‘Gate Was Zero,’ but Dana White Says U.F.C. 249 Was a Success

Written by on May 10, 2020

At a information convention after a pay-per-view card, Dana White, the Final Preventing Championship president, normally strolls to the dais clutching a sheet of paper and reads out the occasion’s attendance and ticket income.

However U.F.C. 249 in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday night time wasn’t a traditional battle card. It landed there after the coronavirus pandemic compelled a postponement and a venue change. Alongside the best way, the U.F.C. needed to exchange one of many fighters in the principle occasion. And the battle card, the primary main North American professional sports activities competitors since mid-March, unfolded with out spectators, who have been barred from the sector below pointers meant to stop the unfold of Covid-19, the illness attributable to the virus.

Nonetheless, after Justin Gaethje beat Tony Ferguson to win the interim light-weight belt, White appeared on the postfight information convention as he at all times does, stat sheet in hand.

“Gate was zero. Attendance was zero,” he stated. “That’s a primary.”

However regardless of the hit to ticket income, White left Saturday’s occasion optimistic concerning the near-term future.The U.F.C. has two extra occasions scheduled for Jacksonville this week, on Wednesday and Saturday, and White is in search of clearance from the Nevada Athletic Fee to host fights on Might 23 on the U.F.C.’s Apex Middle in Las Vegas. He held up Saturday’s event as proof that below the suitable pointers, professional sports activities occasions may proceed safely.

“We are able to share what we realized right here, doing three occasions, with different sports activities leagues, who’re reaching out to us and asking,” White stated on the information convention.

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In late April, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the main U.S. infectious illness knowledgeable, stated in an interview with The New York Times that widespread testing with fast, dependable outcomes could be wanted if sports activities leagues have been to securely restart their seasons.

After Friday morning’s weigh-ins, the light-heavyweight Ronaldo Souza, a Brazilian fighter nicknamed Jacaré, examined optimistic for the coronavirus, the one optimistic check among the many 24 fighters who have been scheduled to compete. Two months in the past, Utah Jazz heart Rudy Gobert’s optimistic check prompted the N.B.A. to suspend its season, and spurred other leagues to follow suit. However on Saturday, the U.F.C. merely canceled Souza’s bout with Uriah Corridor and proceeded with the occasion.

Afterward, White conceded that when spreading 1,200 Covid-19 screenings throughout 300 personnel equivalent to fighters, officers, judges, cornermen, broadcast crew, ESPN workers and ringside workers, because the U.F.C. did final week, a couple of optimistic assessments have been inevitable. However he stated that the expertise with Souza, who was first examined on Wednesday, with a optimistic end result coming again on Friday, proved that the security measures have been working as designed.

“The system labored,” White stated.

Souza’s withdrawal was the second change to the U.F.C. 249 card. Ferguson was initially scheduled to face the light-weight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov on April 18 at Barclays Middle in Brooklyn. However in late March, because the coronavirus unfold in New York Metropolis, the New York State Athletic Fee dominated that U.F.C. 249 could not take place in the state.

By then the U.F.C. was scouting alternate venues, however a plan to host the bouts on tribal land in California collapsed when excessive ranges of management at Disney and ESPN, the U.F.C.’s broadcast accomplice, implored White to postpone the card. Because the seek for a brand new date and site continued, Nurmagomedov returned to his native Russia, and was marooned there by pandemic-related journey restrictions.

By the point the U.F.C. confirmed Jacksonville as U.F.C. 249’s host, Gaethje had changed Nurmagomedov in the principle occasion. Gaethje, a power-punching former faculty wrestler from Arizona, scored an upset win over Ferguson, a relentless veteran who had received his final 12 bouts.

PictureDana White, the U.F.C. president, put the championship belt on Justin Gaethje after his victory.
Credit score…Jasen Vinlove/USA As we speak Sports activities, through Reuters

From the opening horn, Gaethje outgunned Ferguson. Gaethje landed proper palms and left hooks with such pressure that between rounds his cornermen requested him to dial again the ability to enhance his accuracy and guard in opposition to early fatigue. Within the ultimate seconds of Spherical 2, Ferguson landed an uppercut that wobbled Gaethje, however the horn sounded earlier than he may observe up.

From there, Gaethje continued his assault, bloodying Ferguson’s face by Spherical 3, and touchdown a debilitating leg to the thigh within the fourth.

With 90 seconds remaining within the ultimate spherical, Gaethje landed a stiff jab that made Ferguson swoon. When he swooped in with a follow-up barrage, the referee, Herb Dean, stopped the battle.

“I put myself able to be right here,” Gaethje stated. “And I capitalized on it.”

For his half, Ferguson stated the swap in opponents harm his preparation. He instructed the in-ring interviewer, Joe Rogan, that he had skilled since November to face Nurmagomedov, a wrestling specialist, and had only some weeks to plan for Gaethje, who wins fights with energy punches.

“We ready for Khabib, not an excessive amount of for a striker,” Ferguson stated, including, “What are you able to do?”

The loss knocks Ferguson from the entrance of an extended line of contenders in search of to battle both of the light-weight division’s two largest attracts — Nurmagomedov or the wildly standard Conor McGregor. Ferguson and Nurmagomedov have been scheduled to battle one another 5 instances, with every bout ultimately canceled for causes starting from freakish accidents to a pandemic. After Saturday, White stated the U.F.C. didn’t plan to match them a sixth time.

In mid-January, earlier than the Covid-19 pandemic and after McGregor ended an 18-month layoff with a 40-second blowout win over Donald Cerrone, White stated a McGregor-Nurmagomedov rematch, probably in a soccer stadium, would almost definitely occur this yr. Their first bout ended with a submission win for Nurmagomedov and a postfight brawl that earned each fighters suspensions. The brawl additionally made a second bout a straightforward promote.

However Gaethje’s win, and the interim title, put him able to problem Nurmagomedov subsequent.


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