(CNN)Major US sports have been suspended, top-flight football in Europe has been postponed and tennis tournaments have been put on hold because of COVID-19’s spread.
But as major sports leagues and events are impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, the Ultimate Fighting Championship held a full card — comprising 12 fights — in an empty arena on Saturday in Brasilia, Brazil, despite large gatherings being banned in the country.
UFC Fight Night 171 – 𝗣𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗽𝗼𝗻𝗲𝗱
UFC Columbus: Ngannou vs Rozenstruik – 𝗣𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗽𝗼𝗻𝗲𝗱
UFC Portland: Overeem vs Harris – 𝗣𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗽𝗼𝗻𝗲𝗱
UFC 249: Khabib vs Ferguson – Going ahead.
"Whatever it takes. Probably not even in the US. This fight is going to happen." pic.twitter.com/G9rNoyquKW
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) March 17, 2020 However, following an announcement on Monday that people in the US should not to gather in groups of more than 10, UFC president Dana White has now decided to postpone three upcoming events.
“We can’t do it … we have no choice now but to postpone these fights,” White told ESPN on Monday.The last of the postponed events was due to take place on April 11. Seven days later on the organization’s schedule is the blockbuster UFC 249 event — with the headline fight between UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson — in New York.Read MoreOn Monday, the city’s Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive bill to “order the closure of nightclubs, movie theaters, small theaters and concert venues” in New York City.UFC 249 is scheduled to take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, and says he hopes to stage the event at that venue, but if necessary move it outside of the US.The novel coronavirus has infected more than 182,400 people and killed over 7,100 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.READ: Premier League in limbo as chiefs consider ‘radical solutions’ to finish the season Weili Zhang punches Joanna Jedrzejczyk during UFC 248, the last UFC event to take place in front of fans.Raising eyebrowsONE Championship in Asia canceled a show in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam scheduled for March 20 while Combate Americas — the “premier Hispanic Mixed Martial Arts sports franchise” — announced a “proactive plan” that included postponing shows.
Dana White discusses whether the Coronavirus could have an impact on future UFC events. pic.twitter.com/6cQILOjteE
— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) March 8, 2020 White had previously said that he “didn’t give a s**t about the coronavirus.” And, having spoken to his long-time friend US President Donald Trump, White had insisted that everyone just needs to “stop panicking.””I talked to the president and the vice-president about this, and they’re taking this very seriously,” White said on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “They’re saying, ‘Be cautious, be careful, but live your life and stop panicking.'”
This is an email they are sending out to managers and reps about this new card next week. As you can see, they are even open to signing fighters who currently aren’t on the roster to fill it up, as well. pic.twitter.com/qYcYCDvdyo
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) March 15, 2020 Nonetheless global restrictions to travel have hit UFC hard.An event scheduled to to take place at the O2 in London on March 21 — including the headline fight between British welterweight contender Leon Edwards and former champion Tyron Woodley — has had to be canceled.Ashlee Evans-Smith — who had been scheduled to fight — said on Instagram: “I’ve been in London for two days, actually only 24 hours on the ground. Anyway, fight’s off, postponed, all I really know is that I’ve got to get back to California, yesterday basically.”READ: Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Japanese PM Abe insists Games to go ahead as planned White greets President Donald Trump on stage during a Keep America Great rally in Colorado Springs.Not following guidelinesMedical experts have been advising to wash hands regularly and to avoid contact with others if possible to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Reportedly the Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission did not test fighters ahead of the event in Brasilia. White says UFC will start using new “infrared technology” that would help detect spikes in body temperatures to screen individuals with coronavirus.
Visit CNN.com/sport for more news, features, and videos”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 to keep the sport safe and continue to put on events.”