UFC president Dana White has vowed for weeks that he would stage UFC 249 on April 18 despite the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, White announced that Tony Ferguson would meet Justin Gaethje in the main event of that show for the interim lightweight title.
The UFC also announced a full card, which includes a heavyweight bout between Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik and a rematch between former strawweight champions Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade.
Yahoo Sports attempts to answer some of the many questions about the UFC’s plans.
Where will UFC 249 be held?
UFC officials declined to identify the venue to Yahoo Sports, but The New York Times reported it would be held at Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lemoore, California. UFC officials refused to confirm the Times report. The resort is located on Tachi-Yokut tribal land so California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shelter-in-place order doesn’t apply.
White said he’s “going to set up shop” at this venue for four weeks. Will fighters from all four shows be there at the same time?
No. Only fighters who are on that weekend’s card will be on site. When the event is over, they will return home and the new fighters will come in, as in a normal fight week.
Will the public be allowed to attend the fights?
No. For the foreseeable future, UFC fights will be held with no fans permitted.
Will UFC 249 be free on ESPN?
It will be a pay-per-view card. The early preliminaries will stream on ESPN+. The preliminaries will be on ESPN and at 10 p.m. ET, the main card will be on pay-per-view at a cost of $64.99.
How will fighters work out during fight week, when they have to cut weight?
The UFC is working to put a treadmill in every fighter’s room at the resort and also to bring portable saunas on site for those who wish to use them.
There will also be an outdoor running track built for fighters to run on if they choose.
Will there be non-UFC personnel, like hotel employees, on site?
The UFC is taking over the entire facility where the event will be held (presumably Tachi Palace). Anyone inside the venue, including the property’s employees, will be given advanced medical screening.
There will be a restaurant open, so there will be cooks and kitchen staff to facilitate that. There will be housekeeping staff, but the housekeepers won’t be given access to rooms and won’t touch door knobs once someone checks into a room.
If a person wants new towels, for instance, there will be a basket provided. The old towels will be placed into the basket and then put outside the door of the room. A housekeeper will pick up the basket, bring fresh towels, and have the others washed.
Will there be a regulatory body in charge of the event?
Details are still being worked out. The UFC has self-regulated in the past and could choose to do so again. Events on tribal land can be regulated by a state athletic commission, and that is not prohibited by Association of Boxing Commission rules.
However, the California State Athletic Commission has already said it won’t regulate it, but another state could potentially fill that role.
It’s likely, though not finalized, that the UFC will self-regulate and appoint the referees and judges.
Will there be media at the fights?
Yes. There will be a small number of media allowed to attend.
How is the UFC responding to coronavirus concerns?
Everyone on site will be subject to advanced medical screening. There will be a Level 1 trauma center available on fight nights for any fighters who need to be taken to a hospital after their bouts.
The UFC will assign twice the normal number of doctors to work the event.
Because the UFC will take over the entire property, it will be able to segregate people to keep the groups small. So there will never be a group of more than 10 people in the same room at any point.
They will be encouraged to follow the same social distancing practices as all Americans are being asked to do.
Will the announcers be cageside?
That is still being determined, but it is likely they will be in the room where the fights are held but not directly against the Octagon, as is usually the case.
What if a fighter is concerned about his/her health and doesn't want to fight during the pandemic?
White has said repeatedly that he won’t force anyone to compete. So if a fighter has concerns, they have the option to decline. The UFC announced a full card on Monday for UFC 249 and all of those fighters have signed to compete.
UFC employees also have the option to continue to work from home and not travel to the venue.
White said something about fights on an island. Is that happening?
Yes. Plans are being made for fights to be held on an island, but the next several shows are going to be at the same venue in the U.S., presumably Tachi Palace. This is being done because it is difficult to get fighters from outside the U.S. into the country.
By having an island, fighters from outside the U.S. can compete and don’t have to go through U.S. customs.
Those fights will come later, after the first series of fights at the U.S. venue.
The UFC declined to identify the location of the island.
How safe is this all going to be?
Well, there are no guarantees, but one UFC source said, “This will be safer than going to Costco, I promise you that.”
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