UFC is a Go in Vegas
After seeing nothing in sports for the second half of the month of March and nearly all of April, we’ve seen things start to come back to life in the month of May. There have been a couple of charity golf matchups that raised money for COVID-19 relief. NASCAR has run three races on the NASCAR Cup circuit and has a fourth one scheduled for Wednesday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The NHL announced their intentions to return to play while the NBA is still working through things to figure out their game plan. Major League Baseball seems to continue to remain far from their possible return and one has to wonder how much optimism there is for a deal.
UFC came into the limelight when they held UFC 249 back on May 9 in an empty arena in Jacksonville. That PPV had more than 700,000 buys as fans starved for live sports were willing to plunk down some cash to see the event. UFC followed that up with cards on May 13 and 16, with both coming to you live from Jacksonville, drawing plenty of interest in the process. Those numbers emboldened Dana White, who started working on his next two cards, with hopes of moving them closer to home. On Wednesday, their wish was granted.
It was announced on Wednesday that the Nevada State Athletic Commission had voted unanimously in a vote held via phone, to approve the next two UFC cards to run in Las Vegas. That means that UFC on ESPN 9, highlighted by a welterweight clash between Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns, will take place Saturday, May 30, at the UFC Apex in Sin City. In addition, UFC 250, headlined by a featherweight women’s title match between Amanda Nunes and Felicia Spencer, will take place the following Saturday, June 6 from the same venue. After approving the cards, Bob Bennett, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, had this to say about the situation:
"Throughout this process, we've been working hand in glove with the UFC. I'm aware of their operations plan and everything is moving forward based on their operations plan and our protocols."
As it stands, those two cards could be the first of several upcoming cards at the UFC Apex. According to sources, UFC has cards booked for June 13, June 20 and June 27 beyond the first two cards. Those cards were not approved or discussed on the call Wednesday as they weren’t part of the agenda. It’s assumed that those will be addressed in the coming weeks after the commission sees how things pan out in the next couple of weeks regarding the first two cards that White had scheduled.
The move back to Vegas is a boost for the UFC. Originally, the card that is going off Saturday was scheduled for May 23 but was moved back, potentially to allow for the vote by the NSAC to take place in order to move back to Vegas. That allows the promotion to return to their home field so to speak, including a state-of-the-art arena with plenty of TV capability. Everything in the arena is tied to the UFC, making it easier to ensure proper protocols are followed. It also will give fighters a place to train and prepare for upcoming cards without having to deal with some of the other issues that could pop up.
One thing that has been touted as a success with the cards in Jacksonville, besides the TV ratings and PPV buys, was the fact that UFC avoided any sort of major outbreak of COVID-19 cases. Ronaldo Souza and his two cornermen tested positive before UFC 249 but were self-quarantined and no other positive tests came out from their barrage of tests that were done. In Las Vegas, things will be a bit stricter, with tests being done on arrival and then again at weigh-ins, along with self-isolation.
It’s another positive for the UFC, which now knows that they are back home and ready to go for their next couple of cards. While things are definitely fluid to say the least, we know that there is going to be more MMA action on the horizon to tune into in the coming weeks.