UFC Brazil still on, but arena closed to public


The UFC will close this weekend’s UFC Fight Night event in Brasilia, Brazil, to the public, after the governor of the Federal District, Ibaneis Rocha, temporarily suspended all large gatherings in the city due to growing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

UFC Fight Night will still take place in the 16,000-seat Nilson Nelson Gymnasium as scheduled, but the arena will not be open to fans. UFC president Dana White confirmed the news on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Thursday following a story by Brazilian news outlet Combate.

“We will just have the staff that’s running the event inside the arena that night,” White said.

White also gave updates on other UFC cards coming up. UFC London next week will go on as planned with no changes, he said, and UFC Columbus on March 28 will move to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas after the state of Ohio suggested a ban on large gatherings this week. UFC Portland on April 11 will also move to the Apex, which is on the site of UFC headquarters, White said.

At the two Apex events, White said the UFC will be implementing a process to screen athletes for coronavirus before they compete.

“We’re gonna make sure that two healthy athletes are competing and these guys are good to go,” White said.

White said he spoke with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday and said they gave this advice on how to approach the coronavirus outbreak: “Be cautious, be careful, but live your life and stop panicking.”

White said the UFC has also been in touch with many fighters who want to continue to work.

“They want to fight, they want to compete,” White said. “We’re gonna do everything we can to keep them safe.”

Saturday’s broadcast of UFC Fight Night, which is headlined by a lightweight bout between Brazilian Charles Oliveira (28-8) and American Kevin Lee (18-5), will now begin at 3 p.m. ET. The UFC is offering a full refund to all fans who purchased tickets to the event.

White’s announcements come one day after the NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.

White did not give an update Thursday on UFC 249, which is scheduled for April 18 in Brooklyn. That card features a much anticipated lightweight title main event between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and former interim champ Tony Ferguson. On Thursday, New York City declared a state of emergency and two Top Rank boxing events on March 14 and March 17 have been postponed.

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