UFC president Dana White was defiant in his stance that the organization’s show would go on despite widespread cancellations in the sports world.
But that changed Monday with the postponement of the next three events and the temporary closure of the UFC’s Las Vegas headquarters because of the coronavirus outbreak.
No venues had been announced for those three shows after White said two days ago that Saturday’s show in London, along with the March 28 and April 11 cards in Las Vegas, would not take place in those locations.
White said he would find venues for each card, then abandoned those plans Monday.
In a phone interview Monday, White indicated that the organization had made arrangements to have Saturday’s show at the FireLake Arena on tribal lands in Shawnee, Oklahoma. He said transportation had been arranged for fighters and essential staff.
But the dynamic shifted Monday afternoon when President Donald Trump announced new recommendations against gatherings of more than 10 people.
“You start doing the math with two fighters, a referee, three judges, cornermen and the athletic commission people and you’re already past 10,” White said.
He again vowed to ensure that the April 18 pay-per-view card headlined by a lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and champion Khabib Nurmagomedov goes on as scheduled.
That event had been scheduled for Brooklyn, New York, but local regulations most likely won’t allow it now.
Las Vegas was the backup plan before a Saturday vote of the Nevada Athletic Commission essentially shut down combat sports until March 25, when another vote is expected to extend that prohibition.
White said he now expects UFC 249 to take place outside the United States.
White also said he instructed employees at the organization’s southwest Las Vegas headquarters to work from home and that all UFC offices worldwide would be closed through at least March 31.
“We have a bunch of rock stars here,” White said. “We told all of our employees a few days ago they could work from home if they had any worries or concerns, and every single one of them wanted to be here.”
White also said that no layoffs are expected.
In a letter to employees, White said the organization would help any staffer or their family member secure medical attention if they experience symptoms of the coronavirus.
“We’ve been doing everything possible to stick to our live events schedule because the fighters want to fight, our employees want to work and the fans want to watch our sport,” White wrote in the internal memo. “As you’ve heard me say, I’ve been in the fight game for 20 years, and this is what we do — we find a way to keep our events going no matter what. If fighters miss weight, if fighters get hurt, or if states won’t regulate us, we figure out a way. But this is different. The whole world is being affected right now, and nothing is more important than the health and safety of you and your families.”