spend extra time along with his household.
— Ngannou knocked out fellow heavyweight Jairzinho Rozenstruik in 20 seconds. Ngannou rushed Rozenstruik and delivered a flurry of blows that left Rozenstruik so woozy he had hassle entering into his slides lengthy after the combat ended. It was Ngannou’s fourth consecutive victory totaling lower than Three minutes within the octagon.
— Calvin Kattar (21-4) stopped Jeremy Stephens (28-18) within the second spherical after consecutive elbow blows, one standing and one other on the bottom.
— Hardy (6-2) celebrated a unanimous resolution over Yorgan De Castro (6-1) in a heavyweight bout.
— “Showtime” Pettis (23-10) beat Cerrone (36-15) in an unanimous resolution. Pettis and Cerrone final fought in 2013. Pettis received that one as effectively. Cerrone has dropped 4 in a row, together with losses to Conor McGregor, Gaethje and Ferguson.
— Aleksei “The Boa Constrictor” Oleinik (59-13-1) beat Fabricio Werdum (23-9-1) in a heavyweight bout that includes a pair of 42-year-olds. It was a cut up resolution that included extra toe-to-toe blows than floor grappling.
— Carla Esparza (16-6) edged Michelle “Karate Hottie” Waterson (17-8) in a cut up resolution. It was Esparza’s third straight victory within the straw-weight division.
— Vicente Luque (18-7-1) received for the seventh time in eight fights when he beat Niko Worth (14-4) in a massacre. The combat was dominated a TKO within the third spherical after Worth developed a nasty minimize above his proper eye. Luque was forward on all three playing cards when it was referred to as.
— Featherweight Bryce Mitchell (13-1) defeated fellow grappler Charles Rosa (12-4) in a unanimous resolution.
— Spann (18-5) prolonged his profitable streak to eight by beating veteran Sam Alvey (33-14) in a cut up resolution.
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