(Reuters) – Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White has said the mixed martial arts promotion is close to securing a “private island” to stage bouts for international fighters during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The flu-like virus has infected 1.27 million people globally and caused over 70,000 deaths and brought the sports world to a standstill, but the UFC plans to stick to its schedule albeit without fans in attendance.
The organisation, which was forced to postpone three events, will resume its calendar with UFC 249 on April 18 and White said he had also found a new venue for that event after the Barclays Center in New York was ruled out.
“I locked this venue up for two months,” White told TMZ Sports https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrlXgLDBi_4. “I have this venue for two months, and I’m setting up shop here. We’re going to be pumping out fights every week.”
With countries locking down borders and tightening travel restrictions, White said he had a way to get his stable of non-U.S. based fighters back in action.
“I’m also a day or two away from securing a private island … we’re getting the infrastructure put in now, so I’m going to start doing the international fights, too,” he added.
“I won’t be able to get all of the international fighters into the U.S. so I’m going to start flying them off into the island and do international fights there.
“As of April 18, the UFC is back up and running.”
White said that he planned to put on fights every week and that all fighters, support staff as well as UFC crew would be tested for the virus regularly.
UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov was scheduled to meet American Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 but he said last week the fight was off as he is in quarantine in Russia.
Ferguson will now take on fellow American Justin Gaethje.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)