White spoke with ESPN on Friday on an Instagram Live session, where he explained the upcoming plans for future events. First, he confirmed that the May 9 UFC 249 card is proceeding as scheduled, and announced the lineup which is almost identical to the one discussed on April 15.
Headlining the event is an interim lightweight title bout between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje. White was ecstatic about this fight, saying, “Ferguson vs. Gaethje is probably one of the most violent fights you could ever make.”
One significant change to the proposed bout order from before is that Amanda Nunes will no longer be facing Felicia Spencer on this event, thereby confirming Nunes’ withdrawal from the event due to the lack of a full training camp. Also, in a few minor positional changes, Greg Hardy vs. Yorgan De Castro will open up the pay-per-view portion of the card. Headlining the prelims is a rematch between Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone. Finally, Ryan Spann will meet Sam Alvey at light heavyweight to kick off the prelims.
While the UFC head reaffirmed it will take place in Florida, he was not willing to say exactly where. Instead, he likened the production of the show to that of UFC Fight Night 170 in Brasilia, Brazil, where the show was closed to the public. The standard features of any fight card will be intact, including the weigh-in ceremony and much of the fight week. The media aspect may be different, as only 10 media members will be allowed to cover it live, so Fight Week will likely look different for these events.
The prelims for UFC 249 will air on ESPN and ESPN+, while the main card will be available via PPV. While this card is still going to be PPV, three more that White has announced will not be. The UFC will be putting on events on May 13 -- a Wednesday -- as well as May 16, and then one more on May 23. The first two will be held in the same venue as UFC 249, which will take place in Jacksonville, Florida, at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. White kept the location of the third close to the vest, but also admitted that it would not be held on “Fight Island.” All three of those cards will air on ESPN.
Further elaborating on “Fight Island,” the UFC president once against reiterated that it is currently being built. He explained, “We really are putting an Octagon on the beach. There will be training facilities there, hotels…all the infrastructure is going to be built to put on fights there.”
While the island created for combat will not be fully operational until June, it is not a permanent solution. The purpose for “Fight Island” is largely for international fighters, claims White. “We can’t get people all over the world into the United States right now,” he remarked, and that with the island, they will be able to bring in international fighters to compete. There will be no fans allowed to attend any “Fight Island” show, and once the coronavirus pandemic has abated, "Fight Island" will become a footnote in the UFC's eventful history.
White was cautious to spell out exactly the measures that the promotion is taking to ensure the safety and security of all those involved in these events. He instead stated, “We’re gonna spend a lot of money to make sure people are safe…we’re gonna do everything we can to make sure everybody’s safe.” Deflecting Brett Okamoto’s question about the specifics, White restated that the company will do everything in its power to keep the fighters, commissioners, employees and the like safe.
There is currently a plan in the works to get the UFC back into Las Vegas, as it originally intended on airing cards from the UFC Apex. The governor of Nevada shut that down, as did the commission, so the UFC is looking to explain to the officials why it can put on a show safely. “We have a whole comprehensive plan, a 30-page plan we sent to the governor of Nevada,” White said. This lengthy document would not simply detail how the organization would put on fight cards, but also how it would operate its offices and headquarters in the city.
All of this information was positive to White, who is confident that the UFC train will get rolling again very soon.
“We should be back on schedule by the end of June. Our full schedule will be rolling again starting May 9,” he declared. This schedule would also include the UFC’s standard pay-per-view schedule, as there was no PPV card held in April. White said, “We’re gonna catch up to the [pay-per-view] schedule."
White concluded the interview after being asked about how long the UFC will hold crowdless events. He planned to bring them back “when everything starts to go back to normal,” while expanding on that by saying, “I’m not in a big hurry to get fans back into an arena.” The UFC Brasilia card a solid proof of concept in his eyes, White is confident that the UFC can put on a fight card without fans safely. “I know you can do this safely, right now with no fans, we did it in Brazil. We did it in Brazil, we have a really good plan in place,” he claimed. “I know we can do it.”