Miami: The first UFC event took place on November 12, 1993, at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver. The location was chosen because Colorado had no state boxing commission and allowed the fledgling mixed martial arts company to advertise the event under the slogan: “There are no rules!”
UFC 249, which will take place on Saturday night at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, without fans, will be arguably the most unique pay-per-view event the promotion has staged. This will be the first UFC event in nearly two months and first pay-per-view since March 7.
The location was chosen out of necessity. As many states continue stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida has deemed professional sports, including professional wrestling, “essential services,” and Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry this week announced he would relax outdoor capacity restrictions for all restaurants and retailers.
Originally, UFC 249 was to be held at Barclays Centre in Brooklyn on April 18. It was moved to the Tachi Palace Casino Resort, which sits on tribal land about 40 miles south of Fresno, California, in order to circumvent state regulations. UFC president Dana White finally postponed the event after pressure from the Walt Disney Company and ESPN, which entered into a five-year, $1.5-billion broadcast deal with UFC two years ago.
The main event between interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje figures to be a fight-of-the-year candidate if their track record is any indication. Ferguson has 12 consecutive victories, tying him with lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, his originally scheduled opponent, for the longest active streak. Gaethje has never had a UFC fight in which he did not earn a bonus for the fight or performance of the night.
“I can’t stop thinking about and talking about the main event,” White said. “I can absolutely guarantee you that this fight will deliver.”
The co-main event will feature bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo, who hasn’t lost since 2016, facing Dominick Cruz, a two-time bantamweight champion who will be stepping into the Octagon for the first time since December 30, 2016.
Francis Ngannou, second in the heavyweight rankings, will try to put himself in line for a championship fight when he takes on Jairzinho Rozenstruik, who holds the record for second-fastest knockout in the division. Former NFL Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy, who signed with the UFC two years ago, will make his pay-per-view debut on the main card when he faces Yorgan de Castro.
The event also will feature Jeremy Stephens, who will enter his 33rd UFC fight against featherweight Calvin Kattar. Stephens is one fight shy of the record shared by Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Jim Miller but will not tie Cerrone on Saturday. Cerrone is headlining the preliminary card when he takes on Anthony Pettis.
Ronald Souza tested positive for COVID-19, and his fight with Uriah Hall was called off. Souza showed up in Jacksonville and found out a relative had tested positive. Souza was quarantined, tested and removed from the card. The reminder of the show will go on.
UFC 249 CARD
Tony Ferguson vs Justin Gaethje — interim lightweight title
Henry Cejudo vs Dominic Cruz — bantamweight title
Francis Ngannou vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik — heavyweight
Jeremy Stephens vs Calvin Kattar — featherweight
Greg Hardy vs Yorgan de Castro — heavyweight
Donald Cerrone vs Anthony Pettis — welterweight
Alexei Oleinik vs Fabricio Werdum — heavyweight
Carla Esparza vs Michelle Waterson — strawweight
CANCELLED Uriah Hall vs Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza — middleweight
Early Prelim Card
Vicente Luque vs Niko Price — welterweight
Bryce Mitchell vs Charles Rosa — featherweight
Ryan Spann vs Sam Alvey — Light heavyweight
How to watch
Ferguson vs Gaethje is live on UFC Arabia in the Mena region.
Main Card: 7am UAE time (Sunday) on UFC Arabia
Prelims: 5am (Sunday) on UFC Arabia
Early Prelims: 3am (Sunday) on UFC Arabia