It appears UFC 249 has found a new location.
After a string of event postponements due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the UFC intends to return May 9 with a deep pay-per-view lineup featuring two championship bouts.
The location and venue of the card have been kept secret by the UFC brass, but the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Dave Meltzer reported Thursday that UFC 249 will take place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. A person with ties to UFC 249 told MMA Junkie that his flight to Jacksonville has been purchased for fight week.
This marks the UFC’s third attempt at making UFC 249 happen. The event originally was scheduled for April 18 in Brooklyn, N.Y., but Barclays Center quickly became a non-option as the coronavirus outbreak forced a ban on mass gatherings (and eventually stay-at-home orders) in New York and nationwide.
In response, the UFC tried getting around California’s stay-at-home order by still hosting UFC 249 on April 18 on tribal land at Tachi Palace Casino Resort near Fresno, but that plan was shut down after Gov. Gavin Newsom urged Disney/ESPN, the UFC’s broadcast partner, to intervene.
Florida became an attractive option for UFC 249 after WWE was allowed to continue filming shows at its Performance Center in Orlando. Earlier this month, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an order regarding essential businesses, which included “employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience – including any athletes, entertainers, production team, executive team, media team and any others necessary to facilitate including services supporting such production – only if the location is closed to the general public.”
The Florida State Boxing Commission told MMA Fighting that it’s prepared to regulate combat sporting events, so long as guidelines are followed.
UFC 249 originally was to be headlined by a lightweight title fight between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. Once Nurmagomedov was forced to withdraw because of travel restrictions in his native Russia, the UFC inserted Justin Gaethje to fight Ferguson for an interim title. That fight remains scheduled to headline on May 9.
The latest UFC 249 lineup includes:
- Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje – for interim lightweight title
- Henry Cejudo vs. Dominick Cruz – for bantamweight title
- Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
- Calvin Kattar vs. Jeremy Stephens
- Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis
- Yorgan De Castro vs. Greg Hardy
- Aleksei Oleinik vs. Fabricio Werdum
- Carla Esparza vs. Michelle Waterson
- Uriah Hall vs. Ronaldo Souza
- Vicente Luque vs. Niko Price
- Bryce Mitchell vs. Charles Rosa