‘Gate Was Zero,’ but Dana White Says U.F.C. 249 Was a Success


At a information convention after a pay-per-view card, Dana White, the Ultimate Fighting Championship president, normally strolls to the dais clutching a sheet of paper and reads out the occasion’s attendance and ticket income.

But U.F.C. 249 in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday night time wasn’t a standard struggle card. It landed there after the coronavirus pandemic pressured a postponement and a venue change. Along the way in which, the U.F.C. needed to exchange one of many fighters in the principle occasion. And the struggle card, the primary main North American professional sports activities competitors since mid-March, unfolded with out spectators, who had been barred from the world underneath pointers meant to forestall the unfold of Covid-19, the illness brought on by the virus.

“We can share what we learned here, doing three events, with other sports leagues, who are reaching out to us and asking,” White said at the news conference.

Afterward, White conceded that when spreading 1,200 Covid-19 screenings across 300 personnel such as fighters, officials, judges, cornermen, broadcast crew, ESPN employees and ringside staff, as the U.F.C. did last week, a few positive tests were inevitable. But he said that the experience with Souza, who was first tested on Wednesday, with a positive result coming back on Friday, proved that the safety measures were working as designed.

By the time the U.F.C. confirmed Jacksonville as U.F.C. 249’s host, Gaethje had replaced Nurmagomedov in the main event. Gaethje, a power-punching former college wrestler from Arizona, scored an upset win over Ferguson, a relentless veteran who had won his last 12 bouts.

From the opening horn, Gaethje outgunned Ferguson. Gaethje landed right hands and left hooks with such force that between rounds his cornermen asked him to dial back the power to improve his accuracy and guard against early fatigue. In the final seconds of Round 2, Ferguson landed an uppercut that wobbled Gaethje, but the horn sounded before he could follow up.

From there, Gaethje continued his assault, bloodying Ferguson’s face by Round 3, and landing a debilitating leg to the thigh in the fourth.

With 90 seconds remaining in the final round, Gaethje landed a stiff jab that made Ferguson swoon. When he swooped in with a follow-up barrage, the referee, Herb Dean, stopped the fight.

“I put myself in a position to be here,” Gaethje said. “And I capitalized on it.”

For his part, Ferguson said the switch in opponents hurt his preparation. He told the in-ring interviewer, Joe Rogan, that he had trained since November to face Nurmagomedov, a wrestling specialist, and had only a few weeks to plan for Gaethje, who wins fights with power punches.

“We prepared for Khabib, not too much for a striker,” Ferguson said, adding, “What can you do?”

The loss knocks Ferguson from the front of a long line of contenders seeking to fight either of the lightweight division’s two biggest draws — Nurmagomedov or the wildly popular Conor McGregor. Ferguson and Nurmagomedov have been scheduled to fight each other five times, with each bout eventually canceled for reasons ranging from freakish injuries to a pandemic. After Saturday, White said the U.F.C. did not plan to match them a sixth time.

But Gaethje’s win, and the interim title, put him in a position to challenge Nurmagomedov next.



Source link Nytimes.com

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