Will MMA be the first sport to take place live after the quartantine?
They're back! UFC 249 expected to return to Jacksonville on May 9, 13, and 16
UFC President Dana White had to cancel UFC 249 that was scheduled to take place on April 18 in Brooklyn due to COVID-19. Now, he's poised to help sports return with three events to start on May 9 from Jacksonville with no fans.
White chose Jacksonville because the state of Florida has deemed "professional sports and media production with a national audience" essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WWE and All Elite Wrestling took advantage by holding taped and lived events in small venues with no fans. But let's face it. Those are scripted shows and not real sports. Now White is primed to show the sports world that an event can be held successfully without fans during a pandemic.
The fight card is set for May 9 with 11 fights. There are also expected to be matches on May 13 and May 16, but they haven't been set.
UFC 249 card on May 9
* Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje
* Henry Cejudo vs. Dominick Cruz
* Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
* Jeremy Stephens vs. Calvin Kattar
* Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis
* Greg Hardy vs. Yorgan De Castro
* Alexsei Oleinik vs. Fabricio Werdum
* Carla Esparza vs. Michelle Waterson
* Jacare Souza vs. Uriah Hall
* Vicente Luque vs. Niko Price
* Charles Rosa vs. Bryce Mitchell
The headline fight will be between an interim lightweight championship Tony Ferguson (25-3) and Justin Gaethje (21-2). There were also be a bantamweight tight fight between champion Henry Cejudo (15-2) and Dominick Cruz (22-2).
The preliminary bouts will be simulcast on ESPN, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes beginning at 6:30pmET. The pay-per-view main card will be broadcast on ESPN+ at 10pmET.
The winner of the Ferguson/Gaethje fight is expected to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov, the undisputed lightweight champion. Nurmagomendov, a native of Dagestan, can't make the card due to travel restrictions associated with the pandemic.
The NFL Draft was a success because they were able to pull off huge ratings and get through very few glitches in a virtual draft. If White can pull this thing off and keep everybody safe, he can set the standard for the major team sports to return in some form or fashion.