UFC 216 will go on as scheduled Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena as the first major sporting event on the Strip since the mass shooting that killed 58 people at the Route 91 Harvest festival last weekend.
It won’t be business as usual for the Las Vegas-based mixed martial arts organization, according to UFC president Dana White.
“This event will be like nothing you’ve ever seen in the UFC,” White told ESPN.com late Friday.
The organization plans to make UFC 216 a celebration of the city and in particular, the heroes and victims of the tragedy.
White said more than 1,500 free tickets will be given to first responders around the valley.
According to UFC officials, the 100-level tickets have been distributed to the local law enforcement agencies.
They will also get food and beverage vouchers courtesy of the arena and have t-shirts on their seats upon arrival.
An acknowledgement of their heroism is planned for the pay-per-view broadcast.
White also expects several victims in attendance for Saturday’s card, which is headlined by an interim lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and Las Vegan Kevin Lee.
“I’ve never been in a position where I don’t even know how many people are going to show up,” White said. “People bought tickets, but were flying in from other places. Did they cancel their flight? A lot of these airlines are saying you can use the ticket anytime you want if you don’t want to come to Vegas.
“It might just be me, the media and 1,500 first responders (at the event) and I don’t care. This isn’t an event about the gate or about any of that stuff. This is about the families, the victims, Las Vegas, and not bowing down to cowards.”
White announced Monday the UFC would donate $1 million to the victims’ families. Several other businesses have followed suit.
The “Vegas Strong” UFC t-shirts that will be distributed at the event are also available for purchase through the UFC website with 100 percent of the proceeds going to a fund to help those affected by the tragedy.