UFC 249 Coronavirus

UFC 249 and other Events in Jeopardy Due to Coronavirus 

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So much for the only game in town. The UFC’s refusal to stop holding events amid the coronavirus outbreak had them scrambling to move entire fight cards at the last minute into their UFC APEX facility in Las Vegas. The facility holds the fight cards typically for Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series during the summer.  Saturday, however, reports came out that the Nevada Athletic Commission has suspended all combat sporting events indefinitely, thus putting an end to that rescue plan. 

On top of that, the UFC London card that was supposed to be headlined by a welterweight bout between Tyron Woodley and Leon Edwards on March 21 has been tentatively moved to a city in the United States yet to be announced.  That is, without Leon Edwards in the main event and with ten other fights having holy due to the European travel ban.  Several fighters, including Colby Covington, Rafael dos Anjos and Gilbert Burns, have all agreed to fight Woodley on less than one week’s notice, but no announcement has been made in terms of who will step in to replace Edwards

Other upcoming UFC events, such as the ones in Columbus, Ohio, and Portland, Oregon, on March 28 and April 11, respectively, were also expected to be moved into the UFC APEX. They are now also in limbo after the news of the Nevada Athletic Commission’s refusal to hold events was made public. 

At no point has the UFC announced that they are considering to cancel any scheduled events, but they are quickly running out of time and options to find venues and commissions willing to take on events during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The biggest upcoming UFC event that could also be in jeopardy is UFC 249, scheduled to take place on April 18 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. This event will be tentatively headlined by the much-anticipated bout between UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.

 

This matchup has been announced five times since 2015, and it has never taken place due to fighter injuries or botched weight cuts.

 

Each time the bout is canceled and re-announced, it takes on a much more significant meaning than the last, and fans have been salivating for it to happen finally. This time, with Nurmagomedov defending his lightweight championship, the stakes are through the roof. 

Sadly, yet another circumstance beyond the UFC’s control seems to be getting in the way of this dream matchup. With the state of New York declaring a state of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak, there has been a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people anywhere in the state. This likely means that UFC 249 is also currently without a venue, but the UFC has not made an official statement regarding the status of the card, having said only that no shows will be canceled and that the fight will go on, one way or another. 

If the fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson doesn’t take place on April 18 as scheduled, it will likely be put on the back burner until at least late summer because of the impending celebration of Ramadan during April and May. Nurmagomedov, a devout Muslim, has planned his entire career to fit around the holy month.

Due to the required fasting, he will not hold a training camp, much less accept a fight during or immediately following Ramadan, which starts on April 23 and goes through May 23 this year. For the UFC and fans alike, it would seem like the time to make this fight happen is now or never. Perhaps the fifth time will be the charm, but the COVID-19 pandemic has all MMA fans holding their breaths collectively.

 

-Leo Schauer – Franchise Sports Media

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