Even as virtually every other major sporting organization in the world is shutting down, the show must go on for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
On Saturday, UFC president Dana White revealed that the promotion will relocate its next three events due to recent developments in the coronavirus outbreak. That begins with UFC Fight Night 171, which was slated to take place at the O2 Arena in London on March 21. A recently announced travel ban to the U.K. and Ireland forced those plans to be altered.
"Obviously, things are changing by the hour," White said on ESPN. "This morning, they announced new travel restrictions for the U.K., so [the March 21 event] 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 undercard.”
Earlier on Saturday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission announced a ban on combat sports events in the state until a meeting on March 25. The promotion had recently announced plans to relocate UFC on ESPN 8 from Columbus, Ohio on March 28 and UFC Fight Night 172 in Portland, Ore., on April 11 to the UFC Apex.
"As of now, fights can't happen at the Apex here in Las Vegas,” White said. “So, we're working to find new locations, but the fights will go on; they will continue. We're not stopping.”
Meanwhile, White also addressed the status of UFC 249, which is headlined by a highly-anticipated lightweight title showdown between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y on April 18. With New York declaring a state of emergency and banning gatherings of more than 500 people, the UFC is working on a contingency plan for that event, as well.
"So, we had possibly a couple different venues for that fight, including Nevada," White said. "So, now the whole Nevada thing went down, so we're looking for another venue. I hope by [Sunday morning], I should have two venue options for that fight.
"That fight will happen. It will go on. The fans are all freaking out about that, do not worry. Khabib versus Tony will happen.”
The UFC was essentially the only game in town on Saturday. UFC Fight Night 170 went on as planned in Brasilia, Brasil, inside a venue where fans were not allowed to attend. Twelve bouts took place on the card, including a lightweight headliner where Charles Oliveira submitted Kevin Lee.
According to White, only something catastrophic will prevent the organization from moving forward with its planned itinerary.
"Unless there's a total shutdown of the country, where people can't leave their houses and things like that, these fights will happen,” he 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.”