UFC president Dana White said he’s ‘a day or two away’ from completing a deal for a private island that he can hold fights on, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The news comes as UFC 249 will go on as planned, in a secret location.
This latest update comes as speculation over UFC 249 and the possibilities surrounding the April 18 event continued. Undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov last week confirmed he’s unable to leave Russia because of travel restrictions.
Khabib was scheduled to face Tony Ferguson (25-3) for his lightweight strap, in a fight that has previously been scheduled and cancelled for various reasons on four occasions.
However, White revealed yesterday evening that Justin Gaethje (21-2) will replace the Russian in a clash for the interim belt:
During an interview with TMZ Sports, Dana revealed that he’s set to keep his promise to hold fight events despite the current pandemic. In such a scenario, fighters would come to the island on private flights where they would be much more isolated than if events were held in cities or other locations.
However, it would be months before the actual fights could take place at that location. The 50-year-old said UFC 249 has a secret location, where he plans to hold fights every week for the next two months before the potential move to the island. Fighters and personnel will be thoroughly tested by a medical team before entering the facility.
Jessica Andrade vs Rose Namajunas 2 and Francis Ngannou vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik are just two fights scheduled to take place, as evidenced by the UFC’s updated card:
What next for Khabib and the title then?
In a Instagram post last week, Khabib said: “I understand everything and I’m definitely more upset than you to cancel the fight, probably like all others, I had many plans after the fight, but I can’t control it all.
The greatest countries and largest companies of our time are shocked by what is happening, everyday the situation changes unpredictably. But Khabib still has to fight, is that what you[‘re] saying? Take care of yourself and put yourself in my shoes.”
That he was in Russia when the travel restrictions were put in place drew criticism from Ferguson and Conor McGregor among others, but White said people should stop blaming Khabib for the latest cancellation as much of the situation was out of his control anyway.
In addition, Dana revealed in a separate interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that the winner of Gaethje-Ferguson will face Khabib for the belt, though they will probably have to wait until September at the earliest.