At UFC 216 on Saturday night, Everlast sang “America the Beautiful” to open the pay-per-view portion of the event but that wasn’t the original plan.
According to UFC President Dana White, the Grammy Award-winning artist was chosen to perform because originally desired performer Jason Aldean, as well as several other country musicians, turned down the opportunity.
"His image was more important then coming back to Vegas and playing for the people who are his fans and who got shot watching him play," White told TMZ.
On Oct. 1, a mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas left 59 dead and at least 527 injured. When the attack began on the country music festival, it was Aldean on stage. White says that the UFC reached out to Aldean for him to perform at the event, which was dedicated to the memory of those who died in the attack and featured 1500 first responders and 15 survivors in the crowd at T-Mobile Arena. Instead, Aldean performed on Saturday Night Live on the evening.
“F—- you Jason Aldean. Stay out of Vegas,” added White.
The UFC boss also stated that the promotion reached out to several other country music stars but none of them accepted.
“Country music was attacked. Those were country music fans,” White continued. “Those are people who buy your albums and none of you country music people could sing the anthem in front of survivors and 1st responders?”
UFC 216 drew an announced crowd of 10,638 to the T-Mobile Arena for a gate of just under $678,000. In the card’s main event, Tony Ferguson’s submitted Kevin Lee in the third round to claim the UFC interim lightweight title. UFC 216 was co-headlined by UFC flyweight king Demetrious Johnson’s record-setting 11th consecutive title defense, as “Mighty Mouse” put challenger Ray Borg away in Round 5 with a spectacular armbar.