UFC announces May return with three fights in one week

UFC boss Dana White.
UFC boss Dana White. Photo credit: Getty

The UFC has announced its comeback with three fight cards in the space of a week, starting with UFC 249 on May 10 (NZ time).

UFC president Dana White told ESPN fights have also been booked on May 14 and May 17, with all three cards due to take place at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida without a live audience.

UFC 249 will be headlined with an interim lightweight championship fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, with the winner to face Khabib Nurmagomedov later in the year. 

Ferguson was initially scheduled to face Nurmagomedov on the card, but the latter was dropped because of travel restrictions associated with the pandemic. Nurmagomedov is currently in his native country of Dagestan.

"They want to fight. People are hitting us up and want to fight," White told ESPN on Instagram Live. "We're putting together three cards in a week. People who want to fight are going to get fights."

White had tried to stage UFC 249 on April 19  at Tachi Palace Casino Resort on tribal land in California, but was forced to cancel the event after he received a call from the "the highest level" of both Disney and ESPN.

Disney owns ESPN, which is the UFC's broadcast partner. 

"Sports play an important role in people's lives and can bring moments of escape in challenging times," ESPN said in a statement. "We look forward to bringing UFC to fans again."

The state of Florida has deemed "professional sports and media production with a national audience" essential services during the coronavirus pandemic.

Details for the following two cards will be released in the coming days.