UFC shifts cards, bars spectators at three events in face of COVID-19


UFC president Dana White speaks at a news conference. (John Locher/AP)

The UFC is going ahead with its Fight Night card Saturday in Brazil but without spectators.

And the mixed martial arts promotion is shifting future cards from Columbus, Ohio, and Portland to the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas. All the moves are being made to come in line with local authorities’ restrictions on crowds in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The UFC says Saturday’s televised card at Nilson Nelson Gymnasium in Brasilia will take place "with only essential personnel in attendance and without spectators."

"The decision was made following the governor’s decree suspending all events in the Federal District with more than 100 people in the attendance," the UFC added.

The UFC said it would offer refunds to ticket-holders who wanted them.

The main events pits Kevin (The Motown Phenom) Lee, ranked eighth among lightweight contenders, against No. 14 Charles (Do Bronx) Oliveira. Canadians Randa (Quiet Storm) Markos and John (The Bull) Makdessi are both on the card.

The March 28 show slated for Nationwide Arena in Columbus was moved because of Ohio’s ban on gatherings of 100 or more. The Fight Night card slated for April 11 at Portland’s Moda Center was shifted following Oregon’s ban on public gatherings of 250 or more.

The two cards will take place in Las Vegas on the same dates without spectators.

Alberta heavyweight Tanner (The Bulldozer) Boser is on the March 28 card, originally slated for Columbus. The main event features France’s Francis (The Predator) Ngannou, ranked second among heavyweight contenders, and No. 6 Jairzinho (Bigi Boy) Rozenstruik of Suriname.

Victoria welterweight Tristan (Boondock) Connelly is on the April 11 show originally scheduled for Portland. The main event features Alistair (The Demolition Man) Overeem, ranked No. 8 among heavyweight contenders, and No. 9 Walter (The Big Ticket) Harris.

The UFC said it is working with the Nevada State Athletic Commission on "implementing a process to screen the competing athletes for the coronavirus to ensure their health and safety."

Ticket-holders for both U.S. shows will be eligible for refunds.

"We’re moving forward with all our UFC live events but we’re going to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances," UFC president Dana White said in a social media video.

"You know I hate this but the decision has been made in the best interest of everyone involved with our events, including fans, athletes, staff and media partners," he added.

The Asia-based One Championship promotion, meanwhile, said it is moving immediately to "closed-door, audience-free" events.

"For the millions of fans at home around the world, the show will go on from the comfort and safety of your living room," One Championship chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong said in a statement.

The closed-door shows will begin in Singapore on April 17 and 24 and May 1 and 8.

The One Infinity 1 show is still scheduled to take place May 29 in Manila, Philippines, but is subject to change if the "the coronavirus situation deteriorates."

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