While nearly the entire sports world has been shutting down in recent days due to coronavirus concerns, the UFC continued with an event on Saturday in Brazil (without spectactors). After the event, UFC president Dana White told SportsCenter that the UFC events would continue “unless there’s a total shutdown of the country.”
“The fans are all freakin’ out about that. Do not worry; Khabib versus Tony will happen.”@danawhite says only a “total shutdown of the country” would lead to fight cards like #UFC249 being canceled. (via @SportsCenter) pic.twitter.com/pliGtv4wc1
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 15, 2020
“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 said. “We’re gonna move on. These fights will happen. These guys will compete. We will find venues, and we will figure this thing out. I mean, the only thing that’s gonna stop us is a complete government shutdown, where everybody is confined to their homes.”
The UFC has understandably taken plenty of heat for the decision to keep things going while every other major sports organization has shut down activity amid the coronavirus outbreak (aside from the NFL offseason).
Finally, on Monday, White reportedly sent an email to all UFC employees saying that the next three UFC events have been postponed indefinitely: UFC on ESPN+ 29 (March 16), UFC on ESPN 8 (March 28), and UFC on ESPN+ 30 (April 11).
This weekend's UFC event, as well as 3/28 and 4/11, have been indefinitely postponed per an email from Dana White to all UFC employees. #UFC
— Michael Carroll (@MJCflipdascript) March 16, 2020
The UFC on ESPN+ 29 event was scheduled for London, while UFC on ESPN 8 (originally scheduled for Columbus) and UFC on ESPN+ 30 (originally scheduled for Portland) were scheduled to move from their original locations to Las Vegas. The UFC has also closed down its executive offices in Las Vegas, according to ESPN (and pretty much everything seems to be shutting down in Las Vegas now anyway).
Here’s an excerpt from White’s email to employees (via ESPN):
“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,” White wrote in the email, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN. “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.”
Now, while those three fights have been postponed, UFC 249 (lightweight title fight: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson) is still planned for April 18. That’s a pay-per-view event taking place in Brooklyn (Barclays Center), and White noted in the email how the event could be moved to another location. But with the way things are trending right now, it’s hard to see UFC 249 happening on the scheduled date.