The UFC is suspending its next three events – UFC Fight Night 171, UFC on ESPN: Ngannou vs. Rozenstruik, and UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Harris, in response to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus.
This weekend's UFC event, as well as 3/28 and 4/11, have been indefinitely postponed per an email from Dana White to all UFC employees. #UFC
— Michael Carroll (@MJCflipdascript) March 16, 2020
The UFC held last Saturday’s event, UFC Fight Night: Lee vs. Oliveira, in an empty arena at the UFC Apex Centre in order to try and avoid spreading the contagion. But even when held with empty arenas, the virus still poses a threat because of the involvement of ancillary staff. This is alongside the possibility of spreading between the fighters themselves.
Staph infections are not an uncommon occurrence in MMA, due to the toll that training camps alongside dehydrating for weight can take on the human immune system. Fighters could similarly be at greater risk from COVID-19 in the run-up to and during fight night because of this strain.
Trying to save UFC Fight Night 171 from COVID-19
The UFC had previously been going to extreme lengths to avoid any cancellation. UFC Fight Night 171 was originally to be moved from London to the UFC Apex as well. As a result, rising UK welterweight contender, Leon Edwards, was unable to make a trip to the because of a travel ban. The UFC searched for extreme short-term matches to fight Tyron Woodley, former UFC Welterweight champion. Colby Covington was suggested, as was Gilbert Burns who fought just last week. Though former UFC Lightweight Champion Rufino Dos Anjos was eventually selected as an replacement, the cancellation has scuppered all current plans.
COVID-19 and Cage Warriors 113
Even before its cancellation, UFC London had been undergoing massive changes due to the travel ban. Unusually, it lent UK promotion Cage Warriors multiple fighters for their CW 113 event. As a result CW 113 will feature John Philips against Dusko Todorovic, as well as Darren Stewart against Bartosz Fabiński. CW 113 itself had taken the unusual step of moving from London to Manchester, along with adopting a closed door policy.
— Graham Boylan 🇮🇪 ☘️ (@GrahamBoylan) March 16, 2020
Left out of the equation, however, is of course UFC 249, of particular interest to fans because of the headliner. Fights between current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and longrunning contender Tony Ferguson have been cancelled four times previously. As a result, the matchup is hotly anticipated by most fans. The UFC has made clear that they are determined UFC 249 will take place:
White guarantees Khabib v Ferguson will happen on April 18. “We're hoping this all clears up by April, and this fight is going to happen. Whatever it takes, probably not in the United States, but this fight is going to happen."
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) March 16, 2020
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