The UFC will hit the pause button for the next few weeks with three shows being cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. But plans are still moving forward for a highly anticipated showdown between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson on April 18.
On Monday, the UFC was finally forced to pull the plug on upcoming cards on March 21, March 28 and April 11. In an interview with ESPN, UFC President Dana White said he made the decision after President Donald Trump issued recommendations that no gatherings should happen with more than 10 people for at least the next 15 days. The new guidelines were issued as the United States tries to slow the progress of the deadly disease that has claimed more than 6,500 lives worldwide.
White planned to move Saturday’s card from London, England to the Firelake Arena in Shawnee, Okla. He also opted to postpone the next two shows scheduled for March 28 and April 11 as well.
Despite those cancellations, White promises that plans for UFC 249 are still moving forward as scheduled for April 18, although it’s likely the card will move out of Brooklyn, N.Y. to a new location to be determined.
“We’re postponing the next three events, but Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib [Nurmagomedov], April 18 is still on and that will still happen,” White said on Monday. “We’re going to follow these guidelines to not have more than 10 people in a room and we’re hoping this all clears up by April.”
Nurmagomedov and Ferguson have been matched up four times previously, but the fight has fallen apart every time it has been scheduled. From injuries to weight cutting problems, the fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson has faced constant delays.
White says no matter what, he’s determined the fifth time will be the charm.
“This fight’s going to happen,” he said. “No crowd. Whatever it takes. Probably not even going to be in the United States, but this fight’s going to happen.”
White also addressed the UFC’s defiance to continue promoting fight cards during the global pandemic that has forced almost every major sports organization to cancel upcoming events or suspend an entire season in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“This is what we do,” White said. “We put fights on every weekend. The fighters want to fight. The fans want to see it. I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from the fans and the fighters. These guys all want to continue. So we will.”
While the UFC has faced immense criticism for even attempting to soldier on with events prior to Monday’s decision to cancel the next three cards, White definitely isn’t losing any sleep over it.
“Obviously, we’ve had some blowback from the media that covers us, but everybody’s going to have their opinions,” White said. “We’re going to continue on.
“These three fights are postponed, they will still happen and Khabib-Tony is on for the original date. We’re going to keep fighting.”