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U.F.C. 249 Stay Updates: Ferguson vs. Gaethje


Often in early Could, the Final Combating Championship is competing with the N.B.A. and N.H.L. playoffs, a full slate of baseball video games and different huge occasions just like the Kentucky Derby and boxing.

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The event is going forward even though one of the U.F.C.’s 24 fighters, Ronaldo Souza, and two of his cornermen tested positive for the coronavirus Friday in the run-up to the fight. U.F.C. officials have been guarded about their measures to keep fighters safe during three events planned — including two next week — but they insist they can minimize the risks associated with large gatherings.

Souza, who was not showing symptoms, told the promotion company when he arrived in Jacksonville on Wednesday that one of his relatives might have had the virus, a U.F.C. executive told ESPN, which is airing the preliminary bouts and selling the pay-per-view card.

The headline fight is between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, an interim lightweight title bout that pits two combatants who have a history of exciting knockouts.

There are 11 fights scheduled.

The main pay-per-view card on ESPN+ features five bouts, with Ferguson and Gaethje in the main event. The full list:

  • Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje, interim lightweight championship

  • Henry Cejudo vs. Dominick Cruz, bantamweight championship

  • Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik, heavyweight

  • Jeremy Stephens vs. Calvin Kattar, featherweight

  • Greg Hardy vs. Yorgan De Castro, heavyweight

There are six preliminary bouts:

  • Anthony Pettis vs. Donald Cerrone, welterweight

  • Aleksei Oleinik vs. Fabricio Werdum, heavyweight

  • Carla Esparza vs. Michelle Waterson, strawweight

  • Vicente Luque vs. Niko Price, welterweight

  • Bryce Mitchell vs. Charles Rosa, featherweight

  • Ryan Spann vs. Sam Alvey, light heavyweight

Who is Dana White?

Dana White has been president of the U.F.C. for almost 20 years, a tenure that has seen mixed martial arts rise from a niche sport banned in many states to one minting worldwide superstars like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey. But after earning hundreds of millions of dollars, why is he still working 24/7, and does the U.F.C. still need a bombastic street fighter as a leader?

Where is Khabib Nurmagomedov?

The undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov was supposed to headline this card with a title defense against Tony Ferguson. Instead, he is in his native Dagestan, the Russian Republic, where pandemic-related travel restrictions prevent him from leaving.

For his part, Nurmagomedov awaits the winner of Saturday’s main event, and says he will be prepared to fight after Ramadan, which ends May 23.

“It was the best training camp,” he wrote in a recent Instagram post, referring to his preparation for the Ferguson bout. “I haven’t felt myself that good for a while.”

He pledged to “come back even better.”

Conor McGregor, the U.F.C.’s biggest pay-per-view attraction, has been at home in Ireland, where he will watch Saturday’s card to size up future opponents and judge how the sport is organized amid the pandemic.

Where is Dominick Cruz?

He’s back in the octagon after more than three years away from competition, facing the bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo.

Since then, Cruz has worked as an analyst on U.F.C. broadcasts, but he never retired. In prefight promotional videos, Cruz and the U.F.C. have been selling the idea that his time on the sidelines will make him a smarter fighter.

Cruz, now 34, made clear to reporters during an online news conference on Thursday that he doesn’t believe in ring rust, the idea that time away from competition dulls a fighter’s skills. Instead, he said, he’s happy to be healthy enough to compete and confident even as he faces Cejudo.

“It creates a thankfulness for little things,” Cruz said Thursday. “I’m grateful to be in this position.”

Where is Grandma Cerrone?

Whenever Donald Cerrone fights, his grandmother Jerry Cerrone usually sits ringside. After Conor McGregor knocked out Cerrone in January, Jerry entered the octagon to console her grandson, who is nicknamed Cowboy, and was herself consoled by a victorious McGregor. But when Cerrone packed up his R.V. to drive from New Mexico to Jacksonville, Fla., for Saturday’s fights, he left Jerry at home.

Not that he wanted to. Cerrone told reporters on Thursday that his grandmother had volunteered to make the drive with him, and that he wanted her in Jacksonville during his fight against Anthony Pettis.

But, he said, Dana White insisted that the 82-year-old Jerry Cerrone stay home to limit the number of people involved with the event, and the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

“I’m not going to be the guy that gets Grandma sick,” Cerrone recalled White telling him.

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