Cue the Mortal Kombat music, ladies and gentlemen, Dana White is on the verge of securing a private island on which to hold fights.
“I’ve got an island,” the UFC president told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. “The infrastructure is being built right now. We’re going to do all of our international fights on this island… We’re getting back into our regular schedule.”
White announced Monday that a Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje interim lightweight title fight would headline UFC 249 on April 18 at a yet-to-be-announced venue somewhere in the United States. That matchup was put together on short notice because current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is in Russia, which had closed its borders due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re going to go back and forth between the venue that I have here (in the U.S.) and the island,” said White, who expects to hold weekly events going forward with April 18 being the first.
White explained he has locked up the venue being used for UFC 249 for an additional two months, but is remaining extremely secretive about where exactly it’s located.
“There are a lot of creepy people out there and when they find out the location they start attacking the location and making phone calls so this keeps the creeps at bay,” White said. “Health and safety is a thing we worry about all the time, not just during the coronavirus, so obviously this has made our jobs a little tougher but we’re going to do everything above and beyond to make sure everybody’s safe that’s associated with this event just like we always do.”
Nearly every sports organization worldwide, save for the WWE, has stopped holding live events indefinitely, however White insisted that anyone at UFC 249 will be safer than they would be staying at home or going to the grocery store — although no fans will be permitted at the event.
“We’ve consulted with our doctor (Dr. Jeffrey Davidson) who has consulted with many other doctors,” White said. “The health and safety of not only the athletes, but the athletic commission that will be there, the referees and judges that will be there, my production staff that will be there – I’m gonna be there, I’ll be there too – we’re making sure that everybody’s taken care of.”
With White staying mum on the location, it’s unclear exactly which athletic commission he’s referring to that will oversee the event. He also said there will be drug testing of his athletes just like there would be at any event.
“We followed everything that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has said but at what point do you start to get back to normal? You keep people in their houses for too long with no entertainment, people are going to start losing their minds,” White added.
White explained the UFC will be responsible for bringing the competing fighters to the unnamed venue although “they won’t know where they’re headed to.”
Another wrinkle to holding events during these unprecedented times is ever since establishments began closing their doors due to public health concerns, most fighters have not had access to their regular gyms or training facilities. So how might that impact the quality of the fights at upcoming events?
“I don’t know,” White said. “It’s going to be interesting. That I’m not sure, but that’s something they need to do right now. That’s a reality of this situation. You need to figure out how to train. You can’t have a bunch of training partners. You have to have a [training partner] who has been screened and is healthy.”
The organization confirmed the entire UFC 249 fight card Monday night after the Ferguson-Gaethje announcement and if everything holds up it’s a stacked, 12-fight lineup with plenty of star power.
— Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje
— Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas
— Greg Hardy vs. Yorgan de Castro
— Vicente Luque vs. Niko Price
— Jeremy Stephens vs. Calvin Kattar
— Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
— Ronaldo Souza vs. Uriah Hall
— Alexander Hernandez vs. Omar Antonio Morales Ferrer
— Marlon Vera vs. Ray Borg
— Michael Johnson vs. Khama Worthy
— Sijara Eubanks vs. Sarah Moras
— Ryan Spann vs. Sam Alvey
“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. By far the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” White said of piecing UFC 249 together. “I’ve never had such a hard time making a fight and getting a venue and keeping everything together.”
When asked if there is anything that could happen between now and April 18 that could nix the event, White responded: “I would never say no. I don’t even know what is possible with this thing. If you had told me a month ago that Las Vegas would shut down and every casino would be closed for a month I would never believe that, so anything is possible but whatever obstacles pop up we will try to fix it.”