UFC fights to resume at secret location

LAS VEGAS • After revealing its fight card for its UFC 249 event yesterday, all that remains is the venue, a secret that the Ultimate Fighting Championship has been closely guarding.

The original location of New York was nixed owing to the coronavirus pandemic, but according to Dana White, the president of the world’s biggest mixed martial arts promotion, it has found the perfect place to safely stage fights.

The UFC 249 event on April 18 will be held “somewhere on earth”.

“I locked this venue up for two months,” he told TMZ Sports. “I have this venue for two months, and I’m setting up shop here.

“We’re going to be pumping out fights every week.”

White is also in the final stages of securing an as-yet-identified private island, enabling the UFC to get around global travel restrictions and lockdown measures put in place to slow down the spread of Covid-19 and allow its non-American fighters to also participate in contests.

“We’re getting the infrastructure put in now, so I’m going to start doing the international fights, too,” White said. “I won’t be able to get all of the international fighters into the United States so I’m going to start flying them off into the island and do international fights there.

“As of April 18, the UFC is back up and running.”

The crisis has resulted in over 1.27 million infected people and caused over 70,000 deaths worldwide.

The sport world has also been brought to a standstill since last month, but White has been steadfast in his determination for UFC to be the only one still running during the outbreak, albeit without fans.

To ensure the safety of all involved, from the fighters to staff to camera crew, he confirmed they will be regularly screened for the virus and undergo temperature checks.

Tweeting his excitement over what could be the first major sports event in a month, he wrote: “The fight is signed and is 100 per cent live on ESPN.”

The main event will feature No. 1 lightweight contender Tony Ferguson against fellow American Justin Gaethje, after undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov last week said he could not fly out of his home in Dagestan, Russia, owing to border controls.

While fans had been hoping to finally see Ferguson and Nurmagomedov square off in the octagon – the UFC has previously tried to match up the pair four times since 2015 without success – Gaethje is a more than credible replacement.

Regarded as one of the most exciting strikers in the division, 18 of his 21 wins have come by way of knockout. Styles make fights and Gaethje is a good contrast to Ferguson, who is known for his ground game but is also strong on his feet.

While Ferguson (25-3) is the favourite, having not lost in the UFC since 2012 and holds the record for the most consecutive wins at lightweight (12), Gaethje is ready to take on the challenge at short notice. He tweeted that he relished feeling “terrified”.

REUTERS

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