Dana White: UFC’s Return During COVID Pandemic ‘Was successful in every way’

The UFC pulled off its three events in Jacksonville, Florida, albeit with many wondering if it would become UFC president Dana White’s biggest blunder. Following the conclusion of UFC on ESPN 8, White discussed the results of the three events that saw combat sports return to the world.

“It feels good,” White said at the post-fight news conference. “I’m happy to have it behind me. I wanted this week to be over. It was successful in every way it could be successful. I feel great about it. More importantly, nobody is sick. Nobody is sick. Nobody has gotten sick. Hopefully, that’s the case. There’s no guarantees in life, but hopefully that’s the case and we all go home. It was a great event. It was a great week.”

The events took place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena with Saturday hosting UFC on ESPN 8. It was the final show in an eight-day stretch for the promotion. UFC 249 took place May 9, while UFC on ESPN+ 29 was a rare Wednesday card for the promotion.

In the heavyweight main event, Alistair Overeem stopped Walt Harris in the second round. It ended what was an emotional return for the heavyweight fighter known as “The Big Ticket”.

Harris was a slight favorite and the sentimental choice as he stepped into the octagon for the first time since his 19-year-old daughter, Aniah Blanchard, was killed in Alabama.

In the co-main event, Angela “Overkill” Hill took a decision loss to Claudia Gadelha.

Reflection Eternal

When no states would allow MMA to come back, Florida would. White was particularly complimentary of the governing bodies in Jacksonville from the commission to restaurant workers in the area.

“I think we picked the perfect place to do it, too,” White said.” This town was perfect for it. Like I said, the governor and the mayor and the athletic commission – everybody was great. This arena was incredible. These guys were great to us. I don’t know what your experience was out in Jacksonville, but everybody was nice.

“Everybody was great. The food was awesome. I just couldn’t say enough good things about Jacksonville and the experience here. I’m glad we did it here first. I’m ready to go home, though.”

Having now successfully returned since the COVID-19 pandemic, White is confident about the direction he has chartered a course for: event consistency. Sticking to the safety protocol plan developed for the Jacksonville events, he will keep pushing forward.

“This is what we’re going to do,” White said. “Obviously, you guys know me. You’ve dealt with me long enough. When we’re doing what we’re doing and you’re just taking unnecessary punishment, you know I’m going to (expletive) snap eventually – and I do. We worked hard. We worked hard to pull this thing off and get here. Nothing means more to me than the safety of everybody that was involved in the event. Not just with COVID-19, but the fight that wasn’t stopped soon enough – all these type of things. Anytime we finish an event, I want everybody to go home safe. It’s not any different now with the COVID-19 thing.

“We will do everything in our power. We will spend the money. We will get the best, the brightest. We’ll talk to doctors and experts in the field to figure out how to beat it. One of the things I always do is I believe nothing is impossible. Everything can be done, especially in 2020. You just have to be willing to work hard enough, spend some money, and come up with solutions.”

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.