- MMA columnist for ESPN.com
- Analyst for “MMA Live”
- Covered MMA for Las Vegas Sun
LAS VEGAS — UFC president Dana White is so committed to resuming operations in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, he has secured a private island to host events.
White told ESPN on Monday he has secured a location in the U.S. to host UFC 249 on April 18, which will be headlined by an interim title fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje and consist of 12 fights overall, and that the location will also host weekly fights for at least the next two months.
Additionally, White said he has started work on an undisclosed island, where he could conceivably book fights for international athletes who can’t come into the U.S.
“I’ll tell you this, I’m this close to getting a deal done,” White said. “So, this place where this fight is going to be on April 18, I have locked up for two months, so I’m going to continue to pump fights out. I also secured an island. I’ve got an island. The infrastructure is being built right now. We’re going to do all of our international fights on this island.
“So, when we do this fight April 18, international and in the United States, we’re going to start cranking. The UFC will be back up and running, internationally and here in the States.”
The UFC was forced to postpone three events on March 21, March 28 and April 11 due to the coronavirus. Even as other leagues have remained shut down, White has been bullish the UFC will resume operations by its next pay-per-view event, UFC 249, which airs on ESPN+.
That event was supposed to feature undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov against Ferguson. However, Nurmagomedov was removed from the event when it became clear he would have trouble leaving his native Dagestan and re-entering the U.S., where he had held some of his camp.
White has not disclosed the location of his venue in the U.S, and he said he has no plans of doing so. The fights will be held without a live audience.
“Health and safety is something we worry about all the time, not just during the coronavirus,” White said. “Obviously, this has made our jobs a little tougher, but we’re going to do everything above and beyond to make sure everybody is safe, just we always do. A lot of things will be different.”
Asked specifically whether all athletes will be tested for COVID-19, White declined to go into details but said the promotion has taken all necessary precautions.
“I’m ready to get back,” White said. “You keep people in their houses for too long without entertainment, people are going to start losing their minds. And we need to start figuring out solutions. That’s what we’re doing. We’re going to keep everyone safe and we’re going to pull this thing off.”
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