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Despite mounting coronavirus concerns, the UFC will continue on with its scheduled live events. According to the organization’s president, Dana White, President Donald Trump encouraged him not to cancel any upcoming fights.
“I talked to the president and the vice president of the United States today about this and they’re taking this very serious and they’re saying, ‘Be cautious and be careful but live your life and stop panicking,'” White, an avid Trump supporter, said in a recent interview with ESPN. (Trump on Friday declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency.)
“Everybody is panicking,” White continued. “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 how we can continue to put on events.”
The UFC is scheduled to host UFC Fight Night 170 on Saturday, with lightweight opponents Kevin Lee and Charles Oliveira headlining. The event will take place without spectators at Brasilia’s Nilson Nelson Gymnasium. The Brazilian government has recently banned gatherings of more than 100 people in an effort to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19).
White noted that only the fighters and staffers working the event, which will be televised on ESPN, will be inside the venue.
In a video statement posted on social media, White said that the UFC is “closely monitoring the situation with coronavirus and its potential impact on UFC athletes, staff and fans around the world.”
Aside from this week’s event in Brazil, all other fights scheduled in various countries and cities are being moved to the UFC APEX arena in Las Vegas.
“We’re working directly with the Nevada State Athletic Commission and executive director Bob Bennett on implementing a process to screen athletes before they compete,” White said. “One of the things we always do, we’re always looking out for the health and safety of our fans, our athletes, whatever it might be.
“Obviously, this thing going on, we’re going to do the same thing. We’re going to make sure that two healthy athletes are competing, and these guys are good to go. We’ve reached out to most of our fighters. We haven’t reached out to the whole roster yet — we have over 600-something fighters. But these guys are ready to go. They want to fight, they want to compete and we’re going to do everything we can to keep them safe.”
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to the UFC’s parent company, Endeavor, for comment.
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