made it clear that it will go ahead with UFC 249 on April 18, 2020.
UFC 249 was originally booked for the Barclays Center in New York and it will have the UFC lightweight title bout between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and former interim champion Tony Ferguson as the main event. That fight is one of the most highly anticipated fights in the history of the UFC as it has been canceled four times before.
Dana Insists UFC 249 Will Happen
The coronavirus outbreak has stopped all sporting events around the world with no clear timetable for return. However, the UFC has been one of the most insistent sports company during this crisis. They continued with a Brasil event with no audience and tried to relocate other events in the United States to circumvent the prohibitions and restrictions.
UFC President Dana White has always insisted that UFC 249 will proceed as scheduled but the question is where. With the event less than a month away, the sportsbooks have come up with a list of places that could end up hosting UFC 249. The state of Florida is the odds on favorite to land UFC 249 after it still allowed an MMA event last week. That event is the last MMA event to happen this year on record.
Here are the odds for the UFC 249 location. Odds were taken from BetOnline as of 03/27/20:
What Locations Are the Betting Favorites?
Florida has emerged as the odds on favorite because the State allowed a Combat Night MMA event to happen this past weekend in Jacksonville, Florida. It was the only MMA event that took place all over the world last weekend at it was fully sanctioned and regulated by the state. When the commission was asked why they allowed the event, they merely said that canceling the event was the discretion of the local officials. Of course, that event was held without an audience but given the same health and safety protocols as MMA Combat Night, oddsmakers believe that Florida is the frontrunner to host UFC 249.
The United Arab Emirates is next in the list and the only reason I can think of was that Dubai hosted Khabib vs Poirier last year. Khabib is a massive star there and given the success of that event, Dubai is one of the few places outside the United States which can put up such a big event, even if there is no audience. The financial muscle of the state makes it a solid choice too although Dubai has canceled concerts and sports events in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Khabib is from Russia and he is also a massive star in his home country. With UFC 249 still uncertain despite Dana White’s pronouncement that it WILL happen, Nurmagomedov went home to Russia to close out his training camp. That’s when talking about the event happening in Russia began. Russia was also almost an untouchable country when it comes to the pandemic with only seven confirmed cases last March 10. But the number has significantly increased, although two-thirds of those are isolated in the Moscow Region.
What Are the Other Options?
I’m not sure why Mexico is even on the list. Maybe it’s because Ferguson has Mexican roots. Outside that, I don’t know about this. Mexico just canceled its Liga MX football games and virtually almost all of the sporting events there. The last time the UFC was in Mexico was for UFC Fight Night 159 at the Mexico City Arena in Mexico City.
As for Saudi Arabia, I think this has the same reasoning as the UAE above while for Nevada, it can be recalled that the Nevada State Athletic Commission only suspended combat sports until March 25. But although that is possible, I don’t think it’s likely given the spike of COVID-19 cases in the United States.
You can laugh at the next three options but it’s possible ( but unlikely) that UFC 249 can be held in international waters because some wealthy personalities from the Middle East proposed a big heavyweight showdown on board a yacht a couple of years back. However, I’m not betting on that either. Holding UFC 249 at Area 51 would be the coolest sports event in the history of the world. But does it even exist? And will the U.S. Government allow it? Maybe if it were Colby Covington fighting, President Trump would agree. Seriously, Area 51 and North Korea are out of the picture.
Will UFC 249 Even Happen At All?
If you ask me personally, I’m not sure about UFC 249 happening at all because as we’ve seen in recent days, the number of COVID-19 infections in the United States has already surpassed the figures tallied by China and Italy. You could still argue that the cases are isolated to some states but knowing how deadly it can be, I think that health and safety will be America’s focus right now.
But Dana White continues to insist that UFC 249 will happen. He even said earlier this week that a location is 99.9% set although he refused to divulge where. Said White:
“Trust me, Khabib has been telling me every day, ‘Send location,'” said White, referencing a line used by Nurmagomedov. “I have it. It’s 99.9%. On April 18, we are having this fight.”
As a fan, I’d like to trust Dana White but he’s a guy who is known to tell his “White’s Lies”. He once said that the UFC was not for sale and we know what happened next. That’s not the only time White’s words didn’t match his actions. Here is a compilation:
I don’t want to think that Dana White is trying to fool us about UFC 249. I mean Khabib vs Tony is one of the most anticipated fights in years. It’s been canceled four times before due to injuries to either fighter. Now that both are healthy, White can’t afford to have it scrapped a fifth time. This may be the last time it could be booked. Ferguson is getting older and the law of averages is soon going to catch up with Khabib’s winning streak. Those said it’s still hard to imagine UFC 249 happening on April 18. Unless of course the pandemic curve gets flattened in the United States in the next couple of weeks.
I won’t bet on this but if you point a gun to my head, I don’t think the UFC is going too far. I think UFC 249 will be in Florida if it happens at all.