Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will continue to hold its scheduled events despite other sports leagues suspending their seasons, Yahoo Sports reports. It appears that the decision was made after UFC boss Dana White talked things over with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Most sporting bodies across the world have either canceled or postponed their seasons, with some holding games inside arenas without spectators. In the United States, the NHL, MLB, NBA, and MLS suspended their seasons until further notice, and the NCAA canceled their March Madness college basketball tournament. However, on Thursday night, White stopped by ESPN’s SportsCenter to confirm that in his league it’s business as usual, albeit with some small exceptions.
Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 170: Brasilia event in the Brazilian capital will take place in front of a television audience — and an online streaming audience — but there will not be any fans in attendance. This circumstance isn’t a decision that was made by UFC, but is rather the result of the local government ordering sporting events to take place in empty arenas. Other UFC events will be moved to the 1,500-seat Apex facility in Las Vegas, assuming neither Las Vegas nor Nevada shuts down sporting events.
UFC Fight Night 171, which is scheduled for March 21 in London England, will proceed “as planned” according to White, unless the local government deems otherwise.
It appears that White’s decisions about the short-term future of the UFC were informed by none other than President Donald Trump.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 13, 2020
“I talked to the president and the vice president of the United States today about this… Everybody is panicking, and instead of panicking, we’re actually getting out there and working with doctors and health officials and the government to figure out how we keep the sport safe and how we can continue to put on events,” White said.
The Trump administration has been accused of downplaying the severity of coronavirus, according to Business Insider, calling the political weaponization of the virus a Democrat “hoax.”
White is known to have close ties to Trump, and notably gave a speech in support of the then-nominee at the 2016 Republican National Convention. There, he lauded Trump for supporting the mixed martial arts company throughout its early days. The first two UFC cards held during White’s ownership of the company took place at Trump’s Taj Mahal Casino.
“Donald championed the UFC before it was popular, before it grew into a successful business, and I will always be so grateful to him for standing with us in those early days, so tonight I stand with Donald Trump.”
Trump has continued to show support for the UFC — most recently in November of 2019, when he attended UFC 244 in New York City.