UFC 249 will finally take place on May 9. After the targeted date of April 18 was postponed, the event's date was confirmed by UFC president Dana White on Friday.
There have been significant changes since the card was first announced. A highly anticipated lightweight title headliner between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson was scrapped after Nurmagomedov was stranded in his native Dagestan due to travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Fan favorite Justin Gaethje has taken his place and will fight Ferguson for an interim belt.
According to White, the winner will get a title opportunity against Nurmagomedov later this year.
Former UFC women's strawweight champion Rose Namajunas withdrew from her scheduled co-main event bout with Jessica Andrade, then the women's featherweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Felicia Spencer was also shelved with Nunes saying she wasn't ready for the fight. A bantamweight title bout between Henry Cejudo and Dominick Cruz has been added to the card, according to White.
In an interview with ESPN, White said keeping this event together amid everything going on in the world is the hardest thing his company has ever done. Here's what we know about UFC 249, and the questions that remain:
Where will the event take place?
This one won't be on the private island. UFC 249 and the following two cards, announced for May 13 and May 16, will take place at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Details on the following two cards have not been announced.
The state of Florida has deemed "professional sports and media production with a national audience" essential services during the coronavirus pandemic.
What's the latest on Fight Island?
White said that he hopes to utilize "Fight Island" in June which would allow the resumption of international fight cards.
"We really are putting an Octagon on the beach. There's going to be training facilities there for people. There are hotels, and all the infrastructure is going to be built for the UFC to have fights there."
Will fighters and event personnel at the event be tested for COVID-19?
White said on Friday that "health and safety is something that we think of all the time, every week. We are going to spend a lot of money to make sure the people are safe."
White did not get into detail about the testing policy, but did mention that the health and safety of everyone at the venue -- not just the fighters -- is a priority.
Prior to the cancellation ahead of April 18, fighters and corner people were told they will be tested for COVID-19 on site, sources confirmed. Sources said at that time the UFC was arranging for COVID-19 tests to be sent to the homes of fighters and corner people in advance of the card.
Will fighters be drug tested?
UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky told ESPN that the expectation is that in addition to in-competition testing USADA will also be testing fighters before bouts out of competition, just maybe not as much as under normal circumstances. World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited labs are closed currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but fighters' urine and blood samples will be frozen and tested at a later date.
"Ideally, you probably get several tests leading up to a fight," Novitzky said. "Probably now [USADA's] goal is to get a test or two done. ... There will be some form of testing. Probably not to the extent that we're used to. But there still is. And every UFC fighter is still faced with the prospect of getting a knock on the door today, tomorrow, next week."
Will fighters get medicals?
The UFC has stated all athletes will undergo the standard medical evaluation that is performed prior to all sanctioned events.
Where and how have fighters been training?
This varies. Gaethje told ESPN he has been training in a private facility with fewer than 10 people -- three training partners, two coaches and a videographer. Ferguson has been training in his private facility in California since December. Heavyweight Francis Ngannou has been working out at his home and occasionally with head coach Eric Nicksick at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. Featherweight Jeremy Stephens has posted videos on social media working alongside UFC bantamweight Dominick Cruz. Uriah Hall has moved into the Fortis MMA gym in Dallas, where he now sleeps on an air mattress. Michelle Waterson trains out of her home gym with her husband Josh Gomez acting as her primary training partner.
Will the event be sanctioned? If so, by whom?
The event will be sanctioned by the Florida State Athletic Commission.
"Florida's State Commission and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation have been in continued coordination with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to identify options for bringing the UFC to Florida for upcoming events," said Florida State Boxing Commission executive director, Patrick Cunningham. "Florida welcomes the UFC to the Sunshine State, and our commission stands ready to sanction the events to be held on May 9, 13 and 16. Health and safety protocols will be in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all individuals who are helping to make these events possible."
Where will fighters go if they need to be transported to the hospital?
The UFC has not specifically commented on what hospital may be used for this event, but UF Health Jacksonville is the closest Level 1 trauma center from the venue at approximately three miles away.
The Association of Ringside Physicians wrote in a statement that it recommends "all combat sporting events be postponed until further notice." The Florida State Boxing Commission is expected to hire ringside physicians for the card, as is typical protocol.
Who will be allowed in the arena?
In his interview with ESPN, White referenced the UFC Fight Night event on March 14 in Brasilia, Brazil. That event took place in a near-empty arena with no more than 50 people in the building at any time. White said certain measures would once again be taken to keep the number of people in the building low, although he did not go into specifics.
"It will be just like we did in Brazil, but we'll have even less people," White said on Friday.
There will be three people allowed to the work the corners of fighters, as usual.
Will media be present?
White said there will be 10 media members that will attend the event in some capacity. Details regarding fighter access and interviews have not been disclosed.
How can I watch the event?
The card will begin at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. At 10 p.m., the card will air on ESPN+ pay-per-view.