Dana White insists UFC’s return this weekend is ‘as safe as it can possibly be’

Dana White has been scrutinised because of his desire to push through with UFC events during the coronavirus pandemic but he insists the organisation’s return this weekend is “as safe as it can possibly be”.

All eyes will be on the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday night as the UFC becomes the first high-profile sport on US soil to make a comeback – albeit behind closed doors.

UFC 249 was scrapped a week before it was supposed to take place in Brooklyn on April 18 while the card has been reconfigured, with Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje’s clash for the interim lightweight title topping a 12-fight bill.

It is the first of three fight cards in eight days at the venue and while there is some unease about a return to business, with the US suffering nearly 75,000 coronavirus-related deaths, White tried to play down concerns.

“I believe we can pull this off and do it safe,” the UFC president told CNN. “I don’t think you’re going to see crowds back at live sports for a while.

“Listen we have families, too. I have a family; I don’t want to hurt my family. I don’t want to die.

“This isn’t just some crazy, this is a well thought out plan. We’ve had very, very smart people, doctors and people that have been involved with the UFC for a very long time working on this thing non-stop since it started.

“We believe that we have this thing in a place where it can be as safe as it can possibly be.”

The current arrangement is thought to be a stopgap solution as White is developing plans to hold a number of cards from June on a ‘fight island’ at an unknown location.

He added: “The island was a concept we came up with where we could get people in from anywhere in the world. It’s basically for our international fights.

“We can bring people from whatever it might be, to this island, set up the infrastructure, where we can do the proper, you know, everything is clean, you know, the testing and everything that we need will be done there.”