Justin Gaethje stepped in to fight Tony Ferguson before UFC 249 was cancelled
Tony Ferguson (left) and Justin Gaethje will be the headline act on May 9 in Jacksonville, Florida. Image Credit: UFC

Dubai: It’s official now - the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) will make it’s long-awaited comeback on May 9 with a spectacular 12-fight card headlined by an explosive fight for the interim lightweight belt between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje.

UFC boss Dana White confirmed that UFC 249, the first since March 15, will take place at the VyStar Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.

Like the March 15 UFC Fight Night card staged at Brasilia, Brazil, the event will be held behind closed doors and with only ‘essential people’ in the arena.

“I can’t wait to deliver some great fights for the fans,” White said in a statement published the promotions website. “My team is ready to go and the fighters are excited to get back in there with these back-to-back events.”

Fightcard Image Credit: UFC website

White said that UFC also plans to hold events on May 13 and May 16 and has the backing of Jacksonville Mayor and broadcast partner ESPN.

“The UFC organization is a renowned entertainment brand that’s presented a safe and sensible plan to use this Jacksonville location, and we are thrilled to have our city highlighted nationally,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said.

White, who has bounced back from seeing his plans of hosting the event on April 18 dashed when chief patron Disney opted out, has revealed that health and safety precautions taken for fighters and staff will be a number one priority.

“All athletes and staff will be required to adhere to a number of precautionary measures, such as participating in advanced medical screenings and temperature checks and following social distancing guidelines,” he said through an official statement.

Besides the Tony Ferguson (25 wis, 3 losses) vs Justin Gaethje (21-3) main event, the card features some mouthwatering match ups including a bantamweight title fight between Henry Cejudo (15-2) and Dominick Cruz (22-2).

Carla Esparza, all masked up

The main card will also showcase the depth of the UFC with high quality bouts between Francis Ngannou (14-2) and Jairzinho Rozenstruik (10-0), Caliv Kattar (20-4) and Jeremy Stephens )28-17) and Yorgan De Castro (6-0) vs former NGL player Greg Hardy (5-2).

The preliminary card is equally exciting and boasts fights that could easily find their place on the main card of any of the UFC events.

First off is an absolute cracker between two of the UFC’s most recognized fighters, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone (36-14) and Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis (22-10).

Prior to that a clash between veterans Fabricio Werdum (21-8) will take on Aleksei Oleinik (58-13) is sure to set the Octagon on fire.

If that fight doesn’t, then a women’s fight in the strawweight division between Carla Esparza (15-6) and Michelle Waterson (17-7) is sure to set pulses racing.

Meanwhile, ‘Jacare’ Souza (26-8) returns to middleweight, to battle with Uriah Hall (15-9).