UFC 249 has a location, but where that is remains a secret.
UFC President Dana White on Monday told veteran combat sports journalist Kevin Iole that the April 18 pay-per-view will take place on its originally scheduled date, behind closed doors. Only the city and venue remain a mystery.
”I do, but I’m not ready to tell you yet,” White said during an Instagram Live chat when asked if he knows where the pay-per-view event is being held.
UFC 249 is headlined by a lightweight title fight between champ Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, one of the most anticipated fights in UFC history. The bout has been booked on four occasions and been canceled due to injuries and other last-second mishaps.
The promotion has already promoted one event behind closed doors when UFC Brasilia took place at the empty Ginasio Nilson Nelson, a concession forced by a governor’s order to cancel sporting events due to the coronavirus pandemic.
White sought to move the UFC’s next three events – originally scheduled for London, Columbus, Ohio, and Portland, Ore., respectively – to the promotion’s APEX arena in Las Vegas. But when the Nevada State Athletic Commission halted all events until March 25, the trio of shows were postponed.
On Monday, the NSAC announced the cancelation of a meeting on March 25 that was to present guidance on the continued regulation of events amid the pandemic, which has so far infected over 350,000 people and killed over 15,000 people worldwide. A request for comment to the commission on its ongoing COVID-19 plan went unreturned at the time of this writing.
Nurmagomedov’s camp has suggested Abu Dhabi as a location for the event. Meanwhile, the champ reportedly has relocated to Russia after training at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., a city recently subject to a statewide “shelter in place” policy to limit the spread of the virus.
White said Nurmagomedov’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, hasn’t been informed where the card is taking place.
An international location would present significant travel challenges for the promotion, which was unable to move fighters on the ill-fated UFC London card on short notice when the British government stepped in to limit large gatherings and sporting events. White said the logistics of transporting fighters and personnel to the April 18 event is a work in progress.
”Obviously, every time we put on an event every weekend, there’s all kinds of problems, logistically, and tons of different things happen,” he said. “We figure it out. That’s what we do. That’s the business we’re in. We’ve been doing it for 20 years. We’re the best at it. That fight will happen on that date, on pay-per-view, and the whole world will get to watch it.”
White repeatedly has downplayed the effect of the coronavirus on the promotion’s plans, attacking journalists who raised public health concerns over the spread of the virus as the “weakest, wimpiest people on earth.” He previously said the promotion has worked with public health officials and doctors to guarantee the safety of participants at upcoming events, though details on the measures taken have been scarce beyond taking the temperature of those entering the arena.
On Monday, he downplayed the ethical concerns of holding an event where the virus could be spread beyond the participants. Asked about the promotion’s need to continue promoting events during a public health emergency, he said the pandemic wasn’t out of the ordinary in the promotion’s history.
”Everyone that’s going to be involved in this thing is going to be involved because they want to be, not because they have to be or they have to do anything,” he said. “There’s not going to be any fans there. This is going to be a closed event. And believe me, we didn’t just start thinking about safety when the coronavirus popped up, OK? Health and safety, these are things that normal businesses that are out there right now don’t necessarily have to think of on a daily basis.
Health and safety is something we’ve been doing long before the coronavirus, and we’ll be doing it long after the coronavirus is gone. This is just normal (expletive) for us.”
White said he met with his staff more than one week ago and offered time off to anyone who felt uncomfortable working at the promotion’s offices. He said no one took him up, but many chose to work from home once area schools were shut down.
White gave his remarks after talking about the closure of the Las Vegas strip, ordered by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak in reaction to the rapid spread of the virus. Despite state and federal recommendations to stay indoors and avoid large gatherings, White indicated the coronavirus wouldn’t alter his lifestyle for very long.
”I’ve had a pretty good run,” he said. “If the coronavirus is what’s going to take me out, then so be it. There is one thing that’s guaranteed: we are all going to die. How, we don’t know, but there’s tons of people dying of heart disease, car accidents, the flu. If this is going to get me, what am I going to do.”