If you didn’t fully grasp just how desperate Dana White is to run UFC fights amid the coronavirus pandemic, you will now.
Not only is UFC 249 set to happen on April 18, but White says he is getting a private island so he can run fights every week, including with international fighters who currently cannot enter the US because of travel restrictions.
“I’m a day or two away from securing a private island. I have a private island that I’ve secured,” the UFC president told TMZ. “We’re getting the infrastructure put in now, so I’m gonna start doing the international fights too with international fighters. I won’t be able to get international fighters, all of them, into the US, so I have a private island. I’m gonna start flying them all into the private island and start doing international fights from there.
“So as of April 18, the UFC is back up and running.”
White has yet to disclose the location for UFC 249, though ESPN reported it would be somewhere on the West Coast. White says UFC is “setting up shop” at that first venue for two months and will be “pumping out fights every week” before moving on to the island. These events will not be open to fans.
Despite all the risks, White insists everybody involved will be safe.
“We have all of our own planes and everything,” White said. “Everybody’s gonna be pre-tested and tested. … We’re gonna make sure that 100-percent healthy athletes, healthy athletic-commission people, healthy judges, referees, my production people. Everybody there is gonna be healthy. We’re gonna make sure everybody’s gonna be safe before, during and after the fights.”
UFC cancelled several events but was determined to put on UFC 249, which was originally headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov defending the lightweight title against Tony Ferguson. Scheduled fights between the two had fallen through four times before for various reasons, and now Nurmagomedov is stuck in Russia. Justin Gaethje will fight Ferguson instead.
“We’ve been working on this since the world fell apart,” White said of UFC 249. “Every day when we would work on something, we’d wake up the next day and the world would change. So this is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do, ever.
“It’s not Khabib’s fault, it’s not anybody’s fault,” White added. “This is something you could never prepare for, plan for or even dream that any of this is possible. Las Vegas is shut down.”
But the UFC is open for business.
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