Dubai: Dana White has refused to reveal the location for UFC 249 on April 18 fight but has confirmed that the much-talked out event will 100 per cent go ahead on schedule with the new headliner being an interim lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje.
Gaethje (21-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) will step in as a short-notice replacement for defending champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is stranded in Russia due to the coronavirus travel restrictions.
It will be a huge ask for the 31-year-old Arizona native - who is of German-Mexican descent - given the fact that he will have just 12 days officially to prepare for a five-round 25-minute fight against Ferguson, who has mowed down all 12 of his last opponents.
Ferguson himself is of mixed heritage with mother being Mexican and his surname coming from his Scottish-American stepfather.
Commenting on the official line-up for UFC 249, an event that White admitted it has been the ‘hardest he has ever put together’ given the circumstance relating to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Tony vs Gaethje is a fight that makes absolute sense,” White said in an interview with ESPN ‘s Sean Cottrell on Monday. “Khabib vs Tony should have happened five years ago. It didn’t work out, but maybe Khabib will fight the winner sometime later this year.”
However, White refused to reveal the exact venue for the March 18 blockbuster although he did disclose that the UFC could go offshore in the immediate future.
I’ve also secured an island. I’ve got an island. The infra structure is being built right now. We’re going to do all of our international fights on this island
“I’ve also secured an island. I’ve got an island,” White said. “The infra structure is being built right now. We’re going to do all of our international fights on this island.
On the location for UFC 249, White hit out: “It does matter where it’s happening because nobody can go there. It’s not open to fans. It’s on ESPN that’s all anybody needs to know.”
White also defended his decision to push through with the UFC schedule for 2020 even as the majority of major sporting events around the world had been either postponed or cancelled.
“Sports needs to happen, we need to figure out a way to make it happen,” he said. “We need to start finding out solutions that the whole world needs and that’s what we are doing.”
Asked if he had any concerns about the safety of the fighters and the crew, White said: “We pulled off an event in Brazil lst month and it went off without a hitch,” he said of of the event which was held without any spectators.
“Health and safety Is something that we (UFC) worry about all the time, not just during the coronavirus.
“We’e going to do everything above and beyond to make sure that’s everybody’s safe.