As other high-profile sport organizations have wrestled with the hard decision of postponing their leagues or cancelling their seasons to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus, UFC president Dana White is committed to having fights continue — even if it means doing so in empty arenas, or having to relocate venues.
“Unless there’s a total shutdown of the country, where people can’t leave their houses and things like that, these fights will happen,” White told ESPN on Saturday night after UFC Brasilia, which took place without any fans in attendance.
Currently, UFC hasn’t cancelled any competitions — even those that were scheduled in areas where large gatherings have been banned as a result of the novel coronavirus.
Instead, White has moved events to new venues, a practice that appears likely to continue given the ever-evolving nature of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Obviously things are changing by the hour,” White said. “This morning, they announced new travel restrictions for the U.K., so the fight obviously can’t continue in London. But the fight will go on. We’re working on finding a new venue, likely in the United States, and I have my matchmakers literally working right now to put together the under card.
“So the bottom line is, that fight is happening, and that main event will go on.”
The travel restrictions White is referring to were imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump, whose administration announced on Saturday that it would be expanding its European travel restrictions to include the United Kingdom and Ireland as well.
The ban on foreign nationals entering the U.S. from Britain or Ireland will begin at midnight on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence said during the announcement.
Such a restriction which would affect UFC fighters’ ability to travel from UFC’s London event, which had been slated to take place at O2 Arena March 21, back to the U.S.
White is also exploring a new location for events that were going to take place at the UFC Apex complex in Las Vegas on March 28 and April 11 — which had already been relocated once before, from Columbus and Portland, respectively.
Hosting the fight in Vegas became impossible as the state of Nevada navigates the COVID-19 outbreak. This week, Steve Sisolak, the governor of Nevada, issued a declaration of emergency and since then all events that would meet a 250-attendee threshold have been cancelled, including an extensive number of conventions and concerts.
“As of now, the fights can’t happen here at the Apex here in Las Vegas,” White said. “But we’re working to find new locations, but the fights will go on. They will continue. We’re not stopping. We will keep finding a way to put on the fights.”