The Ultimate Fighting Championship event in London is still scheduled to go ahead later this month despite the pandemic, but the MMA company has been forced to alter arrangements for this Saturday’s event in Brazil and the upcoming fight cards in Columbus and Portland.
Thursday was a black day for sports across the globe as leading brands such as the NBA and NHL joined top flight soccer leagues like La Liga and Serie A by going on temporary hiatus due to the Coronavirus.
Up until now combat sports had not been affected, but the UFC’s hectic schedule meant there was always a danger that some cards could fall foul to the ongoing pandemic.
As yet the company is still pressing on with the March 21 London card headlined by the important welterweight clash between former champion Tyron Woodley and rising British star Leon Edwards, but they have now been forced to make changes to three events set to take place over the next few weeks.
The UFC is in Brazil this weekend for a Fight Night card headlined by a lightweight showdown between Kevin Lee and Charles Oliveira, and although the event is still set to take place officials have confirmed that no fans will be allowed inside the venue on fight night, meaning all bouts will take place in front of thousands of empty seats.
A change of location has also been made for two more upcoming Fight Night cards.
The UFC was supposed to return to Columbus, Ohio on March 28 for a showdown of heavyweight heavy-hitters Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik, before heading to Portland, Oregon on April 11 for a card headline by heavyweight legend Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris, but both local governments have banned large gatherings for the foreseeable future so those cards have now been moved to the UFC APEX facility in Las Vegas in what could be a sign of things to come in the coming weeks.
“Both events will proceed with only essential personnel in attendance and without spectators,” reads a UFC statement.
“UFC is working directly with Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Bob Bennett on implementing a process to screen the competing athletes for the coronavirus to ensure their health and safety.
“These events are scheduled to be broadcast live on ESPN’s platforms in the U.S., and by UFC’s media partners around the world.
“We know many of our fans in Ohio and Oregon are disappointed, as are we. Ticket holders may seek a full refund at the point of purchase. We look forward to returning to Columbus and Portland at the earliest opportunity.”
Doesn't matter where the fight is at, we're still going to perform and put on the fun for the fans stuck at home. Happy that the @ufc found a way to make this happen at the UFC Apex. One of the most state of the art facilities in sports. Let’s go👊🏾 #areyounotentertained
— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) March 13, 2020