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Dana White not interested in smaller, socially-distanced crowd: ‘I won’t do a 50 percent arena’

For UFC President Dana White, when it comes to bringing the octagon back to arenas across the globe again, there are no half-measures.

Following UFC on ESPN 10 — the third consecutive UFC event to take place at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas — on Saturday night, White was asked for an update on what he feels needs to be done before his promotion resumes traveling as the world continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Although certain states have begun to loosen restrictions on public gatherings, sports leagues are still struggling to figure out how to hold events without the presence of a live audience.

“This whole thing is state-by-state, or country-by-country,” White said at the UFC on ESPN 10 post-fight press conference. “I know that there’s a couple of states right now looking to open up for the fans, and we’re talking to them.”

After the cancelation or postponement of several events from March to early May, the UFC returned to action on May 9 with UFC 249, the first of three consecutive empty-arena events at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. The promotion then moved events to the UFC APEX on May 30 after receiving approval from the Nevada Athletic Commission.

With UFC shows typically having thousands of fans in attendance, it’s difficult to imagine how some venues might look with a limited crowd and how safe that scenario would be –even if proper social distancing was observed. White, though, isn’t interested in entertaining the notion, especially since he has the UFC APEX.

“Yeah, I won’t do that,” White said, when asked if he’d consider putting on shows with socially-distanced crowds. “I won’t do a 50-percent arena. I’ll just stay here. It makes more sense just to stay here.”

This past Saturday, a rugby match in Dunedin, New Zealand, took place with over 20,000 fans in attendance at Forsyth Barr Stadium. New Zealand has lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions, having not reported a new case of the virus in over 20 days.

The news was brought up to White at the press conference, and the exec was encouraged by the development, though he’s committed to a wait-and-see approach before making any bold declarations about when fans will be able to attend UFC events in the future.

“Let them do that for a while and see how it goes and see what happens,” White said. “Depending on which network you listen to...who the hell knows what’s going on? At least if some of these guys who were hit before we were, so they’re coming out of it before we are, they can see how this thing plays out, and then we’ll go from there.”

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