The New York State Athletic Commission on Wednesday put an end to any notion UFC 249 will be held at Barclays Center on April 18, but UFC president Dana White vowed the show will go on at a different venue.
Unbeaten lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) is set to defend his title against Tony Ferguson (25-3) in one of the most anticipated MMA events of the year.
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A sellout crowd was expected at Barclays Center, but the NYSAC informed the UFC the event cannot be held in New York because of concerns over the coronavirus.
“They’ll be fighting, but not in New York,” White told The Post. “I will get it figured out. I love the city of New York and I want to come back as soon as possible. But life is going to have to get back to normal.”
White has floated the idea of holding the Khabib-Ferguson bout on a reservation in Oklahoma, but nothing is definite.
The NYSAC said in a statement it informed the UFC it could not hold its event in New York “out of an abundance of caution and in line with recent guidance issued by the [Centers for] Disease Control and New York State.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued a statewide work-from-home order to fight the outbreak and there are reports Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center could be shut down for months.
White was not critical of the NYSAC’s decision, noting the impact concerns regarding the coronavirus have had in his hometown of Las Vegas.
“The strip is going black tonight,” White said. “It’s going to be dark. That’s insane. Can you imagine what a tough decision it was for the governor of Nevada to pull the plug on the casinos? This city lives off the casinos. That’s the way it works. People are making tough choices and doing what’s right to figure out how to solve this problem. It’s about solving problems.”
White had earlier vowed to continue the UFC’s schedule in the midst of the pandemic. “UFC Fight Night” was held without a live audience in Brazil on Saturday, and there were initial plans to stage future fights without a live audience at the UFC’s Apex Center in Las Vegas, but the Nevada Athletic Commission suspended all combat sports, prompting the postponement of UFC events scheduled for March 21, March 28 and April 11.
Now New York has closed its doors to UFC 249.
“I think the state of New York has done a great job with what they’re doing and I think Nevada has done a great job,” White said. “Everybody is doing a good job dealing with this thing day by day. “We’re the only combat sports [organisation] in history to provide our fighters with health care,” White said.
“We were taking care of our guys and being crazy about health and safety long before the coronavirus.”
“Fifteen days ago the world was perfect. The economy was booming; the market was through the roof, real estate was great. The world was perfect 15 days ago. This is just one of those things that’s happening. We’re going to have to deal with it. Instead of panicking, freaking out and buying up all the toilet paper on Earth, people need to calm down, stop panicking and let’s start figuring out ways to fix this.”
White said that wherever the Khabib-Ferguson bout is held, all fighters and personnel will be tested for the coronavirus.
This article originally appeared on the NY Post and was reproduced with permission.
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