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Dana White: UFC 261 gets full crowd in Jacksonville, Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal 2 headlines

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UFC President Dana White on Monday announced the return of fans with no capacity limits to live events starting with UFC 261 next month in Jacksonville, Fla.

In a video, White said the UFC will return to the 15,000-seat VyStar Veteran’s Memorial Arena on April 24, less than one year after a trio of shows that marked the promotion’s return to live event production amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A trio of title fights is planned for the event; a welterweight title rematch between champ Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal; a flyweight title fight between champ Valentina Shevchenko and Jessica Andrade; and a strawweight title fight between champ Zhang Weili and ex-champ Rose Namajunas.

A request for comment to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees the state’s boxing commission, was not immediately returned.

White teased fans’ return earlier this month when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott rolled back pandemic restrictions on capacity that kept the promotion from holding an event in the state. Although the state’s athletic commission signaled its willingness to regulate an event, White said local governors were against it and pulled back from a plan to move UFC 260 to the Lone Star State.

As an end to the pandemic has appeared in reach with increases in vaccine distribution, and governments having modified or rolled back restrictions on crowds of people gathering, the promotion has inched toward hosting live crowds. With testing beforehand, a limited number of fans were able to attend UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi.

White has said as soon as the promotion was able to host fans, he would move forward with live events. It’s unknown at this time what safety protocols the promotion will put in place for UFC 261, though events over the past year have featured a robust testing and quarantining process. Several fighters have still tested positive for the virus prior to events, and some have even been ruled out on the same day. In response, the promotion has tightened safety restrictions.